Volume 19 • Issue 22 | October 13 - 19, 2006
Jerry Morse, Lower Manhattan booster, 85, dies
By Lori Haught
Gerald Morse, a volunteer who helped run the Lower Manhattan Marketing Association for 20 years, died of leukemia Sept. 28. He was 85.
Described by friends as a real gentleman and a sane and sensible voice of Lower Manhattan, he was glue that held Loma, a local networking and marketing group, together.
“Jerry was a retired publishing executive and he had spent a lot of his career between London and New York,” said Rae Ann Hoffman, a founding member of Loma and a long time friend of Morse. “He was attracted to Lower Manhattan for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the history.”
Morse was born in Brooklyn on Nov. 1, 1920 to Aleeha and Benjamin Mossovitc and grew up in the city, graduating from City College with an accounting degree. He later shorted his name to Morse.
Hoffman said Morse created Talk-A-Walk tours on cassette tapes long before he helped organize Loma. The goal of the tapes was to allow visitors to Lower Manhattan and other parts of the city to take themselves on self-guided tours while exposing the history and the unseen things that lay behind the building.
Morse’s oldest daughter, Darienne Franks, said the tapes grew out of friends and friends of friends begging for Morse to take them on tours of New York City and London. He made at least three or four tapes for London, one for Philadelphia and several for New York City, Franks said.
“Before Loma was founded, he was already interested in promoting Lower Manhattan,” Hoffman said. “It was a labor of love for him.”
Morse helped found Loma in the ‘80s, a decade before the Downtown Alliance, a formal, better-financed business improvement district, opened.
John Haworth, a good friend of Morse and a leader of Loma, said he remembered meeting Morse at his first Loma meeting.
“My first impression was here is this very energetic guy who was in retirement and just giving his all to Lower Manhattan,” said Haworth, the director of the Indian Museum at Bowling Green.
Haworth recounted that Morse’s wife, Sara K. Morse, had been very sick when they first met, and Morse was spending much of his time taking care of her. When she passed away eight years ago, Haworth said the tribute was just as much for Morse as it was for his wife.
Hoffman said that after the death of his wife, Morse didn’t slow down.
“He traveled quite a lot,” she said. “He knew it would be tough [because of his health]. He didn’t accept many limitations in life.”
Franks said that one of her favorite memories of her father was his fierce independence.
“He and my mom visited all sorts of different countries,” she said. “[After she was gone] he spent about three weeks in China by himself with a guide he hired.”
Through all the travel and illness however, Morse still found time to be dedicated to Loma.
“It was a volunteer organization and he was the main volunteer,” said Mary Holloway, the current president of Loma. “Jerry was always the lynch pin of Loma.”
Holloway said it will be hard for a bit because he had been both the treasurer and secretary of the organization for so many years.
Loma, a networking organization, is still active. It holds meetings for local business owners and residents to network and promote their events and activities.
“It’s an early warning system,” Hoffman said. “It lets people know what’s coming up.”
Hoffman said that there is no other area in the city with the richness of culture and history that is concentrated in Lower Manhattan, which is what Morse loved about it.
“It was sort of like Jerry was a part of the history of Lower Manhattan,” Haworth said.
In addition to Franks, who lives in Bridgewater, N.J., Morse is survived by his daughter Alison Cohen and her husband Richard of Plainfield, N.J.; his daughter Dr. Margot Cselet and her husband Tibor of Atlanta, Ga.; along with five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
A memorial service is planned in New York for the late afternoon on Nov. 4, although details are still being finalized.
Morse was also an accomplished musician and had trained to be a concert pianist. Donations can be made to the Mannes College of Music Annual Fund at 150 W. 85th St., New York, NY 10024. All donations will benefit the school’s scholarship fund.