February 7, 1925-April 20, 2015
Charlotte Lee Morris, a long-time resident of Altoona, Pennsylvania , and a vibrant member of the Altoona community, died on April 20, 2015, at age 90 at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland
Mrs. Morris was born in 1925 in Scranton, Pennsylvania to Anna Bakst Benjamin and Solomon Benjamin. She was a graduate of Smith College, where she majored in Sociology and minored in Music, and became an accomplished pianist. After graduation, she lived in New York City for five years where she had started a career conducting market research in the promotions department for several renowned publications, including Architectural Forum and the New York Herald Tribune. While living in New York City, Mrs. Morris met her late husband Arther Leigh Morris, son of Virginia Morris Pollack and Sylvan King. They moved to Altoona in 1952.
Mrs. Morris’s involvement with the community was legendary. She served on many boards that greatly contributed to the Altoona community, working, in particular, to improve the lives of children and adults. She served as President and Vice President of Blair County Civic Music Association and Chair of its Artist and Talent Selection Committee for many decades, which brought in nationally and internationally known performing artists to Blair County area. She worked with New York booking agencies, including Columbia Artists and the William Morris Agency, to bring in five concerts every year at affordable prices, featuring artists such as Harry Belafonte, Beverly Sills, Marcel Marceau, Michael Feinstein, and Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Subsequently, she helped to establish the Blair County Civic Music Foundation Scholarship, which awards scholarships to high school students who are interested in studying or training in the performing arts.
Mrs. Morris, a lover of classical music, also was instrumental in establishing the Bedford Springs Festival in Bedford, Pennsylvania in 1982, which offered a summer weekend series of concerts and seminars with outstanding performers from all over the United States and other countries. A great fan of public television, Mrs. Morris thoroughly enjoyed her service on the WPSU TV and Radio Board at Penn State University. In addition to engaging in the Penn State community, Mrs. Morris worked on a committee which helped to expand WPSU radio to Altoona.
She has served in many roles at Temple Beth Israel, as President and Vice-President of Temple Beth Israel Sisterhood, as a member of the Sisterhood Advisory Board and the Executive Board of the Temple, where she held the office of Secretary, and countless luncheon and dinner committees. She also served as chair of the Temple’s Adult Education Committee. Mrs. Morris was particularly proud of serving on The Family and Children Services Board for many years as well as on the Home Nursing Board. She also served on the boards of the Easter Seal Society, Pennsylvania Rural Arts Alliance (by government appointment), the Jewish Memorial Center, the Blair County Association for the Blind, Blair County Arts Foundation, the Altoona YWCA, the Altoona Human Relations Commission, and the Board of Assistance.
In recognition of her strong civic leadership, Mrs. Morris was one of the recipients of the inaugural YWCA Tribute to Women Award in 1992. She also received the NAACP Person of the Year award for her interfaith activities and the Union of American Hebrew Congregations’ Scroll of Honor Award in 1994.
Mrs. Morris was an owner and partner in Benjamin Coal Company, Richmond Coal Company, Westover Fuel and Supply, The Altoona Hampton Inn Development and The Logan Town Center, which created thousands of jobs for central Pennsylvania.
Mrs. Morris loved to travel with her children and was especially fond of safaris in Africa where she viewed wild animals, including mountain gorrillas, in their natural environment.
She is survived by four children and their spouses, Diana Morris and Peter Shiras of Lutherville, Maryland, Bradford Morris of Moon Township, Pennsylvania, Gregory and Shannon Morris of Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania and Lori Morris and Lawrence McGill from Princeton Junction, New Jersey, and nine grandchildren – Tess and Chloe Shiras, Falon, Sophira, Grier and Greyson Morris and Mason, Adam and Alanna McGill and numerous nieces and nephews. Mrs. Morris was a devoted mother and grandmother and a huge part of all of her children and grandchildren’s lives. She was a kind, intelligent and compassionate woman, who had a keen interest in learning about the world and everyone she met. She had the unique ability to connect with people through a strong sense of humor, genuine curiosity, and a dynamic personality. She was loved by many and will be deeply missed by family and community members.
“When my dad died, he was an only child and my brother did not have kids.”
Morris, 49, believes there’s something special about keeping his name alive with a son. “And shannon said she'd’ give me one more chance,”he said of his wife of nine years, laughing Morris said he enjoys when his children are in the crawling stage, but Greyson is proud of himself lately as he pulls himselft to his feet. “ thinks he’s a big shot now because he’s trying to stand up.” Morris said
Morris is the Democrat in the race for the 30th District Senate seat, opened when incumbent Sen. Robert Jubelirer lost the May primary election. Morris faces Republican and Blair Count Commissioner John H. Eichelberger Jr. Nov 7.
Focus on the family
Falon, 10 and Sophira, 6 are the couple’s daughters, Morris said he encourages them in their activities, such as ballet and various sports. Once an avid tennis player in high school and college, Morris played in three small New York tournaments and plays now with his daughters, “I’ll try to turn Greyson into a pretty fine tennis player,” he said.
