Gene Morris, former publisher of the McCook Gazette, was always “lifting up the people on his staff,” said Sharyn Skiles, the Gazette’s current publisher.

Morris, 80, died Sunday at the Kearney Regional Medical Center of double pneumonia and heart complications.

Skiles said Morris, no matter the task or topic, was a passionate person.

“It didn’t really matter what he was doing,” she said. “He was passionate about golf, he was passionate about Husker football, he was passionate about his role at the newspaper, the McCook community and the whole southwest Nebraska area.”

Morris had a passion for journalism as early as high school. He began his journalism career in McCook in 1961, as a city and sports reporter.

He later served as the paper’s managing editor from 1969 to 1980.

He and his wife, Barbara, purchased the Benkelman Post and News-Chronicle in Benkelman, Nebraska, in June 1981. They operated it until 1990.

Morris returned to McCook in 1990 and took over as publisher of the paper that gave him his start. He held the position for 17 years. After retiring from the position, he continued to work part time for the paper.

“He had very strong convictions about what the newspaper should and shouldn’t do for the community, and he always expressed those convictions,” Skiles said.

Morris was given multiple honors during his time as the Gazette’s publisher, including a spot in the Nebraska Journalism Hall of Fame in 2009, as well as a Master Editor-Publisher Award in 2014 and Leadership Nebraska Award in 2017, both from the Nebraska Press Association.

Morris also held McCook, his home of over three decades, in high regard. He wrote three books about the city’s history and served on five different community-related boards. After retiring from the Gazette in 2008, he served as the executive director of McCook’s Fox Theater.

Survivors include his wife, Barbara Morris, of McCook; brother Mike Morris of Salem, Indiana; and children Marita Morris of Fort Worth, Texas, Michelle Spieker of Dana Point, California, Debra Adair of Littleton, Colorado, and Rodney Long of Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

Visitation will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday at Herrmann Jones Funeral Chapel in McCook. Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at McCook Christian Church.

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