Obituary of Eugene Edward "Gene" Morris
Eugene Edward (Gene) Morris passed away on September 5, 2020 surrounded by his loving family at his home in Pell City. He was 90 years old. Gene was born on November 15, 1929 in Sparkman, Arkansas to Robert Oliver and Nellie Viola (Hartnett) Morris. He remembered his early years with fondness and recalled the WWII and post-war era as a time when his community pulled together, prioritized God, country, and family, and willingly sacrificed for the common good. These foundational values continued to be important to him throughout his life. After graduating from public high school in Okolona, Arkansas, Gene traveled west to seek employment. In 1947, he joined Western Electric in San Francisco. He fell in love with the then-emerging field of telephony and decided to devote his career to the telecommunications industry. His work was interrupted by a call to duty, and Gene joined the Army in 1952. He was stationed in South Korea where he served in the Signal Corp and attained the rank of Private, First Class. Following his honorable discharge, Gene returned to his home state and his chosen industry, joining the Bell System in 1954. He continued to expand his expertise in radio communications and earned a ham radio license, an achievement that helped him to expand his responsibilities at Southwestern Bell. In 1967, he was promoted to a research and development position at Bell Labs in New Jersey and was recruited from there by Continental Telephone Company (later ConTel). He moved to Pell City after assuming the position of manager for ConTel of the South. He was on the board of directors for the Mississippi-Alabama Telephone Association and served as the organization’s president from 1991-1992. He stayed with ConTel until his retirement in 1991, and his career with the company was a source of great pleasure and fulfillment for him. Gene was also a co-organizer of Metro Bank. He was proud of the role the business played in meeting the banking needs of St. Clair County’s residents, and he served continuously on the bank’s board of directors from its establishment in 1989 until his death. Gene was a true Renaissance man who had many pastimes in addition to his work. At different times in his life, he handcrafted furniture (including building an organ from scratch), grew orchids and African violets, and learned to play various musical instruments. He was a Master Gardener and an accomplished photographer and videographer. However, these hobbies paled in comparison to his true passion - building and flying radio-controlled airplanes. He devoted many happy hours to these activities, yet he still found time to engage with and be of service to his community. He was a member of the Pell City Rotary Club where he served on the board of directors from 1985-1993. He served for many years as Chairman of the Pell City Industrial Development Board, as a director on the Birmingham Metropolitan Development Board, and as the treasurer of the St. Clair County Animal Shelter. Following his retirement, he volunteered as a driver, transporting local veterans to and from their appointments and as an instructor in an adult literacy program. Gene was a man of faith. He was a member of the First United Methodist Church of Pell City where he worshipped weekly with his wife, Norma. He strove to live a Godly life consistent with Christian scripture. He was a family man and is survived by his loving wife of 47 years, Norma Jean Morris, and the couple’s 5 children and their spouses: Carol Jean (Morris) Tuck and husband Larry Tuck, Kathleen Morris Brown and husband Larry Johnson, David Schmidt and wife Barbara Schmidt, Martha (Schmidt) Rutter and husband Jim Rutter, and Lynn Schmidt and wife Karla Schmidt, as well as by numerous grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren. He will be lovingly remembered and greatly missed. Mr. Morris will be lying in state at First United Methodist Church in Pell City from 1 p.m. on Thursday, September 10th with services to follow at 2 p.m.. Interment and military honors ceremony will be held at Ft. Smith National Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Gene’s “pet” project, the animal shelter, at ASPCI, PO Box 566, Pell City, AL 35125. Condolences may be offered online at usreyfuneralhome.com. Usrey Funeral Home, Pell City, is in charge of arrangements.