Jessie McKeen Morss
November 30, 2007
Longtime Aspen resident Jessie McKeen Morss died in Denver on Nov. 18 after a brief illness. She moved with her four children to Aspen in 1965 when her Army physician husband, Dwight F. Morss, was assigned to Vietnam. Jessie became active in the Aspen art world, initiating the Aspen Arts Festival. She stayed active in her community throughout a full and rich life that was blessed with many friends, a love of the outdoors and a driving curiosity to explore the planet and its people.
Jessie served on the boards of the Aspen Deaf Camp and the Starwood Homeowners Association, and was active in the arts, the Community Church and the Prince of Peace Chapel. She volunteered every summer at the lemonade stand to benefit her beloved Aspen Music Festival. She recently spent six weeks in Mississippi as a volunteer Red Cross disaster nurse, helping people displaced by Hurricane Katrina. She also volunteered in Mother Teresa’s hospital for lepers and at the orphanage in Calcutta, India.
Jessie was born July 11, 1926, in Aspen, Nova Scotia, and was raised in the woods of Kapuskasing, Ontario. She studied nursing in Toronto and at Johns Hopkins, and later was chief operating room nurse at Columbia Medical Center in New York, where she met her husband. The next 25 years were spent as an Army wife, moving her family frequently and cultivating her deep passion for travel.
Jessie’s first trip to Mount Everest, in time for her 50th birthday, spurred her to trek extensively throughout the Himalayas. She visited all seven continents, scuba diving and sailing in waters around the world, and celebrated her 70th birthday by bungee-jumping off a bridge in New Zealand. She recently spent winters in Hawaii, summers in Aspen and the rest of the year living out of a suitcase in Bali, New Guinea, China, Japan, Australia and Europe.
She is survived by her children and grandchildren: Kim Morss and Richard, Cameron and Alison Dehncke of Greenwood Village, Colo.; Terry, Paula, Leigh, Foster and Rebecca Morss of Ventnor, N.J.; Chris, Kris, Delaney, Gregory and Jennifer of Pleasanton, Calif.; Betsy, David, Kelly and Andrew Byrne of Boulder, Colo.
Jessie’s many charitable acts, her passionate love of the arts, and her indomitable spirit of adventure will be remembered at a celebration of her life in Denver on Dec. 16. In Aspen next summer, a celebration will be held in conjunction with the Aspen Music Festival.
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A scholarship has been established in Jessie’s memory at Outward Bound School of Colorado, c/o Outward Bound, P.O. Box 62161, Baltimore MD 21264-2161. Or a contribution may be made in her name to the Aspen Music Festival, or to a hospice of your choice.