Remembering Morris — Nobles ’64 reacts
NOBLES ’64 CLASSMATES RESPOND TO NEWS OF THE DEATH OF MORRIS
I will miss him greatly. I am sure the laughter level in heaven has just reached a new height. Take care classmates.
Sad to hear about the loss of Morris. I saw him with Biggy a couple of times a while back and while he was not well, the Morris we all knew was still there. He fought valiantly and now is in a better place. Best to all.
Thank you, Nick, for informing us of this sad news. Morris was an important character in my life and the lives of many others. I am proud to have known him and will miss his presence on Earth.
Thanks for letting us know the sad news.
From carpool days forward (Clint, John Warren and I were the other riders until we were all mercifully licensed by junior year) Morris was ever the cheerful bon vivant, immersed in the social scene while making trenchant comments about it, even during a recent visit this spring when he had every right not to be lighthearted in the slightest. If he were a novelist, he might have echoed Thomas Marquand (The Late George Apley) with his observations
Anyway, as to the licensing part, several of us took driver’s ed at Garber’s Travel/Auto School with Mo. Our on the road instructor was a Nobles grad himself. When one of us at the wheel cut off a crotchety old woman who honked furiously at us from behind, Mo had the presence of mind to flip two insouciant birds at her out the back window. That resulted in an indignant letter to Garber’s and a half-hearted talking-to by our instructor, who had to physically keep himself from laughing about it while admonishing us all in order to keep his illustrious career intact.
I grew up across the street from Morris, we both endured the same Nobles carpool for many years, and we were frat bros at college. He was honorable, generous-hearted, and viciously funny. I will miss him a lot. Morris and I learned to smoke together in the woods on Sandy Valley Road, practically within sight of where Ned Bigelow now lives. We occasionally smoked real cigarettes liberated from the cigarette boxes then typically maintained by their parents, but also tried out pine needles wrapped in toilet paper. Yecchh!” One could say, “That explains everything!
Morris was always the young businessman, whether it was selling lemonade from his front yard on Highland Street in Dedham, managing an athletic squad at Nobles, or signing purchase orders for Lawson’s dad. Yes, it is only a faint memory, but I vaguely recall that somehow Morris persuaded Mr. Lawson to delegate some kind of signature authority to him, perhaps for items for athletic teams. Remembering how FBL operated, this must have been very rare indeed, and certainly a great honor. I specifically recall that Morris worked very hard at forging Mr. Lawson’s initials, so that the Morris version of “FBL” was indistinguishable from the real thing. He took such pleasure in that!
In college, Morris earned extra money running the copying machines installed at the J. August haberdashery on Mass. Ave. in Harvard Square. But at J. August, he didn’t merely run the machines; he ruled them. There was always a line for the copiers, and Morris was the man who could say No (but of course, I’m sure he never did). Which allows me to provide the executive summary of the deathless story of my senior thesis, which was finished approximately 30 minutes before it was due — in triplicate. (Several readers of this will recall their magnificent contribution to this effort, typing, proofing, etc.) At about 4:45 on a slushy afternoon in March, I ran up the hill toward J. August with my freshly typed pages, where I knew Morris would be waiting for me because I needed two copies, and I would need them RIGHT NOW. I dashed in the door, and suddenly realized that I was not alone; others had waited until the last minute as well. The line for the three machines trailed halfway around the store. I was too late, it was over, my goose was cooked.
But Morris, looking up, saw me, and with a look of authority, immediately swung into action. He saw that one of the machines was just finishing up a job, and immediately and physically, and with great authority, inserted himself in front of the next person in line, and said loudly, “Hold up there, this machine is reserved.” Whereupon he grabbed my papers from me, inserted them in the feeder, and copied them himself. The next in line was beyond help; there was nothing they could do; they were struck dumb, beyond speechless.
And that is how my senior thesis got turned in on time, and as they say, ‘The rest is history.’ It was all because of Morris. What a character he was! I already miss him.
