Long-time educator remembered by community
Geneva resident Cathy (Anderson) Mitchel remembers South Adams educator Bill Morris in two ways, as “Uncle Bill,” and “Mr. Morris.”
“When he was in our home, he was like Uncle Bill to me,"said Mitchel. “When he was my teacher, he was Mr. Morris.”
For many, especially in the early days, Morris is remembered as an upbeat Indiana history teacher, who was often engaged with students in the gym over lunch hour. Others, later in his career, remember him as a stern principal who was respected for his sense of discipline and organization.
Mitchel's father was Harry Anderson, well-known coach at Geneva and at South Adams.
“When he came to Geneva, he was a history teacher but he was also an assistant coach to my dad,” recalled Mitchel. “At first, he wasn't married. He came down to our house after ball practice and spent a lot of time there. He married Eleanor in 1967 after I graduated.
“Bill gave me my first pair of roller skates,” continued Mitchel. “He used to help my dad put together train sets. Sometimes he would refer to me as, ‘sis.’ I will never forget the night he asked me ride with him to scout a game. He said, ‘sis, you want to go scout a game with me?’ I thought I was the most special person in the world at the time.”
Many in the local community expressed shock when they heard that Morris passed away at age 81 this past Sunday at Swiss Village. Former South Adams principal Doyle Lehman, like many, didn't realize that the tide of health had turned so quickly with their friend and co-worker.
“I was an educator with him for 14 years,” said Lehman.
Lehman said that when the school system consolidated, he and Morris, who had been principal at Geneva High School, worked it out so that Lehman would serve as principal of the new school and Morris would serve as his assistant. Eventually, said Lehman, Morris went back to Geneva to be the principal there once again.
“Most people didn't know the real Bill Morris,” Lehman said. “He and I would sit down to take care of some organizational matters. He was very organized; he got to the point real fast in making decisions.”
Over the years, Morris’ energetic drive took him to many areas of service. He served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. Following his military service, Morris, who was raised in Randolph County, graduated from Ball State Teacher's College.
He first taught in Bryant and then in Geneva School. He later served as a long-time administrator, beginning at Geneva and later with the South Adams Schools system. He and Eleanor resided in Geneva. Eleanor joined his zeal for community service, including her most recent commitment to the county library system.
Former educator and coach John Minch was in the unique position of being a co-worker with Morris from his first employment with Bryant and then later at South Adams.
“I go back a long ways with Mr. Morris,” said Minch, former mayor of Berne. “He started teaching five years before I did. He was at Bryant and I got to know him there.
“He was a well-respected teacher there. I got comments all of the time of how respected he was,” observed Minch. “He moved on to Geneva where he was principal and at South Adams. I taught under him for a number of years. He was firm with students but very fair.
“He demanded discipline in dealing with ornery kids, but he was also very helpful,” added Minch. “He would reach out and try to help those who were struggling.”
Minch said that as a personal friend, he enjoyed Morris' quick wit and sense of humor.
“He had a lot of drive,” said Minch. “I enjoyed visiting with him and talking to him.”
One of the oldest retired educators in the county taught for many years beside Morris at Geneva. Edith Walter, who will be 100-years-old this March, taught for many years side by side with Morris in the lower level at Geneva.
As a principal, Walter said she appreciated the way Morris helped the teachers and supported their efforts.
“We used to stand in the hallway and talk between classes,” said Walter. “He was a jolly person with a good sense of humor. He always had control of his class, but he also thought a lot of his kids. I always enjoyed talking to him.”
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