Joseph M MorseAugust 17, 1943 ~ September 28, 2017 (age 74)
Joseph Marius Morse, age 74 of Winona, died Thursday, September 28, 2017 at his home, with his family at his side.
Joe was born August 17, 1943 in Duluth, MN to Marius and Mary (McSwiggen) Morse. He grew up near the village of Dakota, Minnesota, where his family operated an apple orchard. The Morse family was very involved in the Catholic Church. Joe attended parochial elementary school and graduated from Cotter High School in Winona. He then entered Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary at Saint Mary’s College to prepare for the Catholic priesthood.
Joe interrupted his seminary studies at Saint Mary’s and traveled to Meridian, Mississippi in 1964, to assist in voter registration, as part of Freedom Summer. He remained in Meridian after the summer, working on the staff of CORE, the Congress of Racial Equality. Joe applied for a leave of absence from the seminary, but was refused. This ended his plan to become a priest. Among his many accomplishments in Meridian, he helped organize an effective boycott of the local Winn-Dixie that persuaded the supermarket chain to hire black cashiers. Joe was arrested six times for his civil rights work in Mississippi.
From that time forward, Joe never stopped advocating on behalf of social justice, especially focusing on the prevention of violence against women. While living in Boston in the 1970’s, he helped found Emerge, one of the first groups in the country formed to help men change their violent behavior toward women. There he also completed coursework for a degree in health education and administration at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
Upon returning to Minnesota in 1983, he organized a program called Counseling for Abusive Men, and recently had been organizing Beyond Tough Guise, a program to change the social norms that encourage boys to become violent men. He was also instrumental in starting Winona United, an organization to create a welcoming attitude toward all people.
Joe’s great passion in his later years was the preservation of the majestic bluffs along the Mississippi River in Winona County. He also worked to prevent mining of the region’s sandstone for use in oil and natural gas fracking. In 2016 he and others successfully persuaded the Winona County Board of Commissioners to pass the first-ever ban on frac sand mining. Joe delighted in working with younger members of the Winona community. Always willingly sharing his organizing expertise with them, he understood that “the young people have a lot to teach us”.
In 2015 Joe received the John A. Latsch Human Rights Award from the Winona Human Rights Commission, and just last month received the Creating a Safer Community Lifetime Contribution Award from the Winona Women’s Resource Center.
Joe was self-employed for more than 30 years as a conservator/guardian, caring for others. He loved the outdoors, camping, fishing and canoeing the Mississippi backwaters. His small flock of chickens provided him daily pleasure and amusement. Every year, at his family’s Christmas Eve party, Joe donned a Santa Claus suit, and to the delight of kids and adults, dispensed greetings, oranges and occasional political commentary.
Joe is survived by his partner Linda Van Art; beloved daughters Laura Jirele-Borleske, Jaime (Michael) Hanratty and their children, Aiden and Eleanor, and Caitlin Wicka; six siblings: Terry Morse, Bernadine (Daniel) Schneider, Julie (Allen) Quist, Victor (Kate) Morse, Anne (Jon Nicholson) Morse, and Steven (Debra) Morse; many nieces, nephews, grand nieces, and grand nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents and grandson, Clay Wicka.
Joe’s family is deeply grateful for the tender care he received from Dr. Ezana Azene at Gundersen Clinic. Special thanks also to Bill Wessel for his support and assistance in Joe’s final days.
A gathering to remember Joe will be held on Saturday, October 14th, at Wesley United Methodist Church, 114 W Broadway, Winona. The family will greet friends from 1:00 to 2:00 pm, followed by a 2:00 pm program. A reception will follow the program.
Memorials in Joe’s name may be directed to the Women’s Resource Center of Winona, Beyond Tough Guise of Winona, or the Land Stewardship Project of Lewiston.
Services entrusted to Fawcett Junker Funeral Home and Crematory, Winona, MN and Fountain City, WI. Words of sympathy or remembrance may be left at www.fawcett-junkerfuneralhome.com.