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OBIT: John Morris

John Morris, 83, of Charles City, passed away Sunday, February 18, 2024 at the 9th Street Chautauqua Guest Home in Charles City. A funeral Mass for John Morris will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, February 24, 2024 at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church.

John Morris, 83, of Charles City, passed away Sunday, February 18, 2024 at the 9th Street Chautauqua Guest Home in Charles City with his loving family by his side.

A funeral Mass for John Morris will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, February 24, 2024 at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Charles City with Reverend Tom Heathershaw officiating. Burial will be at 2:00 p.m. at Wexford Cemetery near Lansing, Iowa.

Visitation will be at Hauser Weishaar Funeral Home on Friday, February 23, 2024 from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., followed by an informal ceilidh at the Elks. Visitation will continue one hour before the funeral Mass at the church on Saturday morning.

“The time has come”, the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes – and ships – and sealing-wax-
Of cabbages – and kings –
And why the sea is boiling hot-
And whether pigs have wings”

John Morris was a lifelong fan of Lewis Carrol’s “The Walrus and the Carpenter.” Which is not surprising given its cautionary tale of greed, hypocrisy, and sentimentality used to hide cruel intentions, all packaged in humorous verse.

John was born May 29, 1940 in Lohrville, Iowa, to Leonard and “Pinky” Morris and grew up with sisters Pam and Martha on a farm outside of town until they moved to Emmetsburg when he was 12. With his innate sense of wanderlust, at 14 he and a buddy decided to take a boat down the Missouri River, capsizing halfway down and nearly drowning. He picked up the drums in school beginning his life-long love of learning instruments. And he may or may not have been responsible for putting bird tracks across the ceiling in the high school.

With little financial support, he made his way to the University of Iowa where he picked up a job in the catering department of the Memorial Union and fell in with his “dipsh*t PDR friends” where they worked to pay for tuition, room and board. And beer. With his persistent curiosity, he learned to play the banjo, working on musical chords instead of studying chemistry, singing bawdy songs and drinking quarts of Bud with the group. Some of the group graduated, some were drafted or moved on, but “Waste” as they called him, was slow to adapt until one of his friends ended up with two dates and foisted one off on him. It happened to be a beautiful nursing student from Lansing, Iowa by the name of Gail Anderson. Gail had always said she wanted an adventure and with John, she got her wish.

Having a new wife and the beginnings of a family, it was time to get serious, or as serious as he would get, and left behind the smoldering wreckage of his University of Iowa academic career and moved to Ames where Liz, Sam, and Meg were born. With a science degree in hand, he started his career in Crystal Lake, Illinois, where they lasted about a year, until the unethical practices of the company drove him to find another job, which he did with Salsbury Laboratories in Charles City, Iowa, in 1972. Eventually rising to director of production, he declined further promotion and always preferred working in the lab. If management at Solvay wanted to know what was happening with their plant in Charles City, they knew to go to John first if they needed a straight answer.

He quickly became involved in the community, not only in service organizations as an Elk, a Lion, and Mason, but acting as one of the original members of Stony Point Players. He was not one to wait around for someone to do something, so he organized 4th of July parades and started the St. Patrick’s Day parade, in which the Drouthy Duck pipe band he founded would entertain the few hardy people who line the route. Should have, could have, would have were not in his vocabulary.

He loved Charles City and he loved his second home of Lansing, where he was able to indulge his love for nature, spending countless hours plying the sloughs and backwaters of the Mississippi, hunting ducks and and fishing (the fact that there were always more empty beer cans in the boat than fish always made sense).

They may have lived in a small town, but he traveled the world for work and pleasure, gathering new friends wherever he went. And with John, once you were a friend you were always a friend, always keeping in touch or getting together be it in Charles City or halfway around the world. When international employees came for a visit to Salsbury’s, later Solvay, he insisted in not only bringing them home for dinner, but showing off the Mississippi.

If one of his friends did something, he would want to do it as well, so when his best friend from high school learned to play the bagpipes, John taught himself and soon joined up with the Scottish Heritage Society of Iowa pipe band, which handily coincided with his love of single malt whisky. He loved to entertain with his pipes and often took them to play at parties, on vacation, as well as bars in Ames when his children were in college. Music was essential to his character, and he developed close bonds with those he would play with learning to play a new instrument when he needed.

His relationships were not transactional and he was always there for someone when they needed and never left a friend behind. He did not suffer fools, liars, greed, egos or insincerity.

A conforming non-conformist, he appreciated the finer things in life but was just as happy with regular things. He liked to make people smile in a situations which were supposed to be serious.

John had many loves and hobbies (a house full of things his kids have to deal with now is testament to that), which included sailing, scuba diving, photography, pets, cycling, bitching, golfing, and smoking meat. And it doesn’t need to be said how much he loved his wife, children and grandchildren.

He is preceded in death by his parents, daughter Liz, and wife Gail and is survived by daughter Meg, son Sam and his grandchildren Rowan, Luna and Aria.

As one of his best friends described him, “A poor student form Emmetsburg High, a reprobate with a banjo, singing songs with us, lifting our spirits with beer in our heads. A ‘Waste’ with no redeeming grace it seemed, but a spirit alive with a flare for life that ignited our souls and always will.”

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