Serving The Communities Of Portal and Rodeo (www.portal-rodeo.com)
Bob Morse, born in Albany, New York on July 2, 1926. He passed away after a lingering illness on November 2, 2012, dying in his home in accordance with his fervent desire.
While in the Navy, Bob got an engineering degree from Cornell. Then he went to work for Bendix in Elyria, Ohio where he was granted two patents before he took early retirement in 1975. Bob is survived by his wife, Jeanne Williams, and two sons from his first marriage, Brian and Robert, two grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
After retiring he traveled to birding hot spots, from Alaska to Texas and in 1978 settled in Paradise, where he worked with the Forest Service. He met Jeanne on an Audubon bird trip in Mexico. Married in 1980, they bought their Portal home from Alden and Gretchen Hayes a year later.
Bob, a keen observer of nature, had a passion for birding since college days. In 1982 Sally Spofford entrusted him with the compilation of the Christmas Bird Count, which he continued to host in his home until his heart attack. Despite declining health he continued as compiler as long as he was able. Birders remember him fondly because he enjoyed sharing his knowledge of birds and their ways.
Bob made the first verified U. S. sighting of the Flame-Colored Tanager which was named "Bird of the Year" by the American Birding Association. NBC's "Today Show" sent a crew to do a segment on Cave Creek, filming Bob at the Tanager's nesting site.
Birders traveled from all over the country to see the Blue Mockingbird in his backyard since this was only the bird's second appearance in the U.S.
"Bob was the drive to establish a fire department," explained his good friend, Rene Blondeau. "Without him we wouldn't have had one." Together they solicited funds while Bob designed and acquired materials for the first Portal Rescue building which is now the bay for the rescue vehicles. With their neighbors helping and Bob's grant writing skills, his dream became a reality. With Jeanne, he had been an EMT since 1985. As our first Fire Chief he established the department, serving over the years as Portal Rescue President and Secretary as well as fireman. The day before Bob passed away, he nodded his head, acknowledging that he appreciated that the fire station was indeed his enduring legacy to this community.
Bob was also Portal's longest keeper of weather records. His monthly and yearly averages have been posted on the Portal-Rodeo web site since the site's inception. As we monitored our monthly precipitation, and compared it to Bob's data, spanning over 30 years, we were among the first to be able to assess climate change.
As Bob wished, Jeanne will scatter his and his beloved dog, Leon's ashes along his favorite Chiricahua trails. This is the only service he wanted.
Bob wrote this engraving on Leon's ashes urn which has waited on the fireplace mantle for 15 years.
"A faithful and loving companion,
Gone to a land of cool streams, big bones, slow rabbits and NO thunder."
May they roam the Canyon. Forever Free!
© Howard Topoff 2011