Jack Morrison was devoted to Steamboat’s best-loved institutions
December 29, 2017
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Former longtime Steamboat Springs resident Jack Morrison, who died Dec. 14 at the age of 86 in Green Valley, Arizona, where he had lived with his wife, Jo, since 1997, pursued a number of businesses in his life, but during his years in Steamboat, he was known for his devotion to community institutions.
Jim Steinberg recalled Morrison as a significant player in the effort to acquire the historic Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp from Stephens College and stabilize its financial situation.
"Jack was very instrumental in saving Perry-Mansfield," Steinberg said. "He used his compassion for helping local causes to move Perry-Mansfield forward to a position where it could burn the mortgage. When we were $100,000 short, he came up with the idea of selling part of the property to get the last amount of cash. As much as I didn't like it, it turned out to be the right move. It got us over the hump."
Ironically, Morrison wasn't passionate about the arts.
"He saw a vital community resource that needed to be preserved, and it was 'by golly,' he was going to get it done," Steinberg said. "He was very committed to finding things that were important to the community and making them important to him."
Morrison was born on March 17, 1931, in Muncie, Indiana. He met his wife, Joretta (Jo), in the second grade in Yorktown, Indiana, and they were married Dec. 21, 1951.
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Morrison studied business and chemistry and earned a degree from Indiana University. The Morrisons had three children and lost a fourth, a son, at age 14 in 1973. That experience motivated Jack and Jo to create the Caramel Clay Educational Foundation in Carmel, Indiana.
Morrison also helped to found a Rotary Club in Indiana, and his participation in Rotary would fuel his lifelong service to others through hosting international students and offering financial support to humane organizations.
The Morrisons moved to Steamboat Springs in 1978, and for many years after coming to the Yampa Valley, Morrison operated a large antique mall near Dallas, Texas.
The Magnificent Seven
Lois Pollard recalled Thursday how she, her husband, Ron, and Morrison, along with Don Siever, Moke Raymond, Don Robb and John Ross formed a partnership to found the original ReMax real estate agency here (not to be confused with the current ReMax Steamboat Partners).
"We called ourselves The Magnificent Seven (after the 1960 motion picture starring Steve McQueen)," Pollard recalled with a laugh. "We went downtown to the old-time photo place and had our picture taken dressed in cowboy clothes."
But for the Morrisons, life in Steamboat wasn't without adversity.
Paula Cooper Black recalled that Morrison's personal office was in the old Good News Building at the corner of Lincoln Avenue and Fifth Street when it blew up and burned because of a natural gas leak in February 1994.
"Jack handled life, and sometimes personal tragedy, with dignity and grace," Black recalled. "He always had a very positive outlook and seemed to handle life's difficulties with aplomb. When the Good News Building blew up, they lost everything that wasn't in a safe deposit box. He just sort of soldiered on."
A more disturbing event befell the Morrisons on the night of March 9, 1999, when two masked men entered their home in Steamboat wielding guns and a baseball bat. The burglars demanded access to a safe that didn't exist. Jack struck one of the intruders with a wrought-iron patio table and was pistol-whipped and pepper-sprayed as a result.
Ultimately, the robbers left of their own accord – and their identities were never uncovered.
But Morrison didn't let that disturbing event dissuade him from his unwavering support for human causes.
Global impact through Rotary
In an article he wrote for the annual publication of the Rotary Club of Steamboat Springs in 2010, Randy Rudasics described Morrison's good works.
In 1983, Morrison chaired a village banking project in Malawi to help women in the country borrow money to start small business ventures. He also chaired a project with the Rotary Foundation to purchase medical equipment, including an X-ray machine, for a hospital in Nepal.
Morrison, who served as president of the Rotary Club of Steamboat Springs from 1982 to 1983, was ultimately chosen for the honor of serving as governor of Rotary District 5440 from 1988 to 1999. During his term, he traveled to each the 34 member clubs in Northern Colorado, Wyoming and Western Nebraska.