Thomas Christopher MorrowSeptember 2, 1950 ~ December 19, 2017 (age 67)
Thomas Christopher Morrow
Beloved father and grandfather, devoted son, brother, and friend, gifted artisan, teacher and storyteller, Thomas Christopher Morrow died on Tuesday, December 19 of complications from Multiple Sclerosis which he battled and endured with grace and stoicism for almost 50 years.
Tom had been a long-time resident of Freedom, NH, where he raised his family and kept his workshop. He died at 67 in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, where he moved about 15 years ago to be nearer his parents.
Tom’s life was rich in love and accomplishment; also challenges that would have stopped many. He was a surpassingly gifted gunsmith. In his hands, a block of hardwood would yield its beauty and, soon enough, an heirloom piece would take form. He was also an artist in words, a storyteller of great range, emotion and humor, with a memory that could summon hundreds of tales, from literature, folklore and his own invention, not to mention thousands of lines of verse. He had, to name just two favorites, essentially all of Lewis Carroll and T.S. Eliot at the tip of his tongue as well as hundreds of limericks, not all for polite company.
The son of Winston V. and Margaret S. Morrow, he was born in Cambridge, MA, on September 2, 1950, and raised in West Barrington, Rhode Island and Garden City, New York. He entered Williams College with the class of 1972, but his tenure there was interrupted early on by his first devastating onslaught of Multiple Sclerosis. He rallied as he so often would over the disease’s long course, even taking on a demanding 10-day hike with his brother Mark along the Appalachian Trail through some of the North Country’s most demanding terrain. It was a remarkable show of courage by Tom, and a source of memories that would long bind the two brothers.
After graduating from Williams and then the Colorado School of Trades, he worked for Griffin & Howe, the renowned maker of handcrafted, classic firearms for Abercrombie & Fitch. After Abercrombie sold the business in 1976, Tom took his craft and family to Freedom, a little town near the Maine border where his family had summered for years and where just about everyone has a Tom Morrow story and remembers him with fondness and respect.
Tom’s craftsmanship and reputation drew a far-flung clientele among connoisseurs and collectors and just about anyone who valued a singularly well-built piece. He was, from an early age, a true scholar of the history and technical evolution of firearms and treated his craft as a calling. He would not let his encroaching disability deter him. Even after MS had robbed him of much of his eyesight, Tom kept at it, working by feel until it was no longer safe to do so.
He and his then-wife, Lorraine Bogart Morrow, had two sons: Thomas Christian Morrow, and Winston Vaughn Morrow III. Both were, then and always, his joy and pride, and the stories they shared as a trio tended to high hilarity, liberal profanity, and a shared love of the outdoors. Thomas, of South Paris, Maine, recently retired after 20 years’ service in the Army and Marines; Winston, owner of a landscaping business, now makes his home in Effingham, NH.
During his Freedom years, Tom was an active figure in town. He hosted a memorable Octoberfest for his many friends each year, featuring his own home brews, sweetened with honey and masterly attention. He was an enthusiastic hunter, though not always a successful one. He was an anchor in a close-knit place.
After he and his wife divorced in 2001,Tom relocated to a coastal community south of downtown Los Angeles, to live first with his mother and then, as his health slowly declined, in a nearby assisted living center. He made new friends at the center, and benefitted hugely from the attention of his remarkably skilled and devoted caregiver, Jason.
In California, Tom briefly took on a new a vocation. After he was forced by illness to discontinue his gunsmith work, he had taken a degree in education at Plymouth State College, thinking he might, like his mother, be a classroom teacher. That was not to be, but he did find fulfillment as a volunteer instructor in an elementary school in a town near his home. He used his storytelling talent to help build confidence and verbal skills in his pupils, many of them not native English speakers. They loved his novel methods, and him.
The walls of Tom’s room in Rancho Palos Verdes were thick with pictures of his children and grandchildren, and of his extended family. He was devoted to them all and, in his last years lived in anticipation of his annual trip east to Freedom to renew old bonds. Hearing that Tom Morrow was in town, friends would stream in to visit, share stories, and often be treated to an impromptu poetry recitation.
In addition to his sons, Tom is survived by his father, Winton Vaughn Morrow Jr., a retired business executive; his brother Mark, a senior editor at the Boston Globe, and Mark’s wife Kathleen Hirsch and son William; and his grandchildren: Russell, Maria, Lily, Hadley, Daniel, Abigail, Rosalie, and Snow.
Tom is to be buried in Freedom’s Towle Cemetery, next to his mother and near his daughter Elizabeth Greer Morrow who died in infancy. Her loss was one, he often said, he could never get past. His life will be celebrated with a Memorial Service in Freedom this spring, on a date to be announced. In lieu of flowers, gifts can be made to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society or to the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.