Rob Morris passed away unexpectedly on May 2 from a seizure in his sleep. As an infant, he almost died from meningitis, which resulted in seizures and mental challenges. Seizures were something he dealt with all his life, but he never let it get in the way, often stating, “I can do this.”
Known as Robby, he recently insisted everyone call him Rob. He lived here his entire life, attending schools in the area and making friends everywhere he went. For the past 10 years, Rob participated at the Alpha Resource Center (which empowers those with developmental disabilities). Every morning, he chose to wait an hour early for his ride to school or Alpha, waving and smiling to all the neighbors on their way to work.
Alpha was his second family, and Rob daily showed his concern by asking staff about their family members by name, responding with, “That’s great!” He had a winsome smile and struck up a conversation with anyone who listened. If you excused yourself, returning 15 minutes later, Rob continued the conversation where you left off without missing a beat.
Several years ago on an Alpha outing, Rob picked up an Independent, attracted by the colorful cover. From then on, everywhere he went, he carried the most recent copy. This affinity developed into Rob’s “volunteer” job on Thursdays, as he took it upon himself to provide every Alpha staff member and participant with a weekly Independent, plus a couple for his parents. One of the staff members framed her last copy (April 28, 2011) from Rob, and it is now hanging in the Alpha room where Rob and his Cruiser buddies hung out.
Ask anyone at Alpha about Rob, and they’ll respond with, “Rob always smiled and brought me my Independent every Thursday; I miss him, and he was a great friend,” or words to that effect. Truly, Rob was “Mr. Independent” for many reasons.
Another job Rob created for himself at Alpha was washing staff members’ cars on Fridays. He drummed up business by walking around Alpha, asking people if they wanted to have their cars washed; it was hard to say no to Rob. He took so much pride in his job, working very hard to get those cars clean. The Alpha staff came to rely exclusively on Rob to be their car washer! He never wanted to miss a day at Alpha, because there would be no one to take over his jobs. In addition, he volunteered with Meals on Wheels and at the Alpha Thrift Store.
Also known as the “master social chairman,” Rob loved celebrations of any type, and especially helping to plan them. Whether it was karaoke at Alpha or a family birthday or barbecue, he made sure it was a celebration with all the fixings.
Rob loved to call women “princesses,” whether they were at Alpha or people he saw while he was out in the community with his Cruisers, walking around town seeing the sights. He waved at them and told them they looked like princesses and to “Have a princess day!” He brightened their day, and they would usually smile and wave back. Almost every day, Rob arrived at Alpha with a bunch of flowers he had picked that morning while waiting for his ride, to give to some lucky woman.
After his siblings moved away from home, Rob also wanted to live independently. With the help of several agencies working together, he moved into an apartment in March, a roommate helping with meals and medication. He was very excited about his new independence and celebrated with a pizza lunch for his Cruiser buddies.
There was a simple joy that Rob brought to his family, friends, and neighbors. He knew how to enjoy the moment when everyone else took daily things for granted. When he set out to go shopping, or bowling, or to the movies, he would say, “This is my lucky day.” When the family took off on vacation or headed to a get-together, he’d announce, “This is the life.” He loved attending church at Goleta Vineyard and regularly smiled and waved at his friends during the service. He would suggest his favorite “worship” songs to the musicians on a regular basis.
Rob’s last weekend was spent on a wonderful trip with his parents. On the way home, he was already making big plans for his birthday barbecue on June 30. He had the banners and balloons ready.
This year’s Alpha Walk & Roll (one kilometer) and Climb the Canyons Cycling Classic (30 and 70 miles) will be held on Saturday, July 9, and is dedicated to Rob’s memory. These events raise awareness of all the services Alpha provides to individuals with disabilities and their families. For details, go to alphasb.org.
Rob’s Alpha friends will celebrate his birthday this Thursday, June 30, with a party and memorial ceremony for him. They will be planting special flowers, the kinds he loved. Copies of this edition of The Independent will be given to everyone in his memory.
Rob is survived by his parents, Dave and Kristi Morris, and siblings Ryan, Devon, and Alison.