Richard “Dick” Joseph Morrissey

Richard “Dick” J. Morrissey, 73, passed away peacefully at his home, surrounded by family, on Saturday March 9, 2019.

Dick was born in Davenport, IA to John and Margaret Morrissey on April 6, 1945. His hard-working family owned a popular restaurant where he often helped his mom in the kitchen. The youngest of four children, Dick was doted on by his older siblings. The family lived above the restaurant, which on nights and weekends became the Sky Lark Night Club. He attended local public schools in Iowa until they moved to San Diego where he attended Mission Bay HS his Sophomore and Junior years. Dick was involved in Debate, National Forensics League, Key Club and Theatre until he graduated from High School, after returning to Davenport, in 1963. He began his undergraduate studies at the University of Iowa in 1964.

After 2 years as an Iowa Hawkeye, Dick was drafted into active duty by the United States Army in 1966 and began training at the United States Army Infantry School, Fort Benning, GA. After USAIS, Dick completed Officer Candidate School and upon graduation was commissioned as Second Lieutenant. As an officer on the precipice of a combat tour in Vietnam, LT Morrissey was assigned to the Jungle Operations Course at the US Army School of the Americas in Panama where he earned the Jungle Expert Patch. On August 23, 1967 LT Morrissey arrived in Lai Khe, Vietnam, home of the First Infantry Division (The Big Red One). Promptly he was given a field promotion to 1st Lieutenant as platoon leader of the 3rd Platoon/Company B, 2nd Battalion (Mechanized), 2nd Infantry, First Infantry Division. The company area of operations was the infamous Iron Triangle area north of Saigon up Hwy 13 “Thunder Road”.

1LT Morrissey was awarded the Silver Star, The Soldiers Medal for Valor, the Bronze Star w/”V” device, The Air Medal w/4olc, the Army Commendation Medal w/olc, The National Defense Service Medal and The Vietnam Service Medal w/2 stars. The Republic of Vietnam awarded him The Vietnamese Campaign Medal w/60 device and the Vietnamese Gallantry Cross. In August 1968, 1LT Morrissey received his honorable discharge from the Army, laid aside his weapons forever, and set out to find his calling.

Dick returned to the University of Iowa and graduated with a BA in Political Science in 1971. He was concerned about child welfare which led him to jobs mentoring marginalized youth at the start of his professional career. These jobs included supervising a youth group home and developing programs at Wheatlands Youth Services where he met Marsha. They married December 21, 1975 in Garden City, KS.

The couple moved to Lawrence where they made their home and raised their children Ryan and Jane. Dick began his 36-year career with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment in 1974, the year the department was established. During his tenure with the state he held several positions from Director, Bureau of Adult and Child Care to Deputy Director and Interim Director, Division of Health. During his time at KDHE, Dick was involved with a vast and varied scope of initiatives and projects. For more than a decade, he led the Office of Local and Rural Health helping to expand/maintain hospital and critical access care across the state. In addition, he assisted with the new emphasis on hospital bioterrorism readiness. In every role, Dick’s core

belief that public service is the highest calling made him a faithful steward of public health for all Kansans.

Dick was an avid reader who enjoyed sailing, hiking, cycling, frequenting the dog park, listening to NPR, crafting the perfect martini, giving back to his community, and most importantly, spending time with family and close friends. In his retirement, Dick continued his outreach in the local community. He served on the board of the Lawrence Community Shelter, served his faith community at Plymouth Congregational Church and shared laughter and stories at Cosmos breakfasts with friends. He was loved dearly by his family and friends and his calm demeanor, progressive nature, and contagious smile will be missed.

Survivors include wife Marsha; son, Ryan; daughter, Jane; sisters, MaryAnn Wichmann and Meghan La Rocque. Dick was preceded in death by his parents Margaret and John; brother, Tom; stepfather, Charlie Dunn; and brother-in-law, Richard Wichmann.

A memorial service will be held at 11:00 a.m. Wednesday, April 3rd at Plymouth Congregational Church. Following the service, all are welcome to join the reception in Plymouth’s Mayflower room.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorials in Dick’s memory to: Plymouth Congregational Church, 925 Vermont St, Lawrence, KS 66044; the Lawrence Community Shelter, 3655 E 25th St, Lawrence, KS 66046; or Visiting Nurses Association, 200 Maine St Lawrence, KS 66044.

Messages & Condolences

From John Wendling...

Reading Dick’s obituary I learned a lot about Dick that I did not know. But it described the guy that I knew. I worked and traveled with Dick extensively presenting seminars in various states and in Washington DC related to the EACH/PCH (now critical access hospital )program and various other hospital projects. He knew his subject well and was a true gentleman. We will all miss him.

From Ann Regan Pottorf...

Marsha, I’m so sorry to read of the passing of your husband, Dick. Although I didn’t know him, it sounds like he was a wonderful person. My prayers and condolences to you and your family.

From Ray Petty...

Dick Morrissey was a Gentleman and a devoted public health workhorse of a public servant. Guess I met Dick back in the 80s working on disability issues — and then later around the legislature and KDHE and various committees and projects. He was always helpful and exercised mature judgment on all topics and issues involving people in Kansas. I apologize for missing out on the service in his honor, but I have an out-of-state professional engagement that won’t allow me to attend. I never knew about DIck’s Vietnam era experiences — I suppose like many veterans he chose to learn from those experiences and otherwise keep them mostly to himself. RIP Dick Morrissey — you served your country and Kansas well and were loved by many.

From Jim Pearsol...

I am proud to say Dick was my friend. We worked together in public health through our association with ASTHO – Dick in KS, and me in OH. Dick, Steve Ronck (OK), and I founded the Brother and Sisterhood of the Olive in honor of our mutual interest in extra, extra dry martinis with blue cheese-stuffed olives. We regularly convened the Order at happy hour during conferences and welcomed all comers. Such fun. I will miss Dick – a wonderful man and colleague.

From Bob Moody...

I was so sorry to hear of Dick’s death. I had the opportunity to work with Dick at KDHE and was always impressed with his work, demeanor and respect of everybody. He always seem to have a smile on his face, even during tough times. He will be missed.

From Marie Schmidt...

I have many fond memories of Dick. Debating the Watergate extravaganza when I first met him in Garden City, reading and laughing over Richard Bradigan, Dick’s Diner and Marie’s motel, and chasing our little boys around, and many many other moments. When I remember his grin and the twinkle in his eyes it will always make me smile. He will be missed. We are thinking of you, Marsha, and the kids.

From Sonia Jordan...

Dick was a titan of public health and has influenced public health in Kansas for years to come. So glad to have gotten to work with him and am saddened to hear of his passing.

From Janet Wertzberger...

I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Morrissey and what he represented for public health. I took over at times when things seemed to fall apart. He was a great advocate for our state.

From Laura...

What a wonderful Uncle he was!

From Larry Flottman...

Sorry to have lost a good Cosmo. Enjoyed him as a member of a great club.

From Ron Hammerschmidt...

It was my great privilege to work at KDHE with Richard. Although we worked in different Divisions, Richard was willing to give of his time to the new guy. He always served as an effective advocate for public health in the State of Kansas. Richard was thoughtful colleague who worked to understand the issues and find the best for all. We will remember him in our thoughts and prayers.

From Brooke Smith...

Ryan, Heather let me know of your dad’s passing. I wanted to let you know I think of you often and hope you are well. I’m always here if you need anything. –Brooke

From Cardiac Rehab staff at LMH...

We were saddened to hear about Dick. All the staff enjoyed working with him. He will be missed.

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