Many of you know I recently endured one of the most trying times of my life with the passing of my dad. This is my online tribute I wrote for him that I wanted to share. It allows me to express the many feeling I have about the situation and a great man in my dad… Enjoy!
My dad, Kenneth Robert Morrison is also known to us as Big Ken or to my mom simply as Ken or Kenny passed away on July 2, 2012. For those of you who joined us at calling hours you likely saw a very lengthy tribute that covered a wide spectrum of my dad’s life. I knew we had the same hairline and same belly type but never knew we had so many other resemblances that were pointed out.
My dad was born in Utica in 1949 and in 1969 his family moved to Lowell, where he met my mom Marilyn aka “the girl next door”. For many years growing up, he worked days and she worked nights. We were very lucky when they had the same time off and created some great memories.
My dad was a wonderful hardworking man who took on many tasks in life. He worked for 33 years for the NYS DOT with time in Rome, Utica, Chestertown and Alder Creek. He spent some time in the ambulance field, volunteered for the Prospect Fire Department where he served as chief and gave tours to families who visited the Trenton Falls Gorge. After his retirement in 2003 he spent some summers working at the State Park by our house. He loved his job as a part-time court attendant at the Town of Trenton Court, a job he was looking forward to returning to in the next few weeks. Labor Day weekend you could always find him in the beer booth selling tickets for the Prospect Field Days.
He was all about odd jobs and would love to use his plow, tractor, and backhoe to help people out. He would offer always offer people a ride to a doctor’s appointment or to the store. My mom said he was much like me: not handy to start. There was one difference: Over time he taught himself how to sheetrock, run wiring, fix plumbing, cut down trees and grow a mean looking lawn. I had a simple way to fix thing: Call Big Ken. He was always first on my list to call when something broke, needed repair or trimming. As I grew older I realized we each had one thing in common: every project we touched took longer than expected as we wanted everything to be perfect. It was the Mike Holmes: Holmes On Homes approach, “Do It Right The First Time” for those of you who watch HGTV. Even though he was slowed a little by illness, he helped us redo our kitchen last Fall and into the winter and put a new gas tank on my push mower on Fathers Day, the last project we did together. We were a team: he fixed things and I stayed out of the way! I did everything to avoid hearing in his Big Ken voice “Ken, what the heck are you doing”. One of his greatest joys of a project was when I told him in November we had to patch some walls in the kitchen and that I had a new project: he needed to help create a nursery for Owen. I won’t forget the reaction on his face and what he said after in his joking way… “ I didn’t want to say it but Tracy looked like she was putting on some weight” which was followed by his Big Ken laugh.
Outside of work he was a man who had many loves in life. He loved woodworking, hunting, fishing, boating, plowing, mowing lawns on the John Deere, using his tractor/backhoe and camping from a variety of state parks to his current camp home: Paradise Cove on Fish Creek As a kid I remember our camping trips to Rogers Rock and Eagle Point in the Adirondacks and Nicks Lake in Old Forge, where we would sometimes sleep in the bed of his truck to see what real camping was. We eventually upgraded to a pop-up camper that we often took to Old Forge, Speculator and West Canada Creek campsites in Poland when he wanted to “camp” but had to work (even if camping was 8 miles from home in Prospect). Then there was the trip to Canada where the mosquitos were so bad inside our pop-up he stayed up all night to kill bugs while we hid under our sleeping bags in 80-degree heat. It looked like a scene from a horror movie when we were done.
He was so mad the Canadians didn’t spray for bugs that he had us pack that camper first thing in the morning to get back to the USA. Needless to say, we never went to Canada again!
He loved following the weather more than anyone I know. He followed the Farmers Almanac, created a variety of windmills and had weather gauges and contraptions all over the place. He kept a diary that always listed temperatures and snowfall amounts. He’d often have to work overtime on Christmas for the DOT due to bad weather and we all remember waiting for him to come home and get out of his long johns before opening Christmas presents.
He loved to sing and play his guitar. We had many trips as kids where we would listen to Gordon Lightfoot and the Traveling Wilburys cassettes non-stop. He had a vast collection of 8-tracks, albums, and cassettes. He was also a fan of Chicago and the Eagles, joking the guys in these bands look really old!
He had a love for toys. He worked hard for them. He had many vehicles including his Nova and VW Rabbit, many trucks and especially his 1986 Vette. He always wanted a Vette and when he found the one he wanted he said he had to test drive it right, so he told me he hit triple digits on 5s in Utica/Schuyler and knew it was the right ride for him. He loved his boats… how many people do you know have 3 boats… heck it might even be four. I remember the day he called me in May 2011. It was a Monday and he was coming back from camp when he said “I have some news….” Knowing he was undergoing treatments my heart started to sink… I said “what’s that”, expecting some bad news… He said “you’re never going to believe what I bought…”. My spirits lifted thinking what can he possibly do now. He said “I bought a pontoon boat so we can go out on the lake”. He wanted a new boat for so many years and was finally able to convince my mom to do it. I was so happy for him I had tears in my eyes for the rest of my 10 minute ride home. “The Captain” as he was known was born. He couldn’t wait to take Owen fishing. He talked about it all the time. The captain was going to take Owen for his maiden voyage July 4th or yesterday, depending on how he felt.
