George Morris’ passion for family, friends, fishing leaves impression
George Morris was a friendly bus driver who greeted passengers with a smile, a talented baker who often treated his friends with his trademark cake and a fisherman who treasured his time by the water.
George was also a valued member of the Yampa Valley community, and he left a lasting impression on Steamboat Springs and Hayden, where he made his home for 17 years before moving to Las Vegas in 2020.
“He lived to fish,” said Bethany Aurin, a longtime friend. “He came and stayed with us for a couple of weeks last summer, and every day he took my car out and went fishing. He just loved to fish. His favorite thing was to either fish or take his motorcycle for a ride, and a lot of times, he’d take his motorcycle fishing.”
This week George friends and family remembered the longtime Hayden resident who died Dec. 20 at age 65. They said he was a valued community member who cared for his neighbors and was always there to lend a hand, whether it be fixing a car, plowing snow or putting on a Santa Claus outfit to put smiles on children’s faces during the holiday season.
George’s son Cody Morris said his father felt most at home sitting by a lake with his fishing line in the calm water as he waited for a fish to bite. However, George was not a fishing snob, and he enjoyed many fishing holes in the area including those along the rivers and on lakes.
“He was fishing every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Stagecoach during the summer,” Cody said. “He called that his office.”
Aurin said she will always remember her friend as a person who looked after the people and did things — even the small ones — that made living in the Yampa Valley better.
“He was always a huge, thoughtful giver,” said Aurin, who got to know George when they were working for the Steamboat Springs School District as bus drivers. “He would make people unbelievably delicious birthday cakes for their birthday, or he would work on people’s cars if they couldn’t afford (to get them fixed).”
George was born in Chicago, but made his way to Hayden in 2001. He started working at A-1 Auto Body and quickly connected with the community. He raised his children — Levi, Amanda and Cody — in the valley he came to love.
“He truly loved the community,” Cody said. “He loved how tight-knit everybody was, how friendly everybody was, and during the wintertime in Hayden, he not only enjoyed plowing his own driveway, but he also enjoyed plowing probably 10 other additional driveways for neighbors, friends and those that needed a helping hand.”
After working at A-1 for several years, George took a job with the Steamboat Springs Transit as a bus driver. It was a job that favored his outgoing personality and love for helping people.
“He was always smiling, and he was always joking with passengers. He made sure that they all got to where they needed to go,” said Kim Symalla, another one of George’s close friends and fishing buddies who worked alongside him. “He was really loved by his passengers, and he would always go out of his way to help them, whether it was related to the bus service or just in general.”
While working for the city from 2006-14, George took pride in ferrying thousands of people across town to the ski area and back home. During that span, George drove just about every route with the exception of the regional line, and he was named the best bus driver in the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s Best of the Boat competition in 2013.
In November 2014, George shifted gears and took a job with the Steamboat Springs School District as a school bus driver. However, his career came to an unexpected end in 2019 after he experienced a cardiac episode that led to his retirement.
In the years that followed, George moved to Las Vegas, where he was closer to family. That did not end his friendships with the people in Steamboat Springs, including Aurin, Symalla and Jim Haskins, whom George would call on the phone and send gifts in the mail, including his famous “Death of Chocolate” cake.
“We just became good friends,” Haskins said of George. “He would send a message for every birthday for my kids, or my wife or myself. He remembered our anniversary, and every holiday he would send a cake.”
Haskins first met George when Haskins stopped by A-1 to get some parts for one of his cars, and the two developed a close friendship that spanned 17 years. They would meet for coffee nearly every day and talk about their shared love for fishing, the community and, from time-to-time, problems with vehicles.
Haskins said George was always there to help him when he needed to fix a vehicle, and if not for his friend, his old plow truck would have seen its last winter years ago. However, Haskins would often allow George to use the truck to plow his own driveway and didn’t mind that his friend used the plow to clean many other driveways in the Hayden area.
He also knew George loved game meat, but was not a frequent hunter. Haskins, who worked as a manager for the Department of Wildlife — now Colorado Parks and Wildlife — said his friend signed up for the program where the CPW would donate the meat from animals that were killed illegally or had to be put down after being hit by a car so that it did not go to waste.
“George is one of those people I frequently went to if someone needed meat,” Haskins recalled. “The thing that was interesting about George is he would have the donated meat processed, and then he would donate that meat, and probably in a lot of cases, most of the meat went to other people in the community.”
In addition to the game meat, George also donated some of the fish he caught and the food he baked. In fact, George volunteered to help with many community dinners. Despite him leaving the area in 2020, his friends said the kindness George showed continued to be felt in the community.
Aurin wrote in an obituary that George was well known, not just for fishing, driving, cooking and his mechanical prowess, but for his countless acts of kindness.
“Whether he was plowing out his neighbors in the winter, surprising people with his delicious birthday cakes, volunteering at community events from holiday dinners to marathon bus driving, or catching over five dozen stray cats and bringing them to the humane society to get spayed/neutered and adopted, George was the man for the job,” Aurin wrote.
George is survived by his his sisters, Ginger Haseman and Jean Morris Purnell-Cerri; and his three children, Levi, Amanda and Cody, along with Cody’s husband Jesse Breslin. He also has three grandchildren — Lanie Belk, 16; James IV, 2; and two-month-old Henry Snare — and leaves behind what he called, “the children of his heart,” in Brooke Schneegas and her children, Jaxson and Jocelyn; and Megan Swedberg, whom George considered family, Cody said.
A celebration of life for George will be held in the summer of 2023. In the meantime, the family asks people to please be kind to your neighbors, perform random acts of kindness, be the best friend (and stranger) you can be, and consider donating to the George Morris GoFundMe.
“There are three Fs for bus drivers — fair, firm and friendly,” said Aurin, who trained bus drivers. “The three Fs for George were family, fishing and friends.”
John F. Russell is the business reporter at the Steamboat Pilot & Today. To reach him, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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