Hugh Robert “Bob” Morrison, who was elected four times as Treasurer of Falls Church and served from 1993 – 2006, died at age 71 on Sunday, July 12, after a lengthy battle with cancer.
(Editor’s Note – The following concerning the life and passing this week of former City of Falls Church Treasurer H. Robert “Bob” Morrison is reprinted as submitted by Mr. Morrison’s family, edited only for length.)
Hugh Robert “Bob” Morrison, who was elected four times as Treasurer of Falls Church and served from 1993 – 2006, died at age 71 on Sunday, July 12, after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was instrumental in the planning and establishment of the Falls Church News-Press in 1991, working closely with editor and owner Nicholas F. Benton to create the first successful newspaper to serve Falls Church.
Morrison was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on April 7, 1938, to Hugh Morrison and Gertrude Mary (Gehenio) Morrison. Gertrude’s Catholic parents had immigrated from Germany, and Scottish Presbyterian Hugh came over from Scotland. The Morrisons soon bought an acre of pastureland near the northern suburb of Wexford.
Morrison started learning to read very early by asking about roadside signs. His mother encouraged him, and “Run, Dick, Run” joined “Steaks, Chops, Spaghetti,” in his reading vocabulary. One day after church, his parents found him entertaining a group of teens by reading Bible verses they chose at random.
Shortly after the end of World War II the family moved to Erie, Penn. for a year and then to Ohio. They settled in the crossroads hamlet of Academia just north of Mt. Vernon, where Hugh and sister Jeanne attended the Adventist elementary and high schools.
In his freshman year in high school, Morrison took a course in printing, and through most of his life, he was associated with printing in some way. About this time he discovered photography, a passion that never left him. Morrison marked his graduation in 1955 by leaving for college and beginning to use his middle name, Bob.
Morrison’s early college career was a checkered one. He tried various courses of study at several schools. In between, he held temporary jobs: grease monkey, painter, ditch digger, printer, coffee shop proprietor, used car salesman. One summer he attended business school; another time he went to different drafting schools – structural and mechanical – but both schools closed before he completed studies. All throughout, he remained convinced that he was to be a writer.
In 1961 Morrison enlisted in the U.S. Army. Following training at Fort Knox, Ky., and Army Information School at Fort Slocum, N.Y., Morrison was assigned to a NATO support base in Fontainebleau, France, where his duties included post photographer. While there, Morrison met a fellow American whom he married; they had a son before they divorced. Morrison explored the beautiful Fort de Fontainebleau, and struck up a lasting romance with Paris.
Upon being honorably discharged in 1964, Morrison moved to Takoma Park in D.C. He attended Howard University and answered an ad in The Washington Post for a night job as a page layout technician with the National Geographic Society (NGS). For the next five years, Morrison worked full time from 5 p.m. until 1:30 a.m. in page layout then as proofreader, going to classes during the day.
Morrison graduated from Howard University with a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in English and minoring in philosophy, in June 1969. He applied to an opening for an NGS writer. While waiting, he continued work at NGS and wrote freelance picture captions for their Special Publications (Books) Division. He became an NGS writer that summer.
Morrison’s first byline came two years later with an essay on the urban environment for an ecology book. It was followed by seven more NGS books where Morrison was a contributing author. He also co-authored America’s Atlantic Isles. His assignments took him to the Caribbean, several European countries, and 48 states. (He missed Alaska and South Dakota, which he later visited.)
Among his adventures were climbing sparkling snow-clad peaks of the Cascades range; camp ing on ancient Hawaiian structures in Waimea Canyon; wading flooded swamps in Florida and South Carolina; being chased by a nor’easter from an island off east Maine; diving 200 feet down the edge of the continental shelf into a dark realm where sunlight never reaches; watching the beam of the rising midwinter sun skitter along a passage to illumine a carving in Newfane, an Irish neolithic tomb; and observing sunrise on midsummer morning inside the ring of Stonehenge in the company of scores of British druids.
