"It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves."
- William Shakespeare
Like an entire generation of Whistler kids, I learned my Shakespeare from Mr. Morris, a strict English and math teacher with a dry sense of humour who backed up his lessons with tales gleaned from a lifetime of world travel.
A lover of sports and photography, Mr. Morris ("Bob" once the dismissal bell rang) was also a quintessential Whistler dad who welcomed the opportunity to take to the hills for a day of hiking, or skiing, with his sons and their friends. Bob Morris passed away peacefully on March 10 after three years of battling ALS, but his contributions to the Whistler community will last forever.
Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in 1942, Robert George Morris caught the travel bug as a young man and hit the road shortly after university. He taught English in Japan in the 1960s where he also landed a small part in the classic Japanese Sci-fi film The Green Slime. Bob then continued on to South-East Asia and hitchhiked his way across India, the Middle East and Europe.
Travel remained a priority even after Bob met Jan, his future wife. "When they were dating my dad gave her the ultimatum," explained his youngest son, Greg.
"He was on his way to Australia and he proposed she either marry him and come along or else that was it."
Jan took the bait and hit the road with Winnipeg remaining home base until 1986 when the Morris family, which now included Greg and his older brother Jason, landed in Whistler for good.
"The outdoors attracted him here for sure," Greg said. "All the hiking and skiing... he loved hockey and golf and tinkering around in the yard. I think mostly they were just excited to have four seasons and snow, but without the extreme cold and bugs of Winnipeg."
Morris initially found work as a night auditor at the Nancy Green Lodge. He'd work the graveyard shift, get home at 7 a.m. then drive south to Squamish to substitute teach. A few years later he landed a full-time position at Pemberton Secondary School, and once Whistler Secondary opened he taught there until his retirement in 2004. Over his career Bob led student trips to China, Thailand, Spain, Italy, and Greece.
I will always remember being a teenager enjoying dinners at the Morris household and checking out the walls of photographs from Bob's journeys around the world.
That enthusiasm for travel and adventure was perhaps the greatest lesson Mr. Morris had for us Whistler kids — we live in one of the best places on earth, but it's a pretty amazing world outside the bubble as well... and one we should never stop exploring.
Happy trails Bob, and thanks for pointing us down the right path.
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