Activist Morris is dead

November 01, 1994|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Sun Staff Writer

Conservationist Stuart G. Morris, whose name had become synonymous with the growing strength of the Severn River Association, was found dead in bed in his East Pendennis Mount house on Saturday.

The cause of death has not been determined. County police said they do not suspect foul play. He was 63.

Mr. Morris, who had been ill since pushing his broken-down car one rainy night about three weeks ago, had said he thought he strained some muscles and contracted the flu.

His wife of 40 years, Eleanor, said he probably died between late Thursday and Saturday. She was working on a house in West River where the couple were planning to move and had not been at their home in Annapolis for several days.

Mr. Morris was found Saturday by a neighbor and his employer, Patricia Troy, owner of Bay Media Inc. of Arnold. Ms. Troy said she went to his house Saturday morning after she was unable to reach him Friday and found mail and newspapers from the previous day outside.

When the neighbor discovered Mr. Morris' body, Ms. Troy called the police.

Fellow conservationists said Mr. Morris' legacy will be the dramatic membership growth of the SRA, which made it one of the most powerful civic coalitions in the state. They attributed that growth to Mr. Morris' skills as a salesman, his intense promotion of the group and his persistence in pursuing would-be members.

In 1984, the coalition had barely 200 members. Today, it has 116 member civic associations and about 640 individual members, among them some of the county's most influential politicians.

"Stuart would scan the crowd and look for people who were potential members," said Steve Carr, a Democratic activist and the SRA's former legislative lobbyist. "As a result of that, most of the politicians, most of the Indian chiefs and the bankers and lawyers were members."

Mr. Carr and Ms. Troy described Mr. Morris as a born salesman.

"He had an amazing ability to recruit," said James Martin, a past president of the SRA. "We're really at a loss. He did everything for the association. It was a one-man show sometimes."

Mr. Morris planted trees, wrote newsletters, arranged for speakers and kept track of members. Occasionally, he was the only person to show up for roadside cleanups, among the least popular tasks the association attempted.

"He'll be missed, he really will be. He has been a good leader," said Arthur Greenbaum of Annapolis, acting recording secretary of the SRA. "It was through his own pursuing his goals for the association that I got involved more."

Mr. Morris often said that a dedicated SRA member should do something each day for the coalition. At one time or another, he held almost every position in the organization, one the oldest in the country dedicated to the protection of a river, and was serving his third term as president.

Mr. Morris was known for speaking his mind, for making paper airplanes out of County Council bills he disliked and for his tightly held opinions. "He was not always the most popular guy, because he was always stirring things up," said George Brown, a past president of the SRA.

In addition to his environmental advocacy, Mr. Morris was active in the local Republican Party. He was elected in September to a third term on the county's Republican Central Committee.

Before he moved to Annapolis and became active in the Severn River Association, he served three terms as president of the Greater Severna Park Council.

Mr. Morris gardened for relaxation. He was known to insist that people come over in June to see his evening primrose flowers open, and he brought seeds from his garden to SRA meetings for members and guests to take home and plant.

Mr. Morris was born in Washington, D.C., and graduated from St. Paul's School in Brooklandville. He served in the Army from 1949 to 1952 and graduated from the Johns Hopkins University with a civil engineering degree in 1957.

In addition to his wife, the former Eleanor Burwell, he is survived by four children, Anne Morris of Annapolis, Cynthia Morris of Largo, Fla., Sally Morris of Boston and Stuart Morris Jr., of Hyattsville.

Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow at Christ Episcopal Church in West River, where the Morrises were married.

Memorial contributions may be sent to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals, 1815 Bay Ridge Ave., Annapolis 21403. Mrs. Morris has long been a volunteer in the group.

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