Robert B. Morris
August 04, 1922 ‒ December 01, 2019
Formerly of Westerville, Ohio
Robert Byron Morris
After a two week illness, Robert Byron Morris of Sunbury, Ohio, age 97, passed away in hospice care at Mount Carmel Saint Ann’s Hospital in Westerville, Ohio on Sunday, December 1, 2019.
Delivered by Dr. C. W. Stoughton in the family home on August 4, 1922, the son of the late Marion Elsworth Morris (1899-1989) and Mary Lois (Callahan) Morris (1900-1981); a grandson of Ulysses C. (1869-1948) and Bertha May (Beever) Morris (1879-1904) and James Allen Garfield (1880-1960) and Netta Belle (Bennett) Callahan (1880-1960), Bob grew up in the Westerville, Ohio area an only child. He attended Vine Street School, now Emerson Elementary School, through the sixth grade. Years later his wife, after teaching at Sunbury’s Harrison Street School, would teach second grade from 1962 to 1976 in the same Emerson School building, before completing her career at Robert Frost Elementary in 1988. During second through fourth grades, Bob pedaled his bicycle from home to school six miles round trip, and during the Great Depression, while in the third and fourth grade, he sold magazine subscriptions door to door by bicycle. At the family farm along Sunbury Road at Walnut Street, he milked cows, tilled the gardens, and cut hay using horse drawn implements, and sold homegrown vegetables from a roadside stand. In fifth through ninth grades, he delivered the Columbus Citizen daily newspaper and ‘hawked’ special editions on the street corners of uptown Westerville. For his efforts as a paperboy, he earned a trip to the 1934 World’s Fair in Chicago. Bob’s junior and senior high school years were spent at what is now Hanby Elementary School, where he earned varsity letters as a basketball forward, track sprinter, and football end, wearing a leather helmet with no face guard, and was V.P. of the “W” Varsity Letterman Association. He also played alto horn in the marching and concert bands, including the Otterbein College marching band during junior high, was active in the high school Latin Club and the Hi-Y Boys’ Club, and was a member of the Westerville Dancing Club, graduating from Westerville High School in 1940. As a member of Sea Scout Troop S-9, he ushered during high school at Ohio State football games. During Spring Break his senior year, Bob and high school friends Bob Arn, Hutch Williams, and Al Bartlett traveled to Washington, D.C. and back in Bob Arn’s 1929 Ford Pick-Up Truck, the “S.S. Lulabelle”, a trip dubbed the Westerville Cherry Blossom Special, and at the time, a story of some interest in the local community. That summer, Bob competed with over 60,000 national contestants in the inaugural Ford Good Drivers League contest and was named Ohio High School State Champion Driver, winning a trip to the 1940 New York World’s Fair where in the national competition, he tied for sixth place out of 48 state champions. With his national prize winnings of $250, he purchased his first car, a 1929 Model “A” Ford sedan with green mohair upholstery.
Bob attended Otterbein College where he was a ‘country clubber’ in the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity, played intramural sports and the alto horn in the marching band and earned varsity letters as a basketball forward and baseball pitcher, acquiring the nickname ‘Speedball’ in the latter. He also completed summer school coursework in the College of Engineering at The Ohio State University. While in college, he worked school breaks and summers for Otterbein and at The Kilgore Mfg. Co. and The Jaeger Machine Company. During his junior year, he pitched batting practice and tried out for the Columbus Redbirds, then a farm team for the St. Louis Cardinals, was issued a uniform and invited back to spring training, an opportunity that went unfulfilled when he was called to active duty in 1943 after having enlisted the year before in the U.S. Navy Reserve following the United States’ entry into WWII. Entering as an Apprentice Seaman in the wartime V-12 Officer Training Program at Ohio Wesleyan University, he then completed Midshipman’s School at Northwestern University, playing end on the 165 pound V-12 football team at OWU and the alto horn in the naval marching band at each school.
