It is with an impossible sadness that we announce the loss of Chap “Chappy” Morris Jr., who passed away suddenly on March 16, 2018, leaving behind the family he coveted and the thousands of friends he made during his remarkable life journey. It would take volumes to explain the meaning Chap held for so many—for his was a life of generosity, devotion, infectious laughter, and true interest and friendship in the countless people fortunate enough to cross his path. No one knows this better than the centerpieces of his life: his loving wife, Lori, and his adored daughters, Sydney and Maggie.
Chap was born August 5, 1961, at St. John’s Memorial hospital in Oxnard, the second of the four children of John Chapman Morris and Geraldine Doud Morris. He came into the world boasting a head of red hair that exclaimed Here I Am!—and it was that red hair that would make him instantly recognizable to so many, no matter the size of the crowd.
Chap grew up in Fillmore with his siblings—elder sister Laurie, younger sister Tina, and younger brother Bill—and was surrounded by the many members of his generational Ventura county families. He was imbued with the traditions held by these families—most importantly, an adherence to the Catholic faith—and of treating all human beings with dignity and respect. He learned his family’s primary business, a multi-line auto dealership in Fillmore, at a young age— first from his grandfather, William L. Morris, and then his father, Chappy Sr.—as well as horsemanship, the tenets of farming, and a love and respect of the outdoors.
Chap attended St. Bonaventure high school, where he excelled in athletics and lettered in a variety of sports, before playing football for Ventura College and then moving onto the University of Southern California. It was there that he completed a Business degree within the Entrepreneurship program, created endless pranks and laughter within the Kappa Sigma fraternity, and was in the right place at the right time, meeting his love, Lori. He proposed to her, in grand Chappy style, at the Rose Bowl game—of course utilizing the stadium scoreboard screen in the process—and they married on June 30, 1990.
Chap was probably best known in the community as the president of the William L. Morris Chevrolet dealership in Fillmore—his “Get Happy with Chappy” radio and television ads could not be missed—but his passions were extensive. He was a third-generation member of both the Rancheros Visitadores and Rancheros Adolfo riding groups, serving on the board of the latter, and was a skilled horseman, winning a wall full of ribbons in the various riding events through the decades. He was a major donor to USC, volunteered and donated to more charitable events and boards than can be listed here, and was a standard go-to for anyone organizing a fundraiser in Ventura county.
But for all these pursuits, Chap’s greatest passion and joy was for his daughters, Sydney and Maggie. No conversation was complete without a recounting of their latest feats, with Chap’s face lifted to its widest charismatic smile in love and admiration. They each carry individual and distinct traits of their father, and there is no mistaking Chap in their voices—joking, cajoling, touching, and understanding.
Chap’s greatest talent was quite simple: he loved people, he lived for people, and he just couldn't get enough of them. In his mind, people were not good—they were great. His capacity and empathy for his fellow man was endless, and as his daily encounters accumulated throughout his life, the rollcall of his friends stretched beyond any normal person’s line of sight. Early in their marriage, Lori gave Chap a leather-bound address book for Christmas, and watched as he transcribed contact information, adding two names in every space for one, nearly filling the book. At the end of that year, she gave Chap another with more pages, and watched as he transcribed each name from the first book—now completely full and without a space in the margins. And so it went, year after year, as the book got larger and the list grew to many thousands.
Chap was a human connector—what sociologists have referred to as a hub person—that created layers of familiarity and friendship among those that would otherwise be unknown to one another, leading to exponential connections between so many. He possessed unusual language skills, including fluency in Spanish extending to regional colloquialisms, as well as the ability to collect phrases from anyone speaking a foreign language, and this allowed connection into any culture introduced to him. His interest in everyone he met was genuine and intense, and manifested itself in a generosity that humbled even his closest friends.
That is the essence of the precious humanity he possessed. So many know and love each other because of Chap Morris. He was our gift, and his legacies are the friendships and love we now carry simply because he was being himself.
Chap was preceded in passing by his parents, John Chapman Morris and Geraldine Doud Morris, and is survived by his beloved wife, Lori Farrell Morris, and daughters Sydney Anne and Margaret Rose Morris, his sisters Laurie Smith and Tina Thomson, and his brother, Bill Morris. His life will be celebrated in a funeral mass at Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Church, 3175 Telegraph Rd., Ventura, CA, at 11 a.m. on Monday, April 2nd. A reception will follow on the adjacent football field at St. Bonaventure high school. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made directly to the Health Care Foundation for Ventura County, Inc., for the benefit of the Ronald McDonald Family Room at Ventura County Medical Center, in memory of Chap Morris, 300 Hillmont Ave., Ventura, CA 93003. One hundred percent of all donations will go directly towards the establishment of the Ronald McDonald Family Room, with no administration fee taken.
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