Bay Ridge icon Larry Morrish dies
Larry Morrish, a beloved Bay Ridge civic leader whose work in the community stretched back more than 40 years, encompassing everything from organizing parades to promoting brotherhood among different religious groups, died at NYU Lutheran Medical Center during the early morning hours of Feb. 8 after a brief illness.
Morrish was well-known for the breadth of his public service, as well as his outgoing personality. When he walked into the room at a civic meeting, he never did it quietly, according to friends.
He played a role in founding the Bay Ridge Ambulance Volunteer Organization in the early 1970s, the Bay Ridge St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the early 1990s and the Bay Ridge Unity Task Force in 2000, among his many community-minded endeavors.
For several years, Morrish wrote “My Good News,” a column for the Bay Ridge Eagle, a weekly newspaper published by the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.
“Larry Morrish was the beating heart of Bay Ridge,” U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer said. “From preserving Fort Hamilton to bolstering youth services to supporting BRAVO and Bay Ridge’s many wonderful festivals and parades, no one called my office with more things for us to do than Larry Morrish. He is the very best of Brooklyn and lived and breathed to make his beloved Bay Ridge a better place for all who call it home. May he rest in peace.
Morrish never held elective office, but when he walked along the streets of Bay Ridge, people often approached him to discuss quality of life problems as if he were a lawmaker.
“If you counted all of the people Larry helped over the years, you could start counting today and you would still be counting months from now,” a friend of Morrish’s told the Brooklyn Eagle Monday afternoon.
“God took him from us too early,” state Sen. Marty Golden told the Eagle. “He always had some type of mission he was working on. On Friday, he was planning a fundraiser for the St. Nicholas Home. He was doing the work from his hospital bed.”
A few days before he died, Morrish was busy organizing an “Academy Awards” gala to raise money for the St. Nicholas Home, a skilled nursing center on Ovington Avenue in Bay Ridge.
Morrish, a 1963 graduate of Fort Hamilton High School, got his start in community service early on, according to friends, who said that even as a teenager he was a fixture at community cleanup events and planning meetings.
He was part of a group of Bay Ridge leaders who founded the Bay Ridge Ambulance Volunteer Organization (BRAVO) to supplement the city’s 911 ambulances. He was one of the founders of the Bay Ridge St. Patrick’s Day Parade and ran it for many years until he retired five years ago.
In 2000, he worked with Arab-American religious leaders at the behest of Charles Hynes, the Brooklyn district attorney at the time, to organize the Bay Ridge Unity Task to bring together different parts of the community and promote peace and harmony.
Morrish made his living by performing public relations and community outreach duties for various entities over the years, including Victory Memorial Hospital. The hospital closed in 2008. He worked for elected officials like former U.S. Rep. Susan Molinari and her successor, Vito Fossella. He worked for many years as a community liaison for Hynes. In recent years, he helped out on the campaign of Assemblymember Pamela Harris.
Morrish also dedicated a great deal of time working with the local military recruitment station in Bay Ridge. Several years ago, the U.S. Army named a room in his honor at the U.S. Army Garrison at Fort Hamilton.
Golden, who was the best man at Morrish’s wedding to his wife Phillipa two decades ago, said he had a lot of cherished memories of his longtime friend. “We worked on a lot of things together over the years. Mostly, I remember how much he did for the community. You name it, he was involved in it,” he said.
Ever the showman, Morrish turned his wedding into an extravaganza. He had the Xaverian High School Marching Band lead him from his apartment on Marine Avenue to St. Patrick Catholic Church on Fourth Avenue for the wedding ceremony. At the reception at the El Caribe Country Club, Phillipa Morrish sang “Something Good,” a love song from “The Sound of Music,” to her new husband.
“I and the entire Bay Ridge community begin this week with heavy hearts as civic leader, community organizer, patriot, husband and friend of many, Larry Morrish, has passed. The unofficial mayor of Bay Ridge, Larry cared about two things: Bay Ridge and helping his fellow neighbors of Bay Ridge,” Councilmember Vincent Gentile told the Eagle. “His jovial personality and positive attitude was infectious. His presence never went unnoticed, whether we were at a festival, community event, community board meeting or simply having a cup of coffee.”
Among the numerous awards Morrish won was the Bay Ridge Community Council’s Civic Award. He was also inducted into the Fort Hamilton High School Alumni Hall of Fame.
“It will be impossible to replace Larry’s depth of community love, his desire to help all those around him, his embrace of all people, regardless of their culture, and his true passion for his neighborhood. Bay Ridge lost a visionary, a true Brooklyn ‘character,’ who would charm you and always tell it like it is,” said Carlo Scissura, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce.
Morrish is survived by his wife Phillipa Morrish and other relatives.
A wake for Morrish will take place on Friday, Feb. 12, at Joseph P. Clavin Sons Inc., at 7722 Fourth Ave., from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m.. The funeral mass is scheduled to take place on Saturday, Feb. 13, at Our Lady of Angels Catholic Church, 7320 Fourth Ave., at 10:30 a.m. Burial will take place at Green-Wood Cemetery.
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