During a four day leave in March of 1944, on his way to report to diesel engineering school at North Carolina State, Bob married his college sweetheart, Ruth Julia “Judy” Thomas of Licking County, Ohio, in a Sunday afternoon ceremony conducted by the Rev. Donald W. Cryer at the Westerville Methodist Church, with a reception for 75 guests being held in the Williams Grill Crystal ballroom, and a honeymoon that night in the Deshler-Wallick Hotel in Columbus before they boarded a train the next day. The couple first met and sat together on the Otterbein band bus during the first 1941 away football game at Kenyon College, Judy’s freshman year, and at the end of that very trip he told her he hoped to marry her. With the transfer of college credits earned from the other universities he attended, Bob graduated from Otterbein in 1944 in absentia, while on active duty, with a B.A. in business administration, his father accepting the diploma for him at commencement. Bob was assigned to the USS LSM-115 “Mighty Mouse”, a medium sized amphibious landing ship. Following training maneuvers at Amphibious Training Base Little Creek, Virginia, the crew took delivery of the newly commissioned ship for a shakedown cruise in Galveston Bay before sailing through the Panama Canal for the west coast and the Asiatic-Pacific Theater, returning to San Francisco over 14 months later after the end of the war. By the time he was 23 years old, Bob had served as the ship’s deck and engineering officer and then its commanding officer. He separated from the U.S. Navy as a Lieutenant, after ten years of combined active and reserve federal service. In recent years, he reunited a few times with Wayne Schworm of Newcomerstown, Ohio, now possibly the only surviving LSM-115 shipmate.
Returning from active military duty, Bob first worked in Columbus in the “246 Building” as a personal lines underwriter for the Farm Bureau Insurance Company, predecessor of today’s Nationwide Insurance, then briefly for the Lennox Furnace Company as an HVAC engineer and draftsman, before taking a position as an elevator inspection and safety engineer for the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Company, then located on the 32nd floor in the A.I.U. Citadel. In 1953, the family relocated to the Los Angeles area where Bob partnered in Morris and Associates with CPA Paul Cone in a hospital administration and physician practice group consultancy, and was a part-time adjunct adult course instructor in 3 Los Angeles area high schools. He completed additional coursework in Downey, CA and at USC before entering an Allstate Insurance Company management training program. When contacted about an independent insurance agency opportunity in Sunbury, the family returned to Ohio in 1955, and in 1956, Bob purchased the Whitney Insurance Agency Inc. from Hoyt Whitney. He continued to work and fulfill his Ohio continuing education requirements until April of 2018, having spent over 69 years of his working career in the insurance industry, the past 63 of those years as an independent agent and business owner. An early riser, most mornings he could be found at his office by 6:00 a.m. or earlier, including Saturdays. Throughout that time, he greatly appreciated the support of the agency’s customers and its loyal staff, including his late mother Mary Morris, the late Margaret Garee and Virginia Owen Hoover, Mary Jo Salter, Jennifer Held, Joyce Cook, and Dronda Welsh.
In California, Bob was active in Rotary International and as an officer and director of the Jaycees. In Sunbury, he served the community as Director, President and Historian of the local Lions Club, three term Commander and member since 1955 of American Legion Post No. 457, Little League summer baseball and junior high school football coach, Sesquicentennial ‘parade master’, and as a trustee of the Community Library Foundation, the Delaware County Public Defender Commission, the Otterbein ‘O’ Club, and the Independent Insurance Agents’ Association of Ohio, from which he received the President’s Citation Award for meritorious service, and from 1976-1992 as a director and then director emeritus of The Delaware County Bank and Trust Company. In 1965, he co-chaired a citizens planning group formed to assess the physical fitness and athletic facility needs of the Big Walnut Schools. During his 1966-1968 two-year tenure as President of the Big Walnut Athletic Boosters Club, with the help of many volunteers and generous financial and in-kind support from many individuals and businesses throughout Delaware County, Bob helped organize and coordinate to completion the private fundraising and construction of the high school football stadium, and he presented the new field to Superintendent Hylen Sounders in a mid-field ceremony held before the 1967 season opening football game victory. Bob was raised a Master Mason in Sparrow Lodge No. 400, F.&A.M. in 1960 and was a member since 1961 of Columbia Chapter No. 33, Order of the Eastern Star and Scottish Rite since 1963, and was a Noble since 1965 in the Aladdin Temple, Shriners International. He was also a member of the former Knights of Pythias (K of P) Castle Hall Lodge No. 231, a member of the Central Ohio Chapter, Military Officers Association of American, the Ohio LST/AMPHIBS Association and the USS LSM/LSMR Association. In 1990 and 2000, he also chaired his 50th and 60th year high school class reunion committees. In October of 2011, he and WWII veteran friend Richard Sechrist participated in Honor Flight Columbus to Washington, D.C.Of predominately English, Welsh, and Scots-Irish ancestral heritage, Bob was descended from several Revolutionary War patriots, and was Pioneer Descendant Member #90 of the Delaware County, Ohio Genealogical Society, his earliest Delaware County ancestors having settled in Harlem Township in 1810, and was a longtime member of the Big Walnut Area Historical Society. A former member of the United States Trotting Association and the Delaware County Harness Horseman’s Association, Bob was a former co-owner and/or co-breeder of over thirty-five standard bred pacers and trotters, most of which were named after family members, friends, and associates. A natural and talented athlete with a lifelong interest in sports (he attended the 1950 ‘Snow Bowl’ in the OSU Horseshoe), as an adult, Bob maintained his athletic build and especially enjoyed playing tennis and golf, scoring six holes in one on four different central Ohio courses and playing over 100 courses in at least ten states and internationally. Most of his golfing buddies, Frank Bergandine, Lou Guidotti, Doc Livingston and many others, and lifelong singles tennis partner Daryl Severin of Erie, Pennsylvania, have passed on. On September 20, 2013 at age 91, he played his last round of golf with the late Ben Pauley at Arrowhead Lakes G.C. Driving through age 95, the last vehicles which he owned at the time of his death were a 1996 Olds Regency 98 Elite purchased new and a 1986 GMC Sierra pick-up, a testament to both his frugality and sensibility.
