Remembering Velma Morrison


The first and last time I met Velma Morrison was in the Spring of 2010. She had just returned to Boise for the warmer weather and agreed to sit down for a long-form, wide-ranging conversation about her life for Morning Edition, a program I was hosting for Boise State Public Radio.

But before our on-the-record conversation began, I watched her open a stack of letters that had piled up in her in-box while she was away. She would read a letter and tell me a story about its writer, all off-the-record. She was hilarious, biting and charming all at once. I feared that I would lose all of this color when my recorder began rolling. But she didn't disappoint.

Morrison spoke of that fateful day when, as the owner and chief coffee-pourer at her Bakersfield, California restaurant—The Broiler—when Harry Morrison wandered in with a bunch of friends on their way to a then-Boise Junior College football game. The rest was history.

Morrison talked of her world travels, working as a nurse in the California shipyards during World War II, how she became nursemaid to her husband in his final days, her four marriages and the creation of the Morrison Center for the Performing Arts, which remains her legacy, as it was renamed the Velma V. Morrison Center in 2009. As we parted, she was off to pick up an honorary doctorate from Boise State.

Boise State President Bob Kustra said he spoke with Morrison as recently as three months ago.

"We talked mostly about how the football team was shaping up," Kustra wrote Sunday evening in hearing about Morrison's passing.

Morrison, 92, died June 20 after suffering a heart attack in Rancho Mirage, California. Her family is planning a private memorial later this week.