When Morrison’s name made it to the Society’s masthead, he was said to be one of the youngest ever to achieve that honor. He also served as managing editor for Educational Filmstrips, edited the questions for the first National Geography Bee, and brought the first IBM-PCs and Macs to the NGS for word processing, layout and other editorial uses.
In 1971 Morrison sold a photo to the Society that ran as a full page in a book. He decided to use the unexpected windfall toward buying a kilt and looked for places to wear it, so happening onto Scottish Country Dancing. That soon became a hobby, with lasting consequences. It was here he met Meredith. Their friendship deepened, and they were married in 1979.
In 1976 a mole on Morrison’s right foot was diagnosed as melanoma. It was removed, and the prognosis was good. The melanoma returned in 1985 and 1987. After the second recurrence, Morrison underwent a grueling, but successful chemotherapy regimen. The melanoma never came back.
Meredith and Morrison underwent foster parenting training and started providing temporary care for infants. In 1988 a little rascal arrived who grabbed their hearts and they adopted Justin in 1991. Justin needed a sister. Elizabeth was a bundle of joy with a will of iron, and she was adopted in 1992. One of the great blessings that came from their adoption was being led to Galloway United Methodist Church, where Morrison served on the Finance Committee for many years. Morrison also became active with Falls Church Community TV. In 1989, he was appointed to the Board of Directors of The Falls Church Cable Access Corporation and served there for 19 years.
Meanwhile, Morrison had been active in Democratic politics and began to look for an entry to public service. The opportunity presented itself when the Treasurer of the City of Falls Church announced her retirement. Morrison out polled three other candidates to win that election. He retired from The National Geographic Society after almost 30 years. In three subsequent elections he ran unopposed.
Morrison’s longtime hobby of photography became a vocation when he retired from the Treasurer’s Office in 2006. Morrison took the Senior Class photograph for George Mason High School, documented many Tinner Hill Festivals and featured his photos in local art shows. He enjoyed shooting sports; his Web site has more than 10,000 pictures of George Mason High School activities, mostly of football and basketball. He served as an official photographer for The National Catholic Prayer Breakfast, the Capital Fringe Festival and the DC Divas. Some of these jobs came from friends made at TIVA, an area association of independent video and film professionals, where he served on the Board of Directors for several years. He volunteered often at DC Central Kitchen photographing their Capital Food Fight, and received their Volunteer of the Year award in 2005. Morrison was especially proud of his contributions to their cookbook, Feeding the Soul of the City. Morrison also worked as a publicity agent and set photographer for two movies in 2008. He photographed filming on The Seton Legacy and pick up filming on Come What May, a full length feature film. After he finished photography on Come What May, the producer asked him to play the role of a retired Supreme Court Justice, for which he received his first and only screen acting credits.
A new challenge surfaced for Morrison in 2006 when he was diagnosed with colon cancer, which prompted his retirement as treasurer. He discovered a year later that the cancer had spread to his liver. After numerous treatments, including experimental protocols at the National Cancer Institute, physicians ran out of choices. He spent his last months at home, remaining as active as his condition would allow and helping Meredith plan his final arrangements. The family is grateful for the care provided by an outstanding health care team from Capital Hospice. Morrison died secure in the love of family, friends and his faith in the resurrection.
Morrison is survived by Meredith, two sons and a daughter, his sister, brother-in-law, nephews, nieces, grand-nephews, grand-nieces and a host of other relatives and friends. His family will receive visitors on Tuesday, July 14, at the family home from 6 – 8 p.m. A service to celebrate Morrison’s life will be held at Galloway United Methodist Church, 306 Annandale Road in Falls Church, on Saturday, August 8 at 11 a.m., followed by a luncheon. Memorial contributions may be made to The Bob Morrison Scholarship Fund (checks payable to Falls Church Education Foundation or F.C.E.F., 800 W. Broad Street, Suite 205, Falls Church, VA 22046).