In July 1968, a local news story made national headlines: “Madera Couple, Parents of 10 Children, Killed”. The tragic accident was the result of a five-car collision caused by a 61-year-old habitual drunk driver. The parents, Robert and Joyce Morris were the only fatalities.
The orphaned children aged 3 to 17 desperately wanted to stay together. A trust fund was set up by the Madera Tribune and managed by the Bank of America.
The story went nationwide and internationally, including coverage by Walter Cronkite on the CBS Evening News and the Stars and Stripes in Vietnam. The Madera Tribune alone carried almost continuous follow-up stories.
“I was 17 years old when we became national news,” remembers Kathi Morris, the oldest of the ten.”For seven years, it didn’t matter where I went. If I told people my name, they would ask if I was one of those Morris orphans.
“It took two months to decide what to do with us because there was no will. We were orphans of the court,” said Morris. “As far as the world knew, they sent us to live in the Bay Area happily ever after, right? That’s not what happened. We did not ride off into the sunset with a pile of money.”
In fact, the trust fund had problems that allowed abusive and nefarious fostering of the children.
“This good Catholic straight arrow does a whole 180, and it’s all about sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, the hippies, Vietnam era, Fillmore, all of that,” says Morris.
After sharing her story with people, they suggested Morris should write a book. After a revelation at Mass, she put her gift of writing into action. Years of research, interviews, and heartfelt emotion followed.
“It wouldn’t leave me alone,” says Morris.
By writing We Were the Morris Orphans 4 Brothers, 5 Sisters & Me, Morris gives a moving account of the true story that picked up when the news coverage ended.
“In her long-awaited memoir, Kathi Morris tells the rest of the story of the ten Morris orphans—through raw emotions, heartbreaking recollections, and unexpected moments of humor. Her book will touch your heart and give you faith in the resiliency of the human spirit. Ultimately, it is a message of hope that you are stronger than you think,” wrote Linda Gannaway, Ed.D., Speaker, Coach, and Author of The Power of Life Lessons.
Morris won Grand Prize at the Sardine Factory in Monterey, California (where the movie Play Misty for Me was filmed) for her written tribute on their 15th anniversary commemoration.
In addition, the memoir was a finalist in the 2019 San Francisco Writers Conference.
After reading We Were the Morris Orphans, CJ Collins, editor, and writer, commented, “You take the reader on a journey that at first seems safe, and then you gradually pull out the stops with emotional events that slay the reader. You put me on an emotional roller coaster that both thrills me and pulls me apart – thrills me because the writing is so good and pulls me apart because the writing is so good.”
Kathi Morris currently lives in Clovis and is retired from a thirty-five-year career with the IRS. Her greatest joys are her children and grandchildren.
We Were the Morris Orphans is available for paperback preorder at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Post Hill Press, or kathimorris.com. The release date is November 30, 2021.