By Amber Jurgensen | Staff Writer
Leslie Morris always had time to give a hug to a student or introduce herself to every parent in a room. From the time Morris graduated from the University of South Florida in 1974, she impacted the lives of people with developmental disabilities, most recently at the MacDonald Training Center.
Mrs. Morris died suddenly Aug. 12. She was 69.
“She excelled at her job,” Barbara Franques, a friend and colleague of Mrs. Morris for more than 30 years, said. “She truly loved kids and was dedicated to them. She wanted to be the wind beneath the wings.”
With a passion for teaching and children, Mrs. Morris had worked in education as a teacher and later administrator at Dover Exceptional Center, principal at Caminiti Exceptional Center and principal at Simmons Career and Exceptional Center. After retiring in 2010, she volunteered as a surrogate parent to exceptional children in the Hillsborough County School District and served on the board of directors for the MacDonald Training Center.
“She was certainly among the most elegant, gracious and vivacious people I know,” Franques said.
For the past three years, Mrs. Morris enjoyed what she called “adventures,” which ranged from cross-country trips to around-the-world excursions.
Longtime friend Lisa Wilkinson accompanied her on trips to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, San Antonio, New Orleans and Thailand, among many other places.
“She used to say we were Thelma and Louise,” Wilkinson said.
Mrs. Morris loved to laugh and often would joke about funny situations during her monthlong vacations. On a trip to Thailand, Mrs. Morris counted the number of times the taxi drivers would rub the belly of a small Buddha figurine they kept in their cars. Mrs. Morris once lost her glasses in Carlsbad Caverns after taking them off to watch the bats fly.
“She joked, ‘Somewhere, there is a bat that is no longer blind as a bat,’” Wilkinson said.
Many of Mrs. Morris’ colleagues, friends, students and acquaintances have received a note in the mail from Mrs. Morris instead of an email or text message.
“As petite and graceful as she was, she had a will of steel, and you don’t find that combination, normally,” Franques said. “She’ll be greatly missed, but she left a legacy.”
Mrs. Morris was born July 29, 1943, in Tennessee. She is preceded in death by her husband, Donald E. Morris; her father, Leslie Cooper; and her mother, Virginia Cooper.
She is survived by two sons, Donald J. Morris and Michael E. Morris; a daughter, Julie; son-in-law, Erthel Hill; sister, Mary Jane Johnson; brother, David Cooper; grandchildren, Evan Hill and Shayla Morris; nieces, Susan Bahti and Rebecca Simones; and nephews, Scott Cooper and Andrew Johnson.
The family requests donations to MacDonald Training Center in lieu of flowers.“>http://nabumere.ru/otp-bank-oformit-kreditnuyu-kartu.php