Features

Morris just keeps teaching

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Where could we find you on your 80th birthday? Playing shuffleboard in a Florida retirement community or bingo at an assisted living facility? Trying to remember what you ate for breakfast? For Bethel College professor Dr. Robert Morris, 80 just means another day spent with college kids. When you walk in his classroom, you can expect to see him waiting with anticipation for class to start. Dressed sharply, he fashions a shirt and tie, dress pants pulled above his waist (reminding me of Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye in “White Christmas”), and you can bet to see a smile on his face. His balding, freckled head holds more knowledge than I could hope to obtain. Sure, he passionately teaches his pupils about the Old Testament and the Hebrew language, but in his classes, you will learn so much more than that. “I have a very expensive cell phone,” said Morris. “Cost me ten dollars. I can’t text on it. I use it for one thing—to call Margie and tell her I’m on my way home.” It doesn’t take long to see that Morris is mad about his wife of nearly 60 years. Almost every class, he goes off on tangents about how good-looking she is, and each time, you could hear a pen drop. When he talks of his “doll of a wife,” his eyes shut as if he is remembering her every detail, and when he opens them, he really only looks at the boys in the room, beckoning them to find a woman like that. Not only is this man a Bible scholar, but he is also head-over-heels in love and always has been.  The two had their first date on December 13, 1950, and by June 10 of 1951, just 5 days after her high school graduation, they were married. “When we met, there was an immediate intertwining of our hearts, knowing that it was God who brought us together,” said Morris. “Next June… 60 marvelous years of marriage.” Life hasn’t always been a fairytale for Morris. His childhood examples didn’t paint a great picture of what a Christ-centered family should look like. “Unfortunately, I was not raised in a Christian home,” described Morris, speaking of his dairy farm upbringing. “Love was not an ingredient in our home. It was all hard work, obedience without hesitation or question, harsh treatment, cursing, fighting… an environment that the word ‘unhealthy’ falls short of describing.” But Morris’ love story proves that, no matter how your life story starts, a fairytale ending is always in the realm of possibilities.  There are many quirks about Morris that make his students smile. One of the greatest things about his class is that he will, in the middle of telling about Noah, break into a lesson about why you should always give waitresses good tips. You never know what he’s going to say next, but you can guess that it will involve Margie, as it usually does. He just perches on the edge of the table at the front of the class and tells stories, occasionally clicking to the next slide on his PowerPoint (of which he is oh-so-proud). Morris has led a remarkable life, and with 13 years of higher education under his belt, he has many chapters to his life story. But the aspect of his life that sparked my attention the most was his “honey,” Margie. His grandson, Tyler Secor, said that he has learned what a Godly relationship should look like by watching his grandparents. “I have lived near them my whole life, so I have learned a lot,” said Secor. “The biggest thing I have learned is to value time spent with your spouse and not to take your wife for granted.” Morris sure doesn’t take his Margie for granted. “We keep thinking that it is unfortunate that we have our own recliners because we want to sit together,” Morris said, grinning. “We just plain like each other!” Morris once heard that every woman needs at least 7 touches a day. “Margie gets double that,” Morris explains. They’ll grab each other’s hand as they’re walking through the house, as if to say, I see you, and I love you. By the end of our talk, I had tears streaming down my cheeks. With a love for Margie so beautifully dictated just moments before, he said to me, “You deserve someone who will love you in a big way. Someone who will point to you and say, That’s my Maggie!” His devotion to his beloved wife and Margie’s example as a Proverbs 31 woman will be a legacy that Dr. and Mrs. Robert Morris leave for all those whose lives they have touched. You watch movies and read stories like “The Notebook”, “Titanic”, and “Gone With the Wind,” but you never expect a real-life romance to exceed Hollywood’s portrayal of great love. I’m not saying that their marriage or life has been perfect by any means. But it is a magnificent illustration of what is possible. A 60-year devotion as unblemished and unquestionable as theirs in an age where divorce rates have soared to 50% is both extraordinary and inspiring. The best part? Their story still isn’t over. “Even if Margie died today, I’d never look at another woman,” Morris confided. “I’m a one-woman man. Period.”  
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