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Bill Morse with colleagues from the Southern California Regional Section, helping promote the 1998 Annual Conference with a table at Stage Expo in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Photo/USITT Archives

The man, the friend, our memories... Bill Morse

compiled by Donna Ruzika

While words are insufficient to describe a remarkable person like Bill Morse... they are all we have. So, to celebrate the life of this joyful, compassionate, mentor, teacher, husband, father, and friend. These are the words from a few of his USITT family of friends:

We could hardly ask for a better example of "Friend." Bill brought a sense of comfort and quiet strength to every situation. In my heart he will continue to be a Companion and Guide.
– Mike Murphy

Bill was one of the first people I met at San Diego State many years ago. One of my first parties there was at Bill’s house. He and his garage band were playing Grateful Dead tunes. He was one of those rare people who always cared about the other person. I will miss him greatly, and consider myself lucky for the pleasure of knowing him for so many years.
–Jim Cooper

I always remember talking with Bill about the different Dead shows that we each attended over the years. But I think the funniest moment I remember is when the group from So Cal went out for Bar-B-Q while attending the Houston Conference. Somehow we got on the subject of the possibility of Bill doing a stripper act on the table with a bottle of Bar-B-Q sauce. The laughs subsided as the image raced through our minds. Keep on trucking, Bill.
–Joe O’Brien

At the end of one exhausting conference week, I was overtired, over-emotional, and ready for it to be over. I walked into the Conference Office on the verge of tears. Bill saw the look on my face and the next thing I know, he was giving me a hug and telling me everything was going to be okay. Without me saying a word, Bill knew exactly what I needed – a hug. I’m not sure I how I will walk into the Conference Office next year knowing that Bill won’t be there. It was a privilege knowing Bill. He will be missed.
-Monica Merritt

I think we all have been on the receiving end of his smile or hug and always at the most needed moment. One thing specifically for me is that Bill often reminded me about how much more important family and friends are than any other commitment we make. For us the loss is stronger, I think, because the line between friend and family has been nearly erased.
–Michael Mehler

Bill Morse was the most even-tempered person I have ever known. In a position where he was always on the hot seat (co-office coordinator for the Conference) Bill never raised his voice, was gracious to everyone (some who definitely didn’t deserve it) and was one of the best problem-solvers I have ever known... the highest praise you can get out of an old TD. He will be missed and I know every time I go in the Conference Office, I will still look for that gentle smile of his!
–Le (;}) Hook Oldest Working TD

As I write this, I can see Bill standing there with that wonderful smile...damn, he will be missed!
–Carolyn Satter

Bill was a class act, always ready to assist in any anyway possible.  His genuinely calm demeanor, and good humor touched the lives of everyone around him. I learned from Bill two great lessons 1) that no problem was ever too big to overcome with a smile and 2) the importance of enjoying life by making the most of every each and every day. He was a true role model for his students and colleagues and I will forever cherish the moments we shared together.  
–Carl Lefko

One of the first faces to look for, one of the first faces to miss when it is all over...Bill will be forever a part of the Conference Committee. Like Cindy, one of the first people I want to see. To tag my kids’ generation, Bill really is a BFF.
–Travis DeCastro

I first became aware of how great Bill Morse could be early one morning in Denver. I knew very few people, but recognized Bill. He had many more years and experience with USITT than I did. Even though he was having breakfast with his wife and son, he drew me in, made sure I did not eat alone, and made me feel that whatever was ahead it would all be fine. He had a quality of calm reassurance that touched and strengthened all of us. Since that day in 2000, I’ve learned that it is all going to be fine, and I came to rely on Bill’s steady temperament. Even if the sky was falling, you were sure Bill would know of a sky-fixer – maybe from his trips to Africa, maybe from his time at Cal Poly, maybe from his broad knowledge of the world. He was an unusual man, in the very best sense of that word, and he will be missed.
–Barbara E.R. Lucas

It seems that not a single day goes by that I don’t think about him at least once. I know you’ll agree that attending USITT just won’t seem the same without him next year, but I also know that Bill would want all of us to have a great time and to keep him in our thoughts. The Dude abides!
–Brian Reed

Even if you didn’t know Bill, when you first meet him you felt as though you had a friend. His smile and kindness were ubiquitous, his spirit was generous and he could make anyone’s day better just by being there.  Even though I only got to spend time with him at the Annual Conference, I feel a great loss. To have such a positive impact in brief moments with others. Wow. That says a lot to me about him as a person. Goodbye Bill-you will be missed, each and every year.
–Mike Monsos

He was one of my oldest friends, we go back to 1975 at San Diego State.  We even shared the same assignment (at different times) as graduate teaching assistants.  I remember that we were all aghast (and deeply impressed) when Bill designed lights for Man of La Mancha and had a hundred cues.  That was on a five scene manual pre-set board.  We had to have two pre-set crews because they would burn out after setting so many pots in so little time.  I was fortunate enough to attend parties at his place during college where Bill would play in his Grateful Dead cover band.  It was uncanny the way that we would run in to each other at Dead shows.  30,000 Deadheads and I would look down, and three rows below me there would be Bill.  Every year at the Conference, Bill and I would find some time to sit and talk about life, the universe and everything.  We didn’t get that chance last year in Kansas City...damn.
-Pat Larmer

Bill Morse–The Man, The Friend, and The Legend: For as long as I have been involved with USITT and the Conference, Bill was always there. Even when he was unable to attend because of a prior commitment, he was there. He will always be there. He had the ability to raise my spirits when I was tired or down with a smile and a few kind words. Life will go on, but he will be missed by anyone who knew him. God Bless You, Bill. You are in my thoughts and heart forever.
 –Joe Aldridge

A week before the obituary was published in the Los Angeles Times, the phone calls, emails and text messages had already circled the globe announcing the sad news to his former students, his friends, his colleagues and his USITT family. Disbelief and sadness followed. Impromptu parties were thrown to celebrate his life and many small groups gathered together for a final toast...“To Bill.” As time passes the sadness will depart, and the memories of the life of our friend Bill who we loved and admired will always be there... to remind us to smile and to hug our friends.

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