Sedona builder Phil Morris dies

After a two-year battle with congestive heart failure, Phil Morris, 84, died Nov. 17.

The Morris Company’s portfolio includes commercial projects such as Enchantment Resort, Los Abrigados, the Sedona campus of Verde Valley Medical Center, Hillside Shopping Center, Inn Above Oak Creek, El Rojo Grande Ranch, Mariposa and most recently, Ambiente: A Landscape Hotel.

His award-winning custom homes range from mountainside abodes, sprawling ranches, eco-friendly canyon hideaways, and a log-and-glass home near Junipine Resort in Oak Creek Canyon, among others.

The Morris family recently gathered at his West Sedona farmhouse where he and his wife, Pamela, lived to talk about his life, memories and lessons they learned from a man who was not just a building contractor and engineer, but a beloved husband, father, stepfather, grandfather and brother.

Present were his oldest brother Dan, his youngest brother, Rick, his daughter, Denise Nomura, step­daughter, Jennifer Stonebraker, and his wife, Pamela. Robert, the third-eldest brother, died in May from Parkinson’s disease.

While most people look at art for their walls, Morris’ family said he thought a home should be the work of art. For more than 54 years, Morris has been the corner­stone of many foundations built in Sedona. Throughout his career, he remained true to his core values. Many clients became his friends. His custom luxury homes and commercial buildings have become landmarks.

Web Search Engine

Morris considered his relation­ship with his clients to be his top priority, his family said. His goal was to construct a fun experience for his customers in the stressful home-building process.

The trust they placed in him is a testament to the profession­alism and unparalleled reputation he has worked hard to establish, they said. In many cases, not only did Morris build his client’s first home, he was called upon to build their second and oftentimes their third home as well.

At age 84, Morris had no desire to retire. He relished the fact that people would call him again and again to build their homes. He once said that the only way he would quit is if his body quits.

Sedona Family History

In 1913, the Morrises’ aunt and uncle, Sally and George Black moved to Sedona.

They owned a house near Grasshopper Flat — now called West Sedona. The family referred to this house as the “dry ranch” because it had no electricity or water. Later, the Blacks built a stone house referred to by the family as “the wet ranch,” which had electricity and running water. That stone house was located on a ranch, which is now Los Abrigados Resort.

At one time or another each family member said that they lived in the tiny stone house — and later, a larger home was built on the property — the Morris House. The property was later sold, and Phil Morris built Los Abrigados for the new owners. The stone house and the Morris House are still a part of the resort.

According to the family, Morris’ father Marion Sword Morris was a rambunctious character. He was given the nickname “Slim,” and during Prohibition, when alcohol was illegal, Slim owned a still at the ranch house on Doodlebug, down the creek.

Slim would get into several fights that landed him in jail. He was the first prisoner at the Cottonwood Jail on Main Street.

Slim met his wife, Helen, on the porch of the Hart general store on Brewer Road — now the Hummingbird House. She was one of the first schoolteachers in the canyon and taught school near Slide Rock.

Her father was a pastor of a Spanish church in Flagstaff.

Slim worked in the mines in Jerome and did electrical mainte­nance. Both Dan and Phil Morris were born at the hospital in Jerome, now known as the Jerome Grand Hotel. They lived in a company house in Clarkdale and later Cottonwood.

When the copper mines shut down in the 1940s, the Morris family moved to California in search of work. Slim landed a job with Lockheed Martin during the duration of World War II and was then hired by Bechtel, a global engineering and construction and project management company. He managed the nuclear power construction for Bechtel and rubbed elbows with the late Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, on a project in New Zealand.

During the summers, Dan Morris spoke of the time that he and Phil Morris would take the train from California to Arizona to visit Aunt Sally and Uncle George in Sedona. He recalled the times they took baths in a tin tub once a week, had breakfast made by Uncle George and the shotguns that Aunt Sally gave them.

“The best thing is that Aunt Sally would give us a .22 rifle, and here we were under 10 years old,” Dan Morris said. “We would take off with the .22 and some ammunition and walk around in West Sedona and shoot at anything — mostly cow turds and water tanks which used to exist back then.”

Phil Morris graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in construction and engineering.

He started a company in Phoenix, building custom luxury homes and shopping centers.

His Aunt Sally needed to be cared for, so Morris would come up to take care of her every weekend. It was then that Morris fell in love with Sedona once again. In 1967 he started Morris Fine Homebuilding, building homes and commercial properties over five decades.

Family Words of Wisdom

Rick Morris said that he would always remember the ethics of the Morris clan. His grandfather would say, “‘Son, in my world there are only two can’ts. If you can’t do it — you can’t stay,’ To me, that is a simple story that Dan, Phil, Robert and I learned. There was no middle ground,” Rick Morris said.

“My dad would embrace life. He loved to travel and loved to expe­rience new cultures. He taught me about art and about wine,” Phil Morris’ daughter Denise said. “I think I was about 10 or 12 and I was drinking wine with my father. He taught me about the quality of life and that we have a choice — he used to always say that to me. There are beautiful things in this world and you can choose to follow those things or not. He was such a class act and taught me so much. He formed my life and was there for me any minute, any time. He was always there. He was my rock.”

Morris had been suffering for the last two years, his wife Pamela said. The congestive heart failure compounded with more things happening.

“His health was declining rapidly in the past six months. He was in and out of the hospital at least 12 times over the past year,” Pamela Morris said.

“I saw him several times and each time he got worse,” Denise said. “His attitude was that they are going to figure this out, they are going to fix me — I have work to do. He was taking calls from clients even while he was in the hospital.

“I told him to take it easy. On the way home from the hospital, I said ‘Uncle Danny said for every day you are in the hospital, you have to take a day off at home,’ and the next morning he is dressed, putting on his shoes and said, ‘I am just going to the office for one hour. I swear for one hour. I’m OK.’”

For Phil Morris, his work was his life. He left behind landmarks of art that will be a reminder of the beauty he created within Sedona.

Artmotion U.S.A

Arizona News (Sedona)

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button