On the November 21, 2018 first anniversary of Richard Morris’s death, there are others who also need to be remembered — his network of best friends who, one by one, died before him.
Brought to mind during the recent book club discussion of Well Considered was Bill Byers, who along with his wife and another couple, shepherded Richard chapter-by-chapter through the writing of that novel. Book club members questioned whether protagonist Ron Watkins and his new neighbors would have so quickly gotten past superficial neighborly existence to the essence of the conversations about race that took place in the novel. Some of those conversations were inspired by actual conversations between Richard Morris and Bill Byers, who after World War II returned home to a racist USA and for a time lived instead in Mexico. Bill, who was substantially older than Richard, complained, “All my friends are dying.” Richard replied, “You need younger friends.” Here is a post written by Morris about Byers https://richardmorrisauthor.wordpress.com/2015/03/29/happy-birthday-blog-and-bill/. Bill also read and commented upon Richard’s other novels, being somewhat disappointed that the canoeing adventure in Canoedling in Cleveland was the main part of the story while the teens’ “canoodling” of the adults in order to understand residential segregation was more of a subplot.
Svend Lauritsen was Richard’s “Danish brother.” An AFS student who lived with Richard’s family during high school, Svend was brilliant and more fluent in English than most of us. At dinner Richard’s father would attempt to “stump” Svend with English word challenges. The friendship continued over their lifetimes and through children and grandchildren. Svend and his wife traveled though the U.S. southwest with Richard and his wife, and his daughter traveled with the Morris family from Maryland to Key West, into Canada, and back to the Cleveland suburb where her father and Richard met. Richard and family made trips to Denmark. Each novel that Richard Morris wrote was sent to Svend Lauritsen for his insightful edits and comments. Searching this website reveals a draft “In memoriam” post about Lauritsen that Richard Morris wrote and sent back to high school classmates. Likely the unpublished minute details including many family member names were too many for Richard to feel comfortable about posting it to this website where posts are public.
David Levy met Richard Morris through a local authors’ presentation shortly after the opening date of Busboys and Poets in Hyattsville, MD. https://richardmorrisauthor.wordpress.com/2011/07/16/speculation-and-excitement/ followed by another presentation at BBP a year later. They met weekly thereafter, often exhibiting books together at festivals and participating in a second Busboys and Poets local authors event. Levy was the person who called attention to the similarity of the underlying theme of Well Considered (2010) by Richard Morris and Sycamore Row (2013) by John Grisham – a land grab being the motive for a lynching, which undoubtedly happened frequently whether in Maryland or Mississippi. David Levy appears many times in a search of this website and blog posts, but here is the final post: https://richardmorrisauthor.wordpress.com/2014/12/12/so-long-dear-friend/.
His best friend just prior to Richard’s death was Michael Gollin who died on November 20, 2017, one day before Richard died. Until Morris’s hospitalization approximately a month before he died, he made weekly visits to Gollin’s home. Over the years the “conversation” shifted from lively discussion of the writings of each, Michael’s work as a patent attorney dealing with intellectual property, their travels, religion, and politics, to a more limited one playing twenty questions or with Michael using his eyes to focus on letters of a chart to be able to communicate. Here is one of Richard’s blog posts about Michael: https://richardmorrisauthor.wordpress.com/2015/11/05/not-dead-yet/.
These are the deceased friends who had the most connection with Richard Morris’s writing – more cerebral than what one might often think of regarding male friends; not the usual image of man-cave sports, hunting, fishing, golfing, and friendship through physical activity or the bonding of war. There were also others to whom Richard devoted his attention prior to their deaths and came away feeling enriched.
For a while, overlapping with his Bill Byers’ friendship, Richard regularly visited Quentin Burgess, whom Richard had met through his multiple myeloma support group – another Vietnam vet whose cancer presumably was caused by Agent Orange. Quentin had been in military intelligence and later worked for the Federal Aviation Administration. He regaled us with stories of dealing with FAA passenger complaints and the time his military CO called him in after Burgess had received a communication from the office of Angela Davis.
Even as far back as 2008 Richard regularly visited his friend, David (Dac) Dacquisto, whom Richard had met through his work at the NAHB Research Center where Dac was vice president of technology from 1984 to 2002. Dac died from a brain tumor in 2008 at the age of 53. In a different life, with Richard as a connector, David might have become friends with Michael Gollin, as they received their JD degrees within eight years of each other (Dac from Harvard in 1976 and Michael from Boston U. in 1984) and went on to specialize in technologies and innovation in their careers.
Other male friends who were recipients of Richard Morris’s “visiting” commitment and who enriched Morris during the process were David Goodkind and Sy Mohr, for whom Richard created an artist’s website: http://www.symohr.wordpress.com.
Additionally, Richard Morris had close male friends who are still living. But this post is to honor the ones who are deceased and to recognize the magnitude of friendship. Any stereotypical gender classification and thought may be faulted to the writer of this post who could not help but see a category of male friendship but also saw it as a testament to the kind of friend that Richard Morris was — on this day before his one year date of death.