In Memory

Steve A. Morse

Steve A. Morse


From the Almanac (9/18/18):

North Fair Oaks resident Stephen Morse had many jobs over his 66 years. He worked at an amusement park. He crafted one-of-a-kind devices for a commercial design house. His alma mater, San Jose State University, displayed his artwork in the university museum. He designed roller coasters and medical devices, including one about the size of a grain of rice.

Morse died Sunday, Sept. 9, in an accident in Woodside. For reasons not yet known, the Vespa motor scooter he was riding veered into oncoming traffic on La Honda Road near Grandview Drive and collided head-on with a truck, his wife Margery Morse told The Almanac. A celebration of his life is being planned, she said.

Morse was a native of Palo Alto and attended Addison Elementary School and Palo Alto High School, his wife said. He lived with his family in the Professorville neighborhood and sailed with the Palo Alto Yacht Club.

At San Jose State, where he earned a bachelor's degree in sculpture, he found work as a security guard at the university's art museum, then as a staff artist at the Frontier Village amusement park in San Jose. He made modifications to rides and sets, including animated figures for the ride known as the Lost Dutchman's Mine.

In his career, Morse specialized in making prototypes, his lifelong friend Kim Venaas said. He acquired 19 patents while working for his last employer, St. Jude Medical, Venaas said.

A musician, Morse performed as a percussionist for a time with the California Pops Orchestra, which Venaas leads as musical director and conductor. Morse also served on the orchestra's board of directors.

As a sculptor, Morse created finely wrought mechanical fantasy objects, many built around the theme of time and clock faces.

The opportunity for Morse to design roller coasters came along when he accepted a job with Arrow Development. His wife recalled her husband's account of the invitation to the job: a phone call from someone at Arrow who said that the company needed "somebody who could do what you do," she said.

The couple met at Southwall Technologies in Palo Alto, where Margery was a draftswoman. (She is now a mechanical designer at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park.) "As soon as I met him, he had this big smile on his face," she said. They married three months later. She recalled being attracted to his "sailor hands" and his mustache.

Their shared aptitude for things mechanical sometimes came in handy, as it did on their second date when they went sailing. Sailboats entering or leaving the Redwood City harbor must use their engines to move about. The engine on Morse's boat wouldn't start, so his date suggested spraying the lubricant WD40 in the carburetor. That did the trick, she said.

Her husband loved tools, she said, and knives collecting them, making them and sharpening them. With both their careers focused on mechanics, they would often talk about work, she recalled. "We always shared what we were working on, the frustrations and so forth," she said. "We were married 28 years. That's pretty good."

He owned six motorcycles and motor scooters, his wife said. In retirement, he acquired two tattoos, she said: a tiger that stretched from his shoulder to his forearm, and a griffin on his other arm to honor a family name.

Morse became a prolific painter, so much so that his wife said she asked him to stop because they had no more room in the house for his works.

Morse had a bit part in the 2003 movie "Swing" in which he played a saxophone in a nightclub band. One highlight of that experience: He was standing around on the set and the actor Jacqueline Bisset walked over and stood next to him. This happened, his wife theorized, because her husband "was probably the most handsome man in the group."

Morse knew how to have a good time. Venaas recalled the two of them once being treated poorly at a Peninsula country club restaurant and walking out with the white tablecloth. They ended up at a Jack in the Box, where they made appropriate use of the cloth. It became a thing: On outings they would don tuxedos, take the tablecloth and crystal goblets and candelabra, and celebrate, Venaas said.

In addition to his wife Margery, Morse is survived by brothers Kenny of Portland, Oregon, and Doug of Chico, California.

Margery Morse suggested that donations in Morse's memory be made to the California Pops Orchestra, Save The Bay, and Planned Parenthood.

From the Daily Post (9/12/2018):

A Menlo Park man, who was killed when his motorcycle was hit head-on by a pickup truck on a winding stretch of La Honda Road, was a motorcycle and scooter enthusiast who grew up in Palo Alto.

Stephen Morse, 66, died following the collision at 6:45 p.m. Sunday on the road, also known as Highway 84, in Woodside. It happened near Grandview Drive, not far from Alice’s Restaurant on Skyline Blvd.

Morse was on his way home after visiting a friend in Santa Cruz on his orange scooter when he suddenly veered into the wrong side of the road. The coroner’s office is still looking into whether Morse suffered from a medical emergency that caused him to veer off course, said his wife, Margery.

She pointed out that his orange scooter had a white side car, a vehicle she light-heartedly called the “creamsicle.”

