Connie Alisa Morris passed away at her home in Apple Valley with loving family and friends by her side, on Tuesday, January 14, 2014, due to complications from metastasized lung cancer.
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Connie was born March 30, 1962, in Georgia, where she was adopted by Tom and Romie Morris of West Point, Ga., and spent her childhood years moving throughout the states of Georgia and Alabama.
In 1983, Connie enlisted in the United States Navy and never looked back. She attended HT "A" School in Philadelphia, becoming one of the few female welders in the Navy at that time. Working in a non-traditional field, she was in an elite group of women who were among the first to permanently serve aboard ships in the U.S. Navy. In 1984, she reported aboard the USS Simon Lake (AS-33), where she spent five years, the last three of those years helping repair submarines while the ship was home-ported in Holy Loch Scotland.
When her tour onboard the Simon Lake was finished in 1989, she became an NDT inspector (non-destructive testing), trained as a radiation worker, handling radioactive source material in order to X-ray the welds completed on various equipment essential to ship and sub operations. She then reported to SIMA, Mayport, Florida, for her first shore duty assignment.
Cutting her shore tour short, she accepted orders to her second and most favorite ship, the USS Yosemite (AD-19) home ported in Mayport. The YoYo immediately deployed to Desert Storm in 1991, where it sat off the coast of Kuwait and where Connie spent many 12-hour shifts as a gun mount captain breathing the smoke from oil fires burning in the distance.
When the drawdown saw the YoYo slated for decommissioning, she reluctantly became a west coast sailor, accepting orders to the USS Samuel Gompers (AD-37), home ported in Alameda, California.
En route to the Gompers in 1994, she received training as an NDT examiner. It was now her job to train and certify other NDT inspectors and sign off on the repair jobs completed on ships and subs of the Navy.
When the continuing drawdown saw the decommissioning of the Gompers, Connie took another leap of faith and became a Navy law enforcement specialist. Her first LE assignment was at Naval Station Treasure Island in 1995 as the night shift watch commander. Again, with bases being closed, she watched as the gates were shuttered and the keys to one of the Navy's most historical bases were handed over to the City by the Bay.
From there, she transferred to Concord Naval Weapon Station, home to many bunkers storing items that spanned all the 20th Century conflicts and a national historic place, Port Chicago, where the worst stateside naval disaster occurred during World War II. It was here that Connie met Patty and decided to retire under another drawdown program, TERA, or Temporary Early Retirement.
She retired December 31, 1998, as a hull maintenance technician first class (Surface Warfare) with 15 years of faithful service, earning three Navy Achievement Medals, a Meritorious Unit Citation, three Sea Service Ribbons, three Navy Good Conduct Medals, the Southwest Asia Service Medal, Expert Pistol and the Navy Battle "E" Ribbon. Maintaining her veteran's status, Connie was a member of American Legion Post 448 in San Francisco for the past 15 years and also a VFW member at Large and DAV member.
After retirement, Connie soon found employment with The Home Depot, working as a sales associate and risk management associate until March of 2004 when she, her partner, Patty, four cats and their beloved malamute, Maile, moved to Apple Valley for a better way of life. Moving to Apple Valley allowed her to work on projects in her very own 1500-sq. ft. workshop filled with every tool and piece of equipment she could want. If she could visualize it, she could build it. She loved her "acre of dirt" and took great pride in being a homeowner.
In 2000, Connie was diagnosed with lupus by the Veterans Health Administration, a result of the blood work findings from her disability rating physical. Through the years, several other disorders were added to the list: fibromyalgia, scleroderma, scoliosis, sjogren's syndrome, renault's, degenerative disc disease. So after years of suffering with chronic pain, when she first learned she had lung cancer on September 30th, 2013, her comment was, "I finally have an end date."
Preceded in death by her mother, Romie Thompson Morris, Connie is survived by her partner of 16 years, Patty Duwel, with whom she joined in domestic partnership in 2006 and then married on July 9th, 2013; and by her father, Thomas Morris of Statesboro, Georgia; and her father-in-law, Louis Duwel of Apple Valley. She will be missed by her Southern gentlemen cousins, George, John and Robert; her Steel Magnolia cousins, Faye, Raye and Kaye; her extended family by marriage, Chris, Brenda, Juli and Ed; by her dear friends, Claudia, John, Eric and Ayden; and by her beloved four-legged humans, Marlee, Jake and Shadow.
Waiting for her at the Rainbow Bridge were Ebony, Mac, Maile and BriBri. As she graces the clouds in Heaven, Madeleine, Eileen, Susan, Jeff and her mom, Ronnie, are embracing her with open arms.
There will be a graveside service in Green Hills Memorial Park in Rancho Palos Verdes (San Pedro) on Saturday, February 8, at 2 p.m. with a Celebration of Life following.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to any of the following organizations: The Lupus Foundation (www.lupus.org); The Women's Memorial (WIMSA) (www.womensmemorial.org); The Navy Memorial (www.navymemorial.org); The Wolf Mountain Sanctuary (www.wolfmountain.com); Visiting Nurse Association of California (Victorville) (www.vnacalifornia.org); Sea Wolff Dog School.
Statesboro Herald, February 2, 2014
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Published in Statesboro Herald from Feb. 2 to Feb. 11, 2014