Like many of the Morrison’s my dad had a love for food… he would be known to stop at Voss’s for a BBQ sandwich and chocolate milk, Patio Drive-In for a chili dog, Red Lobster for shrimp, Quesadillas at Applebees or anywhere he could get a steak with blue cheese and mushrooms. He loved toast with peanut butter on it and was the only guy I know who could make dipping it in coffee look somewhat appetizing. He was a master at the grill, whipped up a mean can of corned beef hash and could eat cooked spinach or cream of mushroom soup like no other. He also had a sweet tooth loving it when my mom would make him special cakes, no-bake cookies or cupcakes. He’d often be seen at Stewarts stocking up on gum, white crème butterscotch candy, the orange candy slices, plain donuts, pretzels and Snickers bars. We’ll miss his ability to make some mean fudge for the holidays.
I’ll never forget the day my mom called to say dad wasn’t feeling so well. It was February 4, 2011, a Friday. He had become panicky and took himself to Dr. Spohr’s in Barneveld. They took him via ambulance to St. Lukes and waited like we do, forever in the ER. We went to see him the next day and he had a look I had never seen before. A look of fear. He wasn’t sure what was going on and neither were we. We were watching TV at the hospital on Super Bowl Sunday when there was a movie on I had never seen before. It was the Bucket List. I started to watch it and quickly understood what it was all about. Sadly that moment stuck with me over the next few days as we learned about the seriousness of dad’s illness. We were scared, we were nervous and didn’t know what to expect. I had never seen my father cry before. It hurt me to watch but I understood why he felt the way he did. He said he had so much he wanted to do and was excited my mom was going to retire in the coming months so they could fulfill the rest of their dreams. He met Dr. Sikder and his wonderful staff at Slocum Dixon. Dad wasn’t a fan of doctors but there was something different about this guy… He trusted the doctor and in no time had the entire staff at Slocum oncology laughing, teasing and joking with him. He dreaded going to his treatments but did like the people he met there. I’d visit him during treatments and saw first hand how much they loved him. He was just that kind of a guy. It was a true testament to how much they liked him when staff members sought me out on Facebook or came to the calling hours to tell me how he was one of their favorite people.
As I said before my dad had many loves… He truly loved people. He loved my mom, he loved his family, his in-laws, he loved my grandma’s backrubs, his friends especially Ed Lyndhurst, Bob Youker, Nick Delaware, and the Rickards amongst many others who checked up on his during his illness and kept his spirits up. He loved his grandsons and he loved my brother and I. He was proud of us. He may not have always expressed it because it weirded him out but mom told us last night he was thrilled his two sons and wife earned their bachelor degrees. He was so happy we have great jobs and we met great people who we settled down with and gave him the chance to be papa. He lit up a room when he walked in. We’ve heard from so many people who said he would stop by to chat or just check on them. Everyone knew Kenny. There were many times we’d be driving thru town and see his truck pulled over with someone leaning in the window to talking to him. I got so used to seeing it that one day I drove up to his state truck thinking he was sitting by the HP Middle School only to quickly realize Big Ken wasn’t behind the wheel. Instead the troopers had asked to borrow his truck to conduct a speed trap. You can imagine the look on their face when this 21 year old guy is flashing his lights, hitting his horn and flailing his arms towards the yellow truck. Luckily they didn’t pull me over to see if I was mentally stable.
He would never believe so many people came to honor his life and remember him. I can see him sitting in his big blue recliner wearing his flannel pajama pants shaking his head in amazement.
There are lots of things I’m going to miss. I’m sure going to miss him randomly stopping by to see what’s going on, our random trips for pizza from Franco’s or O’Scugnizzo’s and his calls on how to fix his Facebook account. I’m going to miss walking in the house and seeing that look on my mom’s face after asking her if she watched anything other than the Outdoor Channel for 15 straight hours. I’m going to miss driving by Stewarts or along route 12 looking for trucks that look like his. I’m going to miss his tales of garage sale adventures(100 foot of hose for $1 or .25 for this or that at a garage sale). His classic line was “always don’t buy it… I got it”. He’s right… who else do you know that had seven lawn sprinklers for less than $8. I’m going to miss his laugh, his smile, his knowledge and wisdom and miss seeing him interact with Seth and Owen. He just loved his grandsons and our online updates made him smile every day.
There is so much more I could say but I’ll let you write your own memories. You are all very special to us and obviously were very special to him. He may not physically be here with us to share a laugh, crack a smile or tell a story but he has made a lasting impression on us. If we can all take one small piece of his greatness and share that wisdom, smile or humor with someone else we have made the world a better place and his spirit and values will live on. The captain is in the lord’s hands now looking down over us as a new guardian angel in the sky.
We wanted to say thank you for all the kind words, encouragement, love and support. A special thank you to the Oncology Unit at Slocum Dixon Medical Group, dad’s P.A. George Spohr, Wayne Premo, and Fitz for coming directly to the house when he heard the call on the scanner and everyone at Prospect Ambulance for your assistance.