A Methodist for over 89 years, Bob was baptized in the Westerville Methodist Episcopal Church on April 5, 1925, and joined the church on April 13, 1930 at the age of seven, remaining an active member there until 1953. While living in the Los Angeles area, he and his wife transferred their membership to the First Methodist Church of Downey, and upon their return to Ohio, became members of the Sunbury (United) Methodist Church. Over the course of 63 years and during the ministry of 14 pastors at SUMC, Bob was formerly active in the Methodist Men, served as usher and greeter, elective steward, lay speaker, and memorial committee coordinator. He also served on the building, finance, public relations, memorial gift, pastor-parish relations and other committees, as well as on the Christian education commission. Additionally, he was a former member and past chair of the official board of trustees. During the past twenty years especially, until about 3 years ago, he rarely missed a traditional Sunday service, and was a devout and prayerful Christian. In 2013, in memory of his late wife, an elementary school teacher for 32 years, he established the “R. Julia Morris S.U.M.C. Memorial Endowment Fund for the Christian Education of Young Children”.
Bob was preceded in death on October 18, 1993 by his beloved wife, five months shy of their fiftieth wedding anniversary, by brothers- and sisters-in law Charles Frederick “Ted” and Jean (Fowler) Thomas and Mary Elizabeth (Thomas) and Leslie Foor, by two Morris cousins and a Thomas nephew. He is survived by his son David and daughter-in-law, Rebecca (Phillian) Morris, and by granddaughters and grandsons-in-law, Sarah (CPT James, USANG) McKinney and Haley (CPT Ryan, USA) Van Wie, and beloved great-grand children Claire, Matthew, and Paige; by several Foor and Thomas nephews and nieces, by a Callahan cousin, and by longtime friends Chiyoe and Masao Sugiyama of Yokohama, Japan, whose daughter Narumi spent summers with the Morris family while attending Otterbein. Bob was quietly proud of his granddaughters’ and grandsons-in-law’s work ethic and accomplishments and especially pleased that his granddaughters each chose to follow in their late grandmother Morris’ footsteps by completing their graduate teaching degrees. He felt particularly blessed that they, like he and his son, were fortunate to meet and marry exceptional spouses. Ever devoted to his family, Bob’s love and encouragement, and positive influence on the lives of his family members will be forever cherished and remembered.
In accordance with Bob’s wishes, a private graveside gathering of family members was held at Otterbein Cemetery in Westerville, Ohio. Arrangements have been entrusted to the DeVore-Snyder Funeral Home in Sunbury.
Friends and acquaintances are encouraged to leave personal remembrances of Bob on the funeral home website, and if they chose to do so, may make a contribution in his memory to the Big Walnut Area Historical Society, P.O. Box 362, Sunbury, OH 43074, to the Shriners Hospitals for Children, or to a charity of the donor’s choice.
The family wishes to extend its thanks, gratitude, and appreciation to the Delaware County EMS and the nursing and tech staff in the ER, ICU, Palliative and Hospice Care units at Saint Ann’s Hospital for their tender and compassionate care provided to Bob during his last days.
Personal remembrances may be expressed at www.snyderfuneralhomes.com