As I sit home watching the April snow fall, I hear Morris’ distinct voice. His voice, of course, was not just loud but emphatic, righteous, indignant, arrogant, sarcastic, classist, often on point and inevitably hilarious. “BROOKS’ he’d accost. “WATSON.” “WIGGINS.” In his unbridled opinion, many things were “TACK-Y” and some unfortunate souls suffered from “SMALL MAN”S DISEASE”” But the classic Grayism most widely applied was just plain “BOR-ING.” Something he was decidedly not.
Anyone have any additional examples to add to the list of vocal outrages from the mouth of Morris? We could do worse than to hear his voice resound again.
There were five of us in the carpool. Starting in the fall of 1958. Wiggins, Warren, Watson, Gray and me, Smith. One family for each weekday. Made it easy to remember which parent was driving on which day. Easy for everyone except my mother of course. Many a morning there was when she plopped behind the steering wheel in her nightgown and bathrobe, having forgotten it was her day to drive. And it wasn’t just the mornings. There were many dark winter afternoons when the five of us were the last ones waiting to be picked up in front of the schoolhouse long after all the other carpools had taken off and the schoolhouse lights had been turned down. Without cell phones, we had no choice but to just wait until Mom finally showed up, late again. Mind you, it was always Mom who was the late one. The others were like clockwork. On the Wiggins day, little Ruthie often sat in the far back of the station wagon, as the four non-Wiggins boys constantly wondered just how much hair Mrs. Wiggins actually had, rolled up into that bun, how long it might actually be. We never found out. I think each family had a station wagon with three rows of seats. Man, the cars back then, even the brand new ones, were rattle traps. Gray’s cutting sarcasm and sardonic humor was years ahead of the other four boys. It was fun most of the time. Sometimes it not only got ahead of us but also occasionally upset one or more of us. But that was never ever fatal to the cohesiveness of the group, a cohesiveness that really only happened in the car. Gray was teaching us how to say things like they were. It came naturally to him. And he usually said them with a knowing humor. Gray was a foible spotter. And man, could he make fun of peoples’ foibles, as well as his own. At school, we went our separate ways for the most part. And in Dedham, we didn’t really hang out much together on weekends or summer vacations. But we rode to school together every morning, and rode home together every evening. With our green school bags. We also got to know a little about our various parents, our drivers, and that was a good thing. The carpool only lasted a few years, maybe three, possibly four. Boys. Friends. Talking, obviously not texting. Wearing ties and jackets. And white wool socks under Weejuns for some of us. Four went to Harvard. One to Princeton. We never got together in one place (or one car) again. And we never will. I have fond memories of Gray working for Jimmy Jacobs at the J. August store in Harvard Square in the sixties. And who can forget his photograph as the advertising icon of the First National Bank of Boston? As a wealth manager, Morris sure knew how to hold a hand. I never saw Warren again after graduation, even though he went to Harvard. My loss. But, fortunately, Gray was woven in and out of all my years since Nobles. Each get-together, even if years apart, felt like we had just seen each other the previous day. Always ready with some outrageous comment on just about any topic; always interested, interesting and concerned, and inevitably laughing. A brother, well, sort of. I wish I had been able to hold his hand lately. I will always consider that to be a life failure. I wish I had been able to hold Morris’s hand when he needed it. I have missed Morris already, for quite some time up to today, my fault. Because I could have done something about it. Now I will always miss him and there’s nothing I can do about it. Morris was a funny guy, a very funny guy, in all the best sense of the phrase. His distinctive voice still resonates in my head. We all loved Morris. His awful burden over the last couple of decades tests anyone’s religious faith. Good bye Morris. God bless.
Morris was braver than I can imagine myself ever being in the same situation. Just glancing in the bathroom mirror each and every morning – how did he do it? Elephant-man staring back at him to confirm the ever ongoing night-and-day mare. (helium, sleeping pills, slit the wrists, opioid overdose all come to mind as escape paths.) Morris did not take the easy way out. KUDOS to Morris – the bravest of us all.
