Ellen Morriss, 41, art teacher, knitter, community activist

March 08, 2001|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Ellen Morriss, a teacher, community activist and artist who wove images of wildflowers into wool and silk garments, died Saturday at her Govans home. She was 41.

Family members said Ms. Morriss had been under treatment for severe depression and ended her life.

An art teacher at Ruxton Country School, she wove sweaters, sweater dresses and vests at her home studio and exhibited them at local craft shows.

Recalled for her warmth, keen sense of humor and ability to bring neighbors together, she published the quarterly newsletter of the Rosebank-Brackenridge-Bellona Neighborhood Association.

She and other neighborhood activists successfully campaigned to reopen the Govans branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library after it was closed in the 1990s.

"I recall Ellen's intensity, her creativity and zest for artistry. She was a real treasure," said a friend, Betsy Rice of Annapolis. "She had a lot of empathy for people. When you met her, you became her friend," said Ms. Rice, who has eight sweaters Ms. Morriss made.

"She had such an eye for color. She put peach, green and yellow with purple - and it worked. She was a perfectionist. She wanted to make sure you loved what you purchased," she said.

For 20 years, Ms. Morriss had been a professional knitter who designed and wove wearable art in her home studio. She wove wool, mohair and silk into bolero sweaters, scarves, vests, shells, dresses and light coats. Many sold for $250 to $600 at local shows and at Through the Hands of Women Gallery in Hampden.

"She was quick, with a warm smile and a funny comment," said Gena O'Keefe, a neighbor and friend. "Any new person who moved into the community, she would always call. She would come over, introduce herself and give a history of the neighborhood.

"She was always out walking her dog. She revived the neighborhood association. Now we have four or five gatherings a year."

At Ruxton Country School in Owings Mills, Ms. Morriss organized the Art-in-Action program, in which students did art projects.

She gardened and raised wildflowers native to Maryland, including black-eyed Susans and purple coneflowers. She often used representations of the flowers and of butterflies and hummingbirds in her woven art.

Born in Osaka, Japan, and reared in Staunton, Va., Ms. Morriss was a graduate of Robert E. Lee High School in Staunton and Virginia Commonwealth University, where she received a bachelor of fine arts degree in 1982.

In 1985, she married Kenneth M. Greene Jr., a physician, who survives her.

A brother, Andrew Dale Morriss, died in 1999.

Funeral services for Ms. Morriss will be held at 11 a.m. today at Govans Presbyterian Church, 5826 York Road, where she was a member and elder.

She is also survived by two sons, Stuart and Dylan Greene, both of Baltimore; her parents, the Rev. Woodward and Mary Ann Morriss of Staunton, Va.; and two sisters, Amy Peregoy of Waldorf and Beverly Mackey of Springfield, Va.

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