Morse attended Palo Alto High School and got a BA from San Jose State University. He worked as a roller coaster engineer for Frontier Village in San Jose. He then became a medical engineer. He retired form St. Jude’s Medical Inc. in Sunnyvale in 2015. There are 19 patents in his name for his medical device designs.

How he met his wife

It was while Morse was a technician at Southwall Technologies in Palo Alto that he met Margery, and asked her out. She immediately said yes, saying that she “thought he was the most handsomest man.”
They were married for 28 years and lived in Palo Alto until 2001, when they moved to Menlo Park.

Stephen Morse on one of his favorite scooters. Photos provided by his wife Margery.

Since retiring, Morse has spent a lot of time traveling with the South Bay Scooter Posse, which may be organizing a memorial ride for Morse, Margery said.

“This is a post that comes with such tremendous sadness and heartache, it’s hard to find words. Over the weekend, we lost one of our brothers, Steve Morse, in a scooter accident. … he passed doing one of the things he loved the most, riding. He always brought with him a smile, enthusiasm, generosity and experience. He will be missed and always remembered as the great friend that he was to us, and many others. The Posse lowers its flag and will have a hard time knowing how to raise it again,” the Posse wrote on Facebook.

His other activities

Aside from scootering, Morse also played badminton locally and used to be a board member of the Sequoia Yacht Club and Bair Island Aquatic Center, according to Margery. He was also a board member of the California Pops Orchestra.

Morse is survived by Margery, his wife, two brothers Doug Morse and Kenny (Sue) Morse and council Joe Zurenko.

The cause of Morse’s accident is still under investigation by the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Department.

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09/13/18 08:22 AM #4    

Jim R. Wilmer

So saddened to learn of Steve’s passing-Way too early. He was a good friend at Paly and he will be missed. Linda and I send our condolences.  Rest In Peace Steve.

09/13/18 09:24 AM #5    

Pete Keesling

So very sad. Many memories from Addison thru Paly. Scouts, Music groups, trips to Disneyland, Canada, etc. Or just horsin' around. Sorry to lose this friend...

09/13/18 10:12 AM #6    

Craig R. Working

Craig Working -  I met Steve at Walter Hayes in the 4th grade.  Steve was an artist, the degree he graduated from San Jose State with.  He was a musician, Paly band and later with the California POPS.  He was a life long sailor.  We enjoyed many days out on the Bay.  He was also an avid motorcycle rider.  Most importantly, he was my best friend and I am going to miss him dearly.  Go with God my friend.  


09/13/18 04:31 PM #7    

Robin Witbeck

Steve was always such a sweet guy.  I'm am so sorry to hear this tragic news.  Rest in peace.

09/14/18 12:33 AM #8    

Kevin D. Hall

I remember Steve working with the football team as an equipment manager in the Fall of '69.

When the last game was over for the season, Everyone was celebrating and making a lot of noise. But as I got near the locker room area short of the showers, I heard yells coming from the training room. Some of the starters (big guys) had taped him to one of the training tables. Couldn't move his arms or legs and no one would cut him loose.

So I grabbed a pair of scissors and freed him. Don't know how long he would have been there if I hadn't come along. He was forever grateful and we laughed about that whenever we saw each other. Fun also being in band with him. 

09/14/18 07:45 AM #9    

Winifred Lin (Ngan)

Steve's family lived catty-corner to our house.  I was pleasantly surprised to find he always had an eye on the neighborhood.  He will be missed.  Loving thoughts to his family.

09/14/18 09:53 AM #10    

Peter Bogardus

Long live your memory.  May peace be with you and your family this day and always.

09/14/18 10:00 AM #11    

Steve Hewett

My heart goes out to Margery.  I just received an email from Steve a few days ago....he shared a video of vintage race cars.  I met Steve through our interest in foreign, and especially British cars.  He recently reminded me that I taught him how to heel-and-toe in my Sprite.  I'm selfishly disappointed that I won't have the opportunity to see Steve again, but I'm devastated that Steve can't spend more time with Margery and enjoying the open road on his motorcyle and scooter.  Friend, you will be missed.

09/17/18 05:49 AM #12    

Eric Eimstad

From his love of art, music, motorcycles and all of his other passions, Steve was truly a renaissance man and he was one of my closest friends at Paly.  We lost touch after college, but fortunately we reconnected about 10 years ago.  I've spent the last couple of days reading through our email exchanges and thinking about the good times we spent together in high school.  Steve was a very special man and will be greatly missed by those of us who were fortunate enough to have known him.  My thoughts are with Margery and his family.  Rest in peace, my friend.  

10/01/18 12:11 PM #13    

Martha E. Morgan

I'm sorry to hear this about Steve he will be truly missed and my prayers go out to his family.


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