We lost Morris, after his long battle with meningioma, on April 17, 2020. We asked Nick King to write an appreciation of our classmate; you can find that immediately below. Since almost everyone has had something to say about Morris, we’ve created a page for all the remembrances we’ve received. Find copies of obituary notices here. There’s also a photo gallery with contributions from the Gray family, college friends, and shots taken during our years at Nobles. Many thanks also to John Axten, Frank Reece, and Clint Smith for their help in assembling our tribute.
Morris Gray – An Appreciation
by Nick King
When I think of Gray, I still see him sitting at the bar at the Dedham Club, holding forth, animated and charming, with his voice booming and his laugh resounding, unfazed by his facial disfigurement from countless neurosurgeries for the “benign” brain tumor that ended up killing him in April.
That same warm and boisterous scenario, with Gray at the very center of attention, could be transposed to every one of the various venues of his life – Nobles, Harvard, the Navy, Boston’s financial district and to Gray’s social circles at large.
For Gray was supremely comfortable and self-assured. He believed in the life he led. And he led a life in full and left a mark on all of us.
He was, as Reece says, a Boston Brahmin “to the manor born.” The first son of a prestigious Boston family bound in tradition, he hewed to it and he was proud of it. His grandfather went to Nobles, as did Gray’s two brothers; his grandfather, father and two brothers all went to Harvard, as he did; and Gray followed his father into the banking business and to membership in various clubs in and around Boston.
With all this lineage and legacy, class was a prized topic. Axten recalls Gray once debating late into the night with college classmate Townsend Grey about which is the more proper spelling: Gray or Grey. No contest: the As had it.
The Dedham neighborhood where Gray grew up included future Nobles classmates Warren and Watson, who recalls sneaking into the woods with Gray to smoke cigarettes. They sometimes puffed on cigs filched from their parents but also experimented with pine needles rolled in toilet paper. To my knowledge his brush with recreational drugs stopped there, but smoking tobacco didn’t. In the fullness of time Gray developed a fleeting affinity for Lucky Strikes along with a lifelong love of bourbon.
Gray went to Dedham Country Day School where he was in the same class as Waldinger. The house Gray grew up in was adjacent to the DCDS property and became part of the school’s campus upon the death of Gray’s parents, Morris and DeeDee. Later came Nobles and the infamous carpool with Watson, Wiggins, Smith, Warren and Gray. By then Gray was honing the unbridled humor-cum-sarcasm that became his trademark. “Gray was a foible spotter,” Smith remembers. “And man, could he make fun of peoples’ foibles as well as his own.”
At Nobles, Gray exercised his budding business acumen as manager of the hockey team, the Nobleman and the Dramatic Club stage, all earning him the moniker of class Junior Executive. “Whenever something big is going on, Mo is in on it,” the Classbook correctly observed.“ If you want the inside story on anything, don’t call Mo, he’ll call you.”
At Harvard, Gray kept his Nobles classmates close. As a freshman he roomed in Holworthy Hall with King and Wolbach and joined the freshman hockey team as manager. In sophomore year he moved into Eliot House with Axten and Brooks. He also became the latest in a long line of Grays – starting with his great grandfather way back in 1877 – to join the A.D. Club, along with King, Watson and Brooks. He relished A.D. occasions, dressing smartly in a tux set off with a pink and white A.D. Club bowtie with an A.D. medallion dangling from his neck.
Like the rest of his Nobles classmates, Gray was caught up in the antiwar upheaval of the late 1960s. But ever the conservative, he joined the Young Republicans (he became a GOP moderate who, says brother Bob, considered Donald Trump a “perfectly horrid person”). And ever the realist, Gray also joined the Naval ROTC and would go on to serve as an officer aboard a swift boat repair ship in Vietnam. Gray loved wearing his dress whites and had every reason to.
With the Navy behind him, Gray embarked on a banking career, beginning at the First National Bank of Boston and ending with BNY Mellon, where he excelled in wealth management. It suited him and he loved it, driving to downtown Boston at dawn from his house in suburban Natick. He gained “the respect and affection of his clients for his candor and for his practical and personable approach,” his obituary recounted. He had great fondness for his young “reports” and also no-nonsense rules for them: park your cellphones in the outer office, kids, before you start work.
Through it all Gray made and kept many friends from many places and yet remained a lifelong bachelor. Over the years we got together regularly for boozy dinners and unbridled Gray gossip at the Dedham Club; he was always trying to work off the minimum. One day, after he had recently retired, I ran into him at the food market in Dover. “GRAY!“ I cried out in the traditional manner, but there was no reply. He simply turned his gaze toward me, stared silently, and then turned back to his shopping. Something was wrong with the hail-fellow-well-met I knew and loved.
Gray was diagnosed with meningioma, beginning a decade of invasive treatments that tested but never deflated him. Most of the time he remained the same old Gray, holding forth, animated and charming, with his voice booming and his laugh resounding, whether at the Dedham Club bar or elsewhere. So let’s let him have the last word – he would insist on it – and speak for himself as he did in the 1988 Harvard Class Report, to reinforce our dear and enduring memories of him.
“I continue to enjoy a very pleasant existence as a Boston bachelor. I did not, however, live with my mother. I earn an adequate amount of money but not enough to cause tax problems. I play a little golf, drink a little bourbon, and enjoy the company of an eclectic group of friends. I have fun at my job and look forward to the office every day where my cheerful disposition is as welcome as my investment expertise. I do not trouble myself with those aspects of life I may have overlooked and seem to be able to find humor in any situation. In short, everything is just fine!”