“Joyful Fella” Inducted Into Two Shrines
New Brunswick is mourning the loss of a born entertainer and a true gentleman
October 24, 2003
Eugene Morris was a cornerstone in both the music and dairy industries. The only two-time inductee into the New Brunswick Music Hall of Fame and member of the New Brunswick Dairy Hall of Fame died at Oromocto Public Hospital on Thursday due to complications from pneumonia. He was 82.
“It was a great sense of loss. So many people have passed in the local music scene and at the national level but Gene was someone you knew,” said Gerry Taylor, who writes a weekly music column for the Telegraph-Journal. “He was such a musician playing up till the last couple of years and it’s such a loss he’s gone.”
Mr. Morris was perhaps best known as a member of the bluegrass dance band, the River Valley Boys. Along with Ken Harrison and Art Merritt, the fiddle player delighted crowds from Westfield to Gagetown with a unique blend of bluegrass and country music.
Through the band, Mr. Morris’ playing style gained prominence and he was twice inducted into the New Brunswick Music Hall of Fame first as a soloist and later with the River Valley Boys. He also released two recordings, Gene Morris and Five Favorite Fiddlers, and was the first recipient of the Don Messer Memorial Award in 1984.
Please see MORRIS, 19
Mr. Morris had been living most recently in Fredericton but Mr. Taylor first met the fiddler when he arrived in the Sussex area in the mid ’50s. At the time, Mr. Morris was instrumental in getting the local Town and Country Jamboree off the ground and acted as the talent show’s host. While there was a veritable wealth of musical talent in the area there was nowhere to perform before the jamboree started. “For many people it was the first time performing on a stage and it was wonderful,” Mr. Taylor said. The gifted fiddler was also a founding member and regular per former of the Valley Jamboree which is in its 17th year and hosted by his son Gary. Due to Mr. Morris’ efforts, several generations of Sussex-area musicians have risen to prominence throughout the province. While his efforts were welcomed, Mr. Taylor said people will remember the man the most. “Gene was quite tall and always very cheerful . . . He just exuded a sort of pleasantness. He was a born entertainer,” Mr. Taylor said. “Gene had such a voice. He would sing those old-time songs and you’d get just so sentimental.
Perhaps less well known publicly was Mr. Morris’ work on behalf of the provincial dairy industry. Starting from his first job making butter with Harvey Creamery Ltd., he rose to lead numerous dairy industry organizations including the New Brunswick. Buttermakers’ Association, International Milk Control Agencies and the Canadian Council of the International Dairy Federation.
Mr. Morris oversaw all aspects of the industry through his work as Secretary-Administrator of the New Brunswick Dairy Products Commission from 1971 until 1985. In 1986, his peers rewarded his contribution to the industry with the Agriculture Association of New Brunswick-James Robb Award and in 1989 he was named to the New Brunswick Dairy Hall of Fame.
“Eugene was a very significant influence on the dairy industry not only because of regulations but he had an influence on improving milk quality and consumer and public issues,” said Bill Sherwood, former chair of the New Brunswick Milk Marketing Board.
Mr. Sherwood said Mr. Morris was invaluable in helping set up the marketing board in early ’70s. He assisted them in everything from what regulations must be created to offering as a live resource into the history of the industry in New Brunswick.
“He was fantastic to work with. He was very, very pleasant and had great attention to detail. He always wanted to do things right,” Mr. Sherwood said.
Mr. Morris was well respected by most working on the marketing board even though he wasn’t a member. “He was a real gentlernan. His word was his bond and he was so down to earth,” said Albert Neill, former vice chair of the New Brunswick Marketing Board.
Raymond Miller met Mr. Morris, then secretary for the New Brunswick Dairy Products Commission, in 1971 when he became their auditor. “He was a very honest man, good to work with and he was a joyful fella to work with. He was always laughing and if things got going hard in a meetings he’d come up with some sort of comment to get them laughing and get us all back on track,” Mr. Miller said.
Friends, family and colleges will gather for Mr. Morris funeral at the First Congregational Church in Fre dericton today at 2 p.m.
A musical tribute to Mr. Morris is being organized. The concert is set for Nov. 8 and to be hosted by Gordon Stobbe from ATV’s Up Home Tonight.
Source: Rev. Bill Randall’s “From The Scrapbook Vol. One.”