“… a genuine sunniness”

Sunny Morse, an interview by Emily Slomovits, 2009

Bernice “Sunny” Morse was born on May 12th1916, in Warren Pennsylvania. Her earliest memory is of playing near a stream by her house. “And there were tiny stones that could be crushed to make paint. I used to spend hours making little colored puddles on the rocks.” 

Sunny lived in the country for the first few years of her life and went to the one-room schoolhouse there, called Belle Valley. She walked from her house to the school on a dirt country road. It wasn’t far, only about the length of a city block. Her favorite subject in school was arithmetic, and while she liked almost every subject, later she took a mild dislike to history. About her teacher, Sunny says, “She was kind, welcoming, and accepting, very fair, and not the least bit strict” 

When she was in fourth grade, she and her mother moved to the city. At her new school, the principal was “mean and strict” Sunny says. She remembers a time when the principal seized a young boy by the collar and “threw him violently against the wall. He was not a nice man”. 

Sunny’s first job was as an architect, which came in handy many years later when she and her late husband, Bill, built the house that is two doors down from mine. (Sunny no longer lives there, but moved into the Chelsea Retirement Community two years ago.) During World War II, she worked in a physics lab. 

Sunny’s favorite food is rare steak. “Really rare,” she says, laughing. When I ask her about her favorite movie, nothing springs to mind for her, but surprisingly she knows the first movie she ever saw. “It was called “Lilac Time,” and they had the smell of lilacs coming through the vents in the theater”, Sunny remembers. “If only we had that in our theaters!” 

Sunny says that Eleanor Roosevelt was a great inspiration to her. She told me, “Eleanor was an activist. She was intelligent, and she guided her husband. She made him active in things he probably wouldn’t have been. She was wealthy but very aware of the poor.”‘

Sunny’s hobbies are knitting and sewing. She loves sailing, but hasn’t done it for quite a while. 

When I ask her if she has advice for young people today, Sunny, 93, says, “Develop and appreciate friendships, and invest time and thought into them. And identify your main interests in life and pursue them.” 

Sunny is one of the few people I’ve met who seems to exude a genuine sunniness, a happiness that follows her, leaving a glow in the room even when she leaves it. I am honored to call Sunny Morse my friend. 

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