Margaret and Bob Morris to Receive the Edna Ross Award at the Chestertown Tea Party Festival
The Edna Ross Award is given annually to a local business person for outstanding service to the community. The award was created by Chestertown Tea Party Festival organizers in 2011 to honor Ross and all she had done for Chestertown.
The couple, of Church Hill, have been married 68 years. They ran the Christian Bookstore for 46 of those years. The majority of that time, the store was located at 335 High St.
Margaret was the proprietress, while Bob was a farmer for most of his professional life, but he was still vital to the store, especially in the last few years, helping out after Margaret’s health declined.
Those who ventured inside the shop would find a variety of items one would expect such an establishment to carry, such as Bibles, church supplies and stationery. And Margaret also offered her considerable skills as a seamstress.
Their business was much more than just a storefront, though. Head to the back of the store, and the Morrises’ true spirit was revealed. There, in a little back room, they made available an endless supply of items for the needy, all donated by the community.
“It started out with toys,” Bob said, then bread, then clothes.
They gave away any items that could be of use to anyone. “It was all free,” Bob said, “You could just go in and help yourself. I was always ready to help anybody in need.”
Margaret also did quite a bit of her sewing for free, donating her time to fix the uniforms of members of the fire department, rescue squad and the like. “When I wasn’t waiting on people, I was busy sewing,” Margaret said. “I loved my work, and my people.”
That love is reciprocal — anyone who has had the pleasure to know the Morrises is quick to sing their praises.
Florence Sutton, Margaret’s cousin, who is also Edna Ross’ sister, said, “I am so happy that they are honoring Margaret and Bob — they did so much through their store downtown. They gave many, many things to others that no one ever heard about because they did not want any thanks for them. Whether it was clothing, Bibles, supplies or just advice on what was best in the line of sewing and crafts for Bible school, they always pitched in with advice or supplies. Bob, with his booming voice and his 10-gallon Texas hat, was the same whether it was raining, snowing or beautiful outside, with his great big smile and jokes. Thanks to all who are giving this prize to them — they deserve it.”
Margaret worked on High Street almost her whole life, starting out at a grocer, then working at a Greek diner before taking over the bookstore from her mother.
Bill Arrowood, who grew up just down the street from the Morrises’ store, notes how much Chestertown has changed over all those years, with many of the other stores disappearing long before Margaret closed her doors. “Through it all, she kept coming in, simply because it was her calling to serve her community with the gifts she had been given. She and her husband, Robert, are the living link to the history of downtown,” Arrowood said.
Margaret would still be at it if she could. She said, “I hated to leave, and people hated to leave me. One lady said, ‘What are we going to do without you? You were a lighthouse for us.’”
Arrowood, who helped spearhead the creation of the Ross award in 2011, said, “People like the Morrises are the reason that we created this award, to remember the long and stalwart members of the downtown business community that support the town. … When her shop was about to close, I made sure to take the pants for my wedding suit in and asked her to hem them, so that I would carry something from them with me always.
“Her mending wasn’t limited to just clothes, (she was) a welcome counselor and friend to many folks that just needed someone to listen and be kind.”
The Morrises’ reputation seems to be synonymous with kindness — and there is no greater service they could have provided.
The Edna Ross Award will be given to the Morrises during the Tea Party Festival on Saturday, May 23, after the Colonial parade. They hope to be able to attend to accept the honor they have clearly earned from the community they love.
2012 – Lanny Parks
2011 – Edna Ross