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Community Foundation Marks 20th Anniversary of the Arley & Jeanette Morris Family Christ the King Episcopal Church Fund

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Janet Branham Posted by: Janet Branham 2 months ago

Picture of Arley and Jeanette Morris
Arley & Jeanette Morris

2024 marks the 20th year of the Arley and Jeanette Morris Family Christ the King Episcopal Church Fund. One of our greatest privileges as your Community Foundation is the honor of holding named funds to preserve the memory of our donors or their loved ones. In celebration of this milestone, we’d like to share the Morris’ story with you. Years ago, Jeanette Morris was kind enough to put her and her husband Arley’s story into written form for us to have. In Jeanette’s words, “The longest journey begins with a small step” and this is a story about how one couple journeyed from humble beginnings to leave an eternal impact on their community.

Arley and Jeanette were both born in the village of Tiskilwa, Illinois.  Arley’s father had been injured, so as a teenager, Arley held down several jobs to support his family while attending high school.  After graduation, Arley and Jeanette were married on October 19, 1951, but not in their hometown; they chose to be married on the popular CBS television show “Bride and Groom,” which was filmed in New York City.

Because Arley had experience working for the telephone company, he was qualified to be a lineman for the power company, and that’s what brought the Morrises to Huntington in June of 1952.  As they were just starting their life together, they had “meager” funding to make the move. Jeanette and Arley hired a cattle truck owner to move their possessions for $100 with the assurance that he would “hose it down real good” and cover their belongings so they wouldn’t get “banged up any.”

The Morris’ car for the journey was equally precarious.  According to Jeanette, the car they had was a “two-speed axel allowing it to be a highway speed demon!” She continued “The 300 miles ahead of us would evaporate, we nearly did! The highway heat would cause the aged brakes to build pressure, causing us to slow down.  Arley would pull off, crawl under the car, I’d press the brake and he would do his magic! We’d drive carefully -without brakes- until it had to be done again.”

Once settled in their new home, Jeannette sought out to find the Episcopal Church in Huntington; driving up Jefferson Street, she was sure that the impressive steeple of St. Mary’s Catholic Church would be it.  Jeanette was astonished to find out that Christ the King church was, instead, currently meeting in a two-story home located at 904 Jefferson Street!  After attending church that Sunday, Jeanette and Arley drove through the country so that Arley could learn the rural electric lines and customer locations. 

Arley excelled at the new job, where he earned $1.58 an hour.   His dedication to his trade paid off.  Six years later, Arley was promoted to superintendent. He was the youngest man in the state to hold such a position. Jeanette found employment as a receptionist and then a secretary.  The Morrises lived carefully on Jeanette’s salary alone so they could save Arley’s. Around this time, the couple welcomed their first son, Gregory, and 3 years later, Stuart.

Christ the King Church moved up Jefferson Street to the Ayres Mansion. The Morrises helped transition the Ayres Mansion into a church while working on improving their own home, which needed everything from plumbing to masonry. The Morrises moved their family to a 13-acre farm where their new home also needed renovations. Jeanette was able to stretch the family income by sewing clothes for her and the boys.  The farm provided vegetables to can and corn for the boys to sell.

Jeanette changed careers when she was asked to be the first-ever activity director at a local nursing home.  During this time, tragedy struck, and their farm home caught fire.  Fortunately, Stu saw the flames at 2:30 in the morning and roused the whole household so everyone got to safety.  Unfortunately, before daylight, the Morris home was ashes.  

According to Jeanette, “The ‘after fire’ years were punctuated with hardship, hospitalization, and saying good-bye to our son Greg, who had enlisted in the Navy.  Now, the Hand of God touched us. Christ the King dedicated the new A-Frame church and Huntington had a new start up Senior Center.”

Jeanette’s career in senior programming continued. After 7 years of what would become Miller’s Merry Manor in Huntington, she took a position as director of the Senior Program in Fort Wayne.  This gave her the background to start a Senior Citizens Center in Huntington.  Jeanette’s involvement in the senior community sparked her interest in the Stock Market.  Arley and Jeanette invested their funds and watched their portfolio grow.

 It was their stock broker who introduced them to the “best kept secret” of Huntington, the Community Foundation. Arley and Jeanette found out about the tax advantages of donating stock to the Foundation and a match that was available from the Lilly Endowment at the time.  They decided it was a good investment to establish The Arley & Jeanette Morris Christ the King Episcopal Church Fund.  After its establishment in 2004, the fund has made distributions to the church each year, and these distributions will continue in perpetuity.  

We are humbled and take very seriously the preservation of family stories like the Morises. We deeply appreciate community members trusting us to preserve their legacy and help direct them in ways to make a lasting impact with what they worked so hard to build. If you’re thinking about ways to preserve your or your loved one’s story while serving your community at the same time, we’d love to have a conversation with you! If you’d like to donate to this or any of our funds, click on the donate button and select the name of the fund.