Becton community mourns the loss of Mr. Joseph Morris

Mr. Morris as principal of Becton Regional High School in 1989

Former Becton Vice Principal, Principal and Board of Education Member Mr. Joseph George Morris has recently passed away at the age of 90. At Becton, Mr. Morris was known as “Uncle Joe” to many of his students as well as to several of his family members. Mr. Morris served the Becton community since 1971 and will be deeply missed.

Becton Superintendent Mrs. Clarke stated, “I was hired in 1982, and Joe Morris was my first principal. I worked as a classroom teacher during that time. I really got to know him as a member of the board of education due to the fact that I served on two negotiation committees and as president of the Becton Education Association.”

She then went on to add, “Joe was always a very fair individual. He truly loved his teachers and the students. He was all about education and giving our students the best.  As a superintendent, I could not ask for a better member. He listened and always based his judgment on what was right for the students. He advised me wisely on many occasions on educational issues and was a great supporter of the new schedule and other educational initiatives that I put forward.” 

…he will always be remembered for his undying devotion to the high school.”

— Superintendent Mrs. Clarke

Mr. Morris was not only an employee of the Carlstadt-East Rutherford School District, but also an East Rutherford High School graduate. Immediately after graduating at age 17, he entered the Merchant Marines, which was followed by his service in the U.S. Army.

“His knowledge of history and politics was grounded in old fashioned hard work, religion and a strong love of Country.  He served in the U.S. Army during WWII with a tour of duty in Japan. He rarely spoke of the war but always praised the military for the sacrifices that he and many others made protecting our freedom here at home,” said Becton Board of Education Member Mr. Lawrence Bongiovanni.

The former Becton administrator attended Montclair State University and earned a master’s degree at the University of Wyoming. He then went on to complete postgraduate work at San Francisco State College and earned a principal certificate.

“Having Mr. Morris as a board member was refreshing because as a former principal, he recognized the intricacies and complex nature of being a high school administrator. He quickly understood discussions on topics such as curriculum and policy, as well as student and building needs and not only provided us with expert advice, but most importantly, with unrelenting support,” stated Becton Principal Dr. Sforza.

Mr. Bongiovanni stated, “Joe Morris was one of Becton’s biggest cheerleaders, figuratively speaking. His love for the district was unquestionable, and his leadership on the board inspired board members to find solutions and seek common ground where there was none. His motto was always ‘If the students need it, then let’s find a way to provide it without hurting the taxpayers.’” Dr. Sforza continued, “You can always tell that his heart was in it for the kids because every time we presented a new initiative, his first question would always be ‘Is this beneficial for the students?’ If the answer was ‘Yes,’ he didn’t prolong the conversation. He trusted the judgment and experience of his administrative staff and educators and moved on to the next topic. As a board member, Mr. Morris always acted in a fair and ethical manner and understood the three valuable components in increasing engagement and being an effective leader and admirable educator, which are the power of trust, relationships and autonomy.”

Becton Board of Education Member Mr. Raymond Muszynski said, “I had the good fortune of working with Mr. Morris for nine years on the Becton BOE.  Over the years, I grew to learn that Mr. Morris always looked to make the students, community and staff a priority when making decisions.  He spent endless hours over the years on the negotiation, policy and education committees. I have missed working with Mr. Morris over the past couple of years on the BOE and will always have fond memories of him and all of his wisdom.  Mr. Morris was a selfless man who gave so much of himself to his family and community.”

Furthermore, Mr. Bruce Young mentioned how he and Mr. Morris worked together for around nine years on the Becton Board of Education. “Joe was a mentor for me while I was on the board. Sometimes we didn’t always agree, but we did agree to disagree and became good friends,” he said.

During his spare time, Mr. Morris was an avid fan of theatre and often visited New York City and Philadelphia to watch plays.

“Mr. Morris had a passion for the arts and was very interested in finding ways that we could expand our music program and hopefully bring back industrial arts.   He was very attuned to the fact that Carlstadt and East Rutherford are blue-collar communities and that not every student is headed off to college.  He always felt that there was a great need for the trades and always wanted every student to be the best that they can be at whatever they chose to become,” said Mr. Muszynski.

Outside of Becton, Mr. Morris was chairman of the East Rutherford Property Owners where he would discuss various topics ranging from town issues to national politics.

“Always championing the cause for the individual, he was not a fan of Facebook or any social media,” said Mr. Bongiovanni. “He felt that it was better to have a face to face discussion rather than have your words misunderstood or taken out of content on social media. To understand Joe Morris, one has to know history in a sense that he grew up during the Great Depression. There was no middle ground; there was only right, wrong and hard work. People in those days left their doors open and neighbors helped each other. At times, it was difficult for him to understand the changing attitudes of this generation and how we have become so dependent on government instead of self-determination and hard work. Joe was a person that never talked about himself or about the typical social issues that consume most young Americans today,” he added.

“Joe Morris’ first love was Henry P. Becton Regional High School, and he will always be remembered for his undying devotion to the high school,” said Mrs. Clarke.

His nieces and nephews request memorial donations be made to Little Sisters of the Poor in Totowa, NJ, an organization which he supported.