Bradenton event expected to surpass $1 million in funds raised

vmannix@bradenton.comSeptember 13, 2013 

Dr. Morrish Sr.

BRADENTON -- When Dr. James Morrish Sr. was approached about having a golf fundraiser named for him almost 20 years ago, the modest physician was reluctant.

The Lighthouse of Manasota, which has provided rehabilitation training to the blind and visually impaired since 1985, needed a monetary shot in the arm.

Morrish was a boardmember and a beneficiary.

But a James Morrish golf tournament?

Not his style.

"Dad was old school, one of those people who did a lot for this community, but didn't want it known," Dr. Jim Morrish Jr. said. "He was a giving person who was humble."

Dave Cruikshank can vouch for it.

The tournament was his idea.

"We were struggling financially, he had a lot of support here and I thought it'd be good for the Lighthouse, which he was passionate about," said Cruikshank, a boardmember whose mother had also benefited from organization's programs.

Morrish's younger son remembered his father's decision.

"He said, 'If it can bring just a little bit of financial help to the Lighthouse, I'll agree,'" said Dr. Tom Morrish. "We had no idea it would last this long. Or raise this kind of money."

Two decades later, Saturday's 19th annual Dr. James Morrish Sr. Memorial Golf Tournament at IMG Golf & Country Club is expected to surpass $1 million in

funds raised since its inception.

It is the No. 1 fundraiser for the nonprofit that has helped thousands in 28 years.

"A great legacy to who my dad was," his older son said.

A Bradenton internist since 1959, Morrish was in his 50s when he began experiencing vision problems that would eventually leave him legally blind.

"He couldn't read the sports page, charts at the hospital, none of that," Tom Morrish said.

His father retired in 1986, coincidentally, a year after Lighthouse of Manasota began.

"I can remember reading about it and telling him, but he didn't think he needed it," said Jenny Morris, his widow. "Once he got involved, though, he saw how good it was and how good it was for other people and became such an advocate of it."

"What Lighthouse did was allow him to regain his independence, get as much back of a normal life as he could," Tom Morrish said. "He was always grateful for that."

It tapped into his father's upbringing, too.

According to Jim Morrish, his paternal grandfather had polio as a child in the early 1900s, but became a major company vice president in Detroit.

His paternal grandmother suffered pelvic injuries in a car accident as a young mother, yet never complained about the pain they caused her the rest of her life.

Their son became a Michigan state sprint champion.

"They all overcame disabilities and got on with their lives," Morrish said. "That's the way Dad was raised -- to overcome life's obstacles, be thankful for what you have.

"Lighthouse allowed him to manage his disablity and continue to live a full life. He was playing golf up until the week before he died."

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 941-745-7055. Twitter: @vinmannix

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