Greg and Shannon were friends for years before they began dating and later married. “From the day I saw her, I was in love with her,” he said “She’s very strong and very bright, characteristics my mom has. Maybe that’s what I was looking for.” Morris said Shannon supports his long work hours as a local developer and his campaign for Senate. “She’s kind of old-school,-- there’s a plate of dinner in the fridge and she takes care of the
kids” he said. “She’s real and she can take anything I’ve got. She really thinks I can help this area.
Morris possesses strong family values and speaks as highly of Shannon’s family as he does his own. ”her parents are two of the nicest people you could ever meet” he said. “Her mother is an angel. They’re good people, and that’s probably why she’s such a good person”
Morris’ mother, Charlotte, raised him, his brother and two sisters most of their lives as his father died when they were young. “His name was Arther or ‘Bud’. I used to call him ‘nutty buddy’,” he said of his dad, who was a coal miner. “I felt very close to my mother. She did the best she could raising us and I respect her a lot.” Morris said he has learned a lot from his older brother, Brad, who was born with a mental disability. “My parents just accepted it; in the’50’s, there was no such thing as alawsuit,” he said. “When I grew up, parents didn’t let kids come play at our house because Brad was there. I had a tremendous understanding as I grew up of those with disabilities, whether mental or physical.” He also has two sisters, Diana, who
Morris bragged once was Altoona’s homecoming queen, is an attorney in Baltimore. Lori is executive director of Court Appointed Special Advocates for children, which helps place children taken from abusive environments in safe homes.
Broadening horizons, after graduating from Altoona Area High School, where heplayed tennis and basketball, Morris attended Mercersburg Academy and Denison University, where he majored in economics with an urban development concentrations. Between the two, in 1976 and 1977, Morris traveled to Israel to attend Tel Aviv University.
“It was a chance for me to go to the Holy Land,” he said.. “Themoment you walk down the steps off the airplane, it’s an overwhelming feeling. You can only know thefeeling when you experience it.” Morris called Israel probably the most international city in the worldand said he shared classes
with people from China, Australia, France and Sweden. “I also went because of my strong beliefin God,” he said. “to go to Mount Sinai... you've just got to do it sometime. It was a wonderful experience.”
After college, Morris received an internship at New York City’s office of city planning in the technology department. “We talked planning into buying police cruisers that run on methanol and ethanol,” he said.
“We were thinking about new technology, not the oil shortage.” After awhile, although he enjoyed New York, Morris was ready to come home. “Though there’s a lot of culture, I got a little homesick,” he said. “I missed the mountains and comfort of living in central Pennsylvania.”
Developing a career
Following in his dad’s footsteps, if only briefly, Morris worked as a coal miner in high schooland during college.
“It’s a strenuous job--a lot of people suffer heart attacks,” he said. “When I worked there,I remember going to bed at 9 and getting up early, Eveything about the dust is true; you’d have to blow your nose for 10 minutes.
Morris started his first business, Sundance Productions, in 1981. He still runs the entertainment booking company, but said it’s not his most active business. Sundance books, bands photographers and discjockeys,
often for weddings. ”We run it, but it’s fun and enjoyable,” he said. “We get to make people’s days special.”
After that, Morris bought and a few years later sold, Cisco’s and he began trying to bring other businesses to Altoona. Morris’ real break came when he got a real estate license and worked with a broker in Pittsburgh.
“I had some bad experiences, but the good news is I learned how to be a developer,” he said. “it was almost like going to grad school.
Since then, Morris Management an partners have brought the Hampton Inn to Altoona and were involved in bringing Red Lobster, Cracker Barrel, Olive Garden, Uno Pizzeria Chicago Bar & Grill and Outback Steakhouse
among others and most recently, Logan Town Centre.
Running for Senate
Morris said we’re living now in an angry time and attributed people’s anger to worries ofanother terrorist attach, the Iraq war and conflicts in Iran and North Korea. ”Locally, worries are about drugs and the problem
plaguing our area,” he said.” And they’re worried about the economy. That’s obviously very high on the radar screen.
Morris said he’s mostly funding his own campaign, calling it a “poor man’s race.” Most of his advertising is by way of hundreds of yard signs and shaking thousands of hands. He pledges to work with other leaders, if elected and prides himself on putting together good teams.
“ I’m a moderate,” he said “I’m open-minded to issues and new ideas. I want to do something to help ourarea --- that’s
If elected, Morris plans to focus further on job creation and said he’s not afraid to pick up the phone and call company presidents to try to bring more to the area. He’s also concerned about agriculture and issues facingfarmers, such as property taxes, mad cow disease and bird flu.
Morris also hopes to bring more money to local mental health programs and supports. pensions for teachers,
firefighters and police. “I have my ear to the street, trying to hear concerns,” he said.
He’s proud of his part in creating area jobs but, if elected, Morris would relinquish his position as president of his management company to his vice president. He recognizes he couldn’t juggle that and work as a Senator. “I think my abilities, intellect and idea’s, will be more creative and beneficial to my district,” he said.
“Sometimes there are better tennis players....... I recognize there are guys better than me”