On Sunday the Napanee community lost an integral member of its community when Napanee Beaver and Picton Gazette publisher Jean Morrison passed away.
Though she was in her 98th year, the news still came as a shock to the staff at the Beaver office because she always gave off the energy of someone much younger. Working well into her 90s, she continued to have the final say in all business decisions, overseeing two newspapers that were vital to their community through a time when others across the country were disappearing.
I first met her 11-years-ago when first hired at the Beaver, where she became the first publisher I’d ever know. She signed off on my hiring and gave me my first real opportunity in the business. In a time of automation and faceless CEOs, Mrs. Morrison insisted on delivering paycheques every second Thursday, by hand. She’d go to all corners of the office, handing over envelopes and checking in with each one of her Beaver employees. An outdated practice for some, but newer isn’t always better. She’d always have a funny comment before handing over the paycheque, often poking fun at this reporter’s habit of consuming too many sugary drinks, something she never did. Given the good health she enjoyed well into her ninth decade, she may be right.
When covering events in the community early in my career, interview subjects would frequently turn the questions around on this reporter, inquiring as to how Mrs. Morrison was doing. They’d often react with an impressed look when informed that she still drove to the office every day and was still very much involved in the day-to-day decision making. They’d then share stories of how they knew Mrs. Morrison, whether it was through curling, golfing, the newspaper or even from her days as a teacher at Napanee District Secondary School.
As interesting as stories from the community were, it wasn’t until the passing of Nelson Mandela that this writer learned just how remarkable a life she had lived. When news of the South African anti-apartheid leader’s passing broke, Mrs. Morrison informed the office she had a photo of herself meeting him. When I suggested we run the photo in the Beaver, she obliged. Upon going to pick up the photo, this writer noticed it was stored in a frame that included photos from her travels all over the world. Her role as publisher gave her the opportunity to meet several world leaders while visiting almost every country.
Her passing marks an end of an era not only for those that worked with her, but for the community as well. Her legacy will continue as the staff at the Beaver strive to continue the standard of excellence she instilled on all those she employed. Rest in peace, Jean Morrison.