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About the PA | Member Index Memories of Robert (Bob) Morris

  by Rick E Berger

Robert L MorrisOn the day of my last birthday, I received the startling news that Bob Morris had suddenly died. For days I kept thinking “I can’t believe I will never see his face again…” Or again be the victim of one of infamous practical jokes. Bob was as funny as he was smart, warm, and deeply human. I have always thought of Bob as a big teddy bear, always at the ready to give me a big, heartfelt hug whether I needed one or not.

I first met Bob at the Syracuse PA convention in 1981. Bob was teaching there at the time and was the host for this convention. Though it was not my first PA, it was the first I attended as a member of the organization, having just received my Ph.D. and taken a position working with Charles (Chuck) Honorton at the Psychophysical Research Laboratories in Princeton, NJ. Since Chuck and Bob were long-time friends, I was instantly taken into Bob’s circle of friends.

My first "Bob story" happened at that PA convention. For some reason, Bob decided to play charades with a car full of us while he was driving. We had to figure out the name of the character he would act out. He started driving around a roundabout until we were all dizzy and wanted to get out. I believe he relented when no one could guess the answer, “Baba Ram Dass.” How were we to guess this? The clues BOB, AROUND, DATSUN. My first close encounter with Bob Morris.

His sense of humor was legendary. At the 1985 PA convention in Boston (Bob was the PA President that year), a large group of us went out on the town and found a local restaurant. Many of us ordered the clam chowder, as it is a local favorite. For some reason (unknown to all but Bob), Bob was carrying a real glass eye in his pocket. It was our waiter’s first day, we were told. Bob waited until just the right moment then called the waiter over. “There’s something in my soup,” he declared. Looking up out of the chowder was a big, blue human eye. The waiter almost fainted.

One of my fondest times with Bob was when I had the pleasure of hosting him at my house in San Antonio. I took him to one of my favorite restaurants and we ate about an 8 course dinner. At the end of this gargantuan meal, the waitress asked, “Will there be anything else?” It was such a ridiculous question at that point that Bob could not resist yanking her chain. “I’d like a pickle with garlic and anchovies” he told her, expected her to say “That’s ridiculous.” Instead she said, “I think we can do that” and scurried off to the kitchen. A little while later she re-emerged with a kosher pickle on a plate with a little mound of garlic salt and anchovy paste. Bob, sliced the pickle into little sections, then built little pickle sandwiches using the pickle instead of bread, and topping the pickle slice with anchovy paste and dipping each slice into the garlic salt and then topped the little creations with another pickle slice. He ate the whole thing (much to my nausea). When the waitress finally returned with our dinner check we were anxious to see how she itemized and charged for the little treat. The only item on the bill that we couldn’t account for was marked “PBJ” and priced $1.50. We asked her was the PBJ the thing Bob ordered? “Anything that is not on the menu we call "PBJ" (peanut butter and jelly sandwich) and charge $1.50.”

All who knew him professionally recognized that he was truly one of parapsychology’s leading lights. When he was given the position of the Koestler Chair, we knew that he would bring honor and distinction to that position. He did, and has produced a small army of professional parapsychologists in his wake. I have always respected his work, his advocacy for the field, and his professionalism. But I am honored to have known him on a personal level as a gentle, caring and deeply funny guy. I will miss him forever.

(photo by Rick Berger, August 1994)
by Stanley Krippner
Saybrook Graduate School
San Francisco, California, U.S.A.

I received a photograph of Bob Morris and myself at the Vienna PA just a few hours after I heard of his untimely death. I am still in grief, not only to lose a dear personal friend but because he provided a standard of excellence of psi research that few others can reach, much less surpass.

Whether he was consulting with us at Maimonides, introducing me to his classes in Santa Barbara, organizing a PA convention at Syracuse, or presiding over a dissertation defense in Edinburgh, his levity and his brilliance impressed and delighted me. His lovely wife and daughters were always hospitable during my visits, and I can only guess how much his absence has saddened them. Bob Morris was a beacon of light in a discipline marked by fog and shadows. It remains for the students he mentored and the colleagues he inspired to carry on his work and incarnate his vision.

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