Editor's note: Each week reporter Matthew Guerry shares the life stories of residents of Minnesota or the Dakotas who have died recently. Maybe you don't know them, but their stories are worth knowing. If you have a suggestion for someone to be featured, email email@example.com or call 651-321-4314.
John Morris — Jack, to most people — created a varied resume for himself over the course of his life.
The Des Moines, Iowa, native's work experience included stints as an insurance adjuster, a school bus driver, and an IBM plant employee in Rochester, Minn.
Notably, and before he graduated from college, he also worked as a driver and stagehand for the Hormel Girls, a traveling drum-and-bugle corps that sold Spam and other meat products to a post-war nation.
Established in 1947, the Hormel Girls traveled to and performed in cities across the U.S. as part of a promotional campaign devised by the Austin, Minn.-based Hormel Foods Corp. And for one gap year and several summers, Morris was right there alongside them.
"He said he made such good money," Ardis Morris, Jack's wife of 51 years said, that he was "able to earn enough to put himself through three years of college."
John Edgar "Jack" Morris died Dec. 20, 2020 of natural causes. He was 91.
Born in Des Moines on July 17, 1929, he was the son of Hubert and Leila Morris. His birth mother, Viola, died in childbirth.
His family moved to Austin, where he graduated from high school. Morris attended a few different colleges before graduating from the University of Minnesota with degrees in business and journalism. Most recently, he resided in North Long Lakes, Minn.
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In his early 20s, Morris got to see the country through his work for the Hormel Girls, which also made an expert navigator of him.
"If you have 25 white cars in a line going into a city and you don’t know where you’re going, you’d be in trouble," Ardis Morris recalled her husband saying, referring to the white Chevrolets in which the troupe cruised the country.
In the few years that the Hormel Girls performed together, their ranks swelled from 20 members to 60, all of whom were female veterans of World War II, according to Hormel's website. They were disbanded a few years later as the company moved to market more through television.
Morris' appreciation and flair for the theatrical, though, would remain evident throughout the later parts of his life. At IBM, for example, he occasionally gave tours to visitors to the plant.
In addition to singing in their choirs, he also played the organ at several churches he belonged to over the years. In Ardis Morris' words, he was a unique and interesting man.
He is survived by his wife, two children and eight grandchildren.