Longtime islander, beloved husband, father, uncle, son-in-law, and friend Rex Glenn Morris passed peacefully in Swedish Hospital on Thanksgiving Day, November 28, 2019, surrounded by his loving family. After a weeklong struggle, his strong body was overcome by sudden, multiple pulmonary complications. Many friends were able to come to the hospital this week to express their love, offer songs and prayers, and give him one last hug. Our family will be forever grateful for the overwhelming love and support of so many who were with us both in body and in spirit during this difficult time.
Rex was born in Tucson, Arizona, the son of rodeo performers Glenn Edward Morris and Shirley Bowmen, on August 20, 1946. The family traveled the rodeo circuit through 11 states before he was one year old. He developed his knowledge and love of horses along with his appreciation for cowboy wit and wisdom during a childhood spent on dude ranches.
Many may remember him as the knife sharpener at the Vashon Saturday Market. He learned this skill from his dad, and he had many loyal customers. He also sold a well-loved hot sauce, made from a much-coveted secret recipe. The market and his friends there brought him great joy.
Rex was a man of many interests and talents. He was so very curious and thoughtful about the world around him. An avid reader and talented and prolific writer, he loved playing with words and delighted in storytelling, puzzles, and his daily conquering of The New York Times crosswords, edited by the “diabolical” Will Shortz.
For The Ticket newspaper, under the name MEarth, he wrote the “Garden The World“ column, with its insightful and spiritual takes on numerous topics. Rex also wrote many unpublished stories and a book or two.
As a young man, Rex participated in many 1960s demonstrations and was part of the Indian Land and Life group based in Southern California, which provided native spiritual leaders with transportation to spiritual and political events. He had life-changing experiences on the Hopi Reservation that greatly influenced his world view and love of Native American traditions.
Rex became an avid fan of the blues and bluegrass music at age 19 when he began working in LA’s Ashgrove nightclub, where he met many famous musicians. Teaching himself to play guitar mostly in this genre, he performed with friends in various venues, including the Vashon Strawberry Festival.
Baseball was another lifelong passion. Rex fondly remembered getting the Chicago Cubs baseball broadcasts on a crystal radio set he built himself as a young boy living in Arizona. He enjoyed watching and attending Mariners games.
Mostly self-taught, Rex started a painting and drywall business as a young man in LA and continued this for more than 30 years on Vashon. When ill-health prevented him from doing this work, he and his wife established and maintained a rental business on their property beginning in 2001.
Along with his interests in cooking, cast iron and knife collecting, gardening, and beekeeping, Rex became passionate about worm composting through his affiliation with The Worm Farm, run by his good friend Mark Yelken. He took great pride in his own worm bins at home.
Rex lovingly cared for his wife Elizabeth through numerous surgeries; when her kidneys failed, he trained for and performed home dialysis for her until her transplant in 1993. A lifelong diabetic, Elizabeth attributes her survival through many health challenges to his meticulous care throughout their 40 years together.
Rex is survived by his wife Elizabeth; son Jordan and daughter-in-law Karolyn Kukoski of Olympia; nephew Jed Morris, niece Rose Anderson—both in California; honorary nephew Adrian Haag and honorary niece Emma Dubois—both of Vashon; and numerous relatives through marriage. He was preceded in death by his brother, Gary Morris; his niece, Sarah Anderson Morris; his mother, Shirley (Bowman) Voris (also in 2019); and his father, Glenn Morris. His gentle spirit, kind heart, humor, stories, wisdom, wit, and big bear hugs will be missed by many.