The best moment for me of that spirit was way back in some 4th class football game. The starting backfield was pulled in the 4th Q with a comfortable lead. Morris was sent in at halfback, something he never envisioned, practiced at or even found amusing.
Football was an anathema to him. Yet, there he was. Plunged into the fray… and the QB called his number.
Morris took the handoff and started around the right end, right along the sideline where we all stood open-mouthed, cringing at the sight, fearing that this could not end well.
But Morris picked his way around a block, and with yawning grass in front of him, dashed down our sideline for 20 yds with a big grin on his mug as he swept by us.
He looked like Paul Horning, freed by blocks from Fuzzy Thurston and Jim Taylor, finding running room, knees high, arms pumping…. and that spirited grin.
We all cheered and whooped as he raced by and then emerged unscathed from the downfield pile up and jauntily, jauntily bounced back to the the bench.
His football career was over… on a very high note.
Years later when I recounted that story to Morris, he just flashed me the grin.
We all miss it.
Rile (John Riley)
So very sorry to hear about Morris’ passing. Though I only re-communicated with him briefly at and after our 50th reunion..,our class is diminished by his passing. His sharp wit will be missed. Please stay safe my friends.in these extraordinary times!…
Beyond what I remember as an attitude of cheerful irreverence, Morris had a keen social intelligence and knew how to get things done. At Nobles his managerial talents benefited the hockey team, The Nobleman, as well as the Dramatic Club where he acted as stage manager. His successful career in wealth management proves that those talents served him well in later life. I learned quite recently that he served as Graduate Clerk from 1976 to 1978 (and again from 1989 to 1994) of the A.D. Club at Harvard, further testimony of the value given to his talents. Bob Botsford captured Mo’s whirlwind organizational talents perfectly in his wonderful cartoon in our 1964 classbook, which we have displayed on the the class website.
I’ll always remember Morris’ acting debut in 1958…. Gilbert & Sullivan’s H.M.S Pinafore…. only outshone by Dick Deadeye ( John Warren)…also thinking of his brothers… Bobby and Billy… how good they were to him…
My father used to say when someone he cared about and respected passed away, “we’ve lost one of the good guys.” Morris Gray was one of the good guys. As I said to his brothers, I knew Morris pretty darned well at Nobles, but it was on John Paine’s trip to Europe in the summer of 1963 where I really got to know him much better. Additionally, it was on that trip that I met the love of my life, and so as I got to know Mo better, my future wife became a Mo Gray fan as well. I say this because this shared relationship was special and we had a number of wonderful and memorable times together from Dedham to South Dartmouth. I think what I might well miss most are his quick wit and that classic, memorable laugh, always on the ready.
Morris fought a health battle for the last 10 years that was truly amazing and defined courage. I never heard him complain, it was always, “how are you.” RIP Morris, we will miss you.
Mo was good to this AFS-guy. He sat close to me in the study hall and he had almost every day a funny crack to me about one thing or other. He was a good guy. I felt sorry for him.
I did not know Mo very well, but I remember him as good guy and nice classmate. Sorry to hear he has passed, and wish my condolences to his family.
Although it wasn’t unexpected, like all of us I was saddened to learn of Morris’s passing. From all accounts, for years he endured much and complained little. ETP would have been proud of him, as we all were once his terrible affliction became public and his good-natured stoicism rose to the occasion.
Although I didn’t spend a lot of time with Morris, especially in our upper class years, he was always a presence among us. I remember him as a bouncy, clever and unforgettable entertainer who loved an audience. Not quite a “character” but certainly one of a kind, Morris didn’t suffer fools gladly – and wouldn’t hesitate to skewer them with his keen wit. That said, he could also turn that weapon on himself and become the butt of his own joke.
Morris was unfailingly loyal to our class and close friends. We’ll all miss his presence, his sense of humor and his courage in the face of terrible adversity. I wish him well on the next stage of his journey.