ELLICE EUGENE “GENE” MORRIS
Gene Morris, 82 years of age, passed away October 23, 2003 at the Oromocto Public Hospital, Oromocto, N.B. Born in Magundy, York County N.B. in 1921, Gene was the son of the late Oscar and Mary Jeanette (Crewdson) Morris.
“Eugene was a cornerstone in both the dairy and music industries”
Gene was passionate about his work and play in equal parts. From his youth he was taught by his parents the arts of farming and music, the two key threads that were woven throughout his life from beginning to end. Raised on a mixed farm, which included dairy cattle, cream and butter production, Eugene learned the taste of good dairy products and the commitment necessary to successfully operate a farm and business.
He was educated at the local school and later went to the school at Lake George. He passed the Normal School entrance in 1939, but decided not to become a teacher. He was not accepted as a soldier, so during the War years he worked around sawmills for a while and then by good fortune he was hired by the Harvey Creamery Ltd., first cutting ice and then printing butter. He did so well at dairy work he was sent to the Ontario Agriculture College at Guelph, Ontario to learn the latest theories and technologies on the processing of milk and other dairy products Upon graduating he was ready to use his newfound knowledge and felt pretty confident after placing first in his class of sixty-seven students and winning nine of the ten awards offered for achievement and merit. It was at this time that Gene got a rude introduction to the dairy industry!
“I returned to work at the Harvey Creamery and the boss welcomed me by handing me a shovel and telling me a load of coal had arrived that had to be unloaded. I almost left the dairy industry that day,” he said.
His first full time position at the Hampstead branch plant of Harvey Creamery Ltd. was in the butter department. Gene always related fond memories of Harvey Creamery, which is where he got better acquainted with a gal who became his bride, Madeline. He also remembers his clandestine trips to the basement of the creamery to sample the rich orange pineapple ice cream mix.
In 1947 the Hampstead plant was purchased by producers in the area and set up as the Hampstead Co-operative Ltd., and Eugene was named manager. It was during these years in Hampstead that sons Bill and Gary were born. As a result of the development of Camp Gagetown, the plant closed in 1953 and Eugene began a new career with the New Brunswick Department of Agriculture as a dairy fieldman in Sussex. It was during those years in Sussex that their daughter Cheryl arrived.
In 1970 Gene was appointed to the New Brunswick Dairy Products Commission and in 1971 was appointed Secretary Administrator of the Commission, a position he held until his retirement from government service in October of 1985.
Looking back on his career he said, “The most important thing I leave behind is the steps that have been taken to ensure the consumer high quality, wholesome dairy products. New Brunswick does not have to take a backseat to anyone in the quality of its products”
Eugene was very active in a number of industry organizations. He was Secretary-Treasurer of the New Brunswick-Prince Edward Island Ice Cream Manufacturers Association from 1967 to 1971, President of the New Brunswick Buttermaker’s Association in 1949 and Secretary of this Association from 1958 to 1971. He served as Secretary of the New Brunswick Cheese Marketing Board. A director of the International Milk Control Agencies from 1972 to 1985, he further served as its president in 1982. Eugene was the 1986 recipient of the Agriculture Association of New Brunswick —James Robb Award, as recognition by his peers in the agriculture community, of his exemplary contribution to the industry. With his knowledge, skill and dedication to the dairy industry, provincially, nationally and internationally, Gene played a prominent role in the advancement of the industry. Gene was inducted to the New Brunswick Dairy Hall of Fame in 1989.
Music was Gene’s other passion. First taught by his music teacher and church organist mother, the Morris Home was filled with music from his father’s fiddle and the talents of three sisters who sang and played instruments. At the age of 12, his father introduced Gene to the fiddle. His sister Helen gave Gene his first guitar and he soon was playing for house parities and variety concerts. During the years in Hampstead Gene formed the well-known dance band, the “River Valley Boys” with his friends Ken Harrison and Art Merritt. Together they played many of the finer events and venues from Gagetown to Westfield. The Morris sons joined their father on stage at an early age and all preformed at country and community fairs, as well as on the original Capital Co-op Jamboree.
Gene always cited the development and direction of the Sussex Town and Country Orchestra, a group of 36 musicians, singers and dancers as one of his greatest musical challenges and accomplishments. He was also involved with the St. Paul’s Boys String Orchestra of Sussex. Later in Fredericton, Gene became a member of the Fredericton Bluegrass and Old Time Music Association, the River Valley Fiddlers and was leader of a country combo, “The Lamplighters”
Gene received the first “Don Messer Memorial Award” in 1984. He was the founding member, regular performer and leader of the Valley Jamboree. He released two professional recordings of his music, “Gene Morris” and “Five Favorite Fiddlers”.
He is the only two-time inductee to the New Brunswick Music Hall of Fame, once for his solo work and once as part of the River Valley Boys.
Gerry Taylor, Music Columnist for the Telegraph-Journal remembers Gene:
“Gene had such a voice. He would sing those old-time songs and you’d get just so sentimental.”
Prepared by Harvey Regional Heritage & Historical Association using excerpts from Obituary published at inmemomiam.ca and other sources