Long-time rural journalist Robin Morris passes away

Long-time rural journalist Robin Morris passes away

CORNWALL, Ontario – A long-time rural journalist who maintained a family tradition of steadfast, professional coverage of events in SD and G has passed away.

Robin Morris died at the Ottawa General Hospital Tuesday. He was 64.

Morris was the publisher of the Chesterville Record, a community newspaper in North Dundas that has stood the test of time for 120 years. His father began a career as a journalist at the newspaper more than 70 years ago.

Morris, though, parlayed his family heritage into a lifetime of respect and passion for the written word.

He discussed story ideas for The Record and the monthly Eastern Ontario AgriNews with editor Nelson Zandbergen as late as Thanksgiving weekend.

Morris had been in declining health related to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) for the past several years. Still, staff were shocked and saddened to hear of his passing.

“It’s just so hard to believe that the voice of Robin Morris has been stilled, that he won’t be calling or emailing us anymore,” said Zandbergen, who credited Morris with sharpening his skills as both a writer and photographer. “From long experience, Robin had a feel for the news, the questions to ask, and the incredible work ethic and discipline necessary to churn out product for readers each week.”

“We have lost one of the greats who truly loved a real newspaper and everything it represented and offered its reader,” said Kreg Raistrick, co-owner of Winchester Print, the printing contractor for Etcetera Publications (Morris’s publishing company).

Though a traditional newsman in many ways, Morris embraced new technology.  Long, long before the iPhone, he was a stalwart fan of Apple computers. He introduced cutting-edge digital camera technology to the shop in the late 1990s — when folks were still amazed by it.

The son of Jack and Ida Morris, Robin Morris came from a publishing family. After university, he joined his father and his brother, John — both deceased — at their Prescott-based newspaper firm in 1974. A couple of years later, following Jack Morris’s retirement, the brothers undertook their first major expansion by purchasing The Record, where their father got his start as a reporter decades earlier.

As Morris himself recounted in a story about his brother, the family then purchased the Tupper Lake (NY) Free Press in 1977 and established the AgriNews the following year. They added the Winchester Press to their list of publications in 1981. In the 1990s, Robin wound up going it alone as owner of The Record, AgriNews and The Russell Villager (since amalgamated with The Record).

Morris was a fan of both sports — especially the Ottawa Rough Riders — and history.  A key organizer of Loyalist Days in Prescott, he went on to revive interest in the Battle of Crysler’s Farm as president of the Friends group associated with the monument.

Following in the steps of his parents, the Chesterville Rotary Club inducted Morris as a Paul Harris Fellow in 2007. At the time of the surprise honour, Morris told the Club that covering news in the local area was a “tremendously rewarding” vocation “because of the projects undertaken by people like you.”

He leaves behind a wife, Kathryn Guthrie, and two adult sons, Evan and Tristan.

Morris’s good friend Bob Irvine offered a famous quote from the funeral of Admiral Nelson to sum up his feelings about the deceased: “I grieve for the loss of the most fascinating companion I ever conversed with …”

The family plans a private funeral, with a public celebration of Robin’s life to follow this summer.

– This report contains material reprinted with permission from The Villager.

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