Ridge leader Larry Morrish dead at 71

An advocate: Morrish was a fixture at precinct council meetings and a slew of other public events.

Bay Ridge megalith Larry Morrish died on Feb. 8 at the age of 71.

The so-called “Mayor of Bay Ridge” left a neighborhood forever changed and scores of locals who will not forget him, a friend of 45 years said.

“All of the civic work he did — that was a spirit that he helped bring and preserve here,” said titan of Third Avenue Chuck Otey. “Nobody wants to see that kind of volunteerism and community involvement fade, so I’ll tell you that we won’t let Larry go — we will remember him.”

Morrish, graduated Fort Hamilton High School and wasted no time embedding himself in local issues — in 1974 he helped found the Bay Ridge Ambulance Volunteer Organization at a time when the city’s emergency responders were stretched too thin to effectively serve residents. It is now the state’s largest volunteer service and a favorite volunteer outlet for local activists.

He also helped found the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in 1990s and the Bay Ridge Unity Task Force to promote interfaith peace following the 9-11 attacks. He was a regular among local civic associations and community board meetings, and a day rarely passed when Moorish could not be seen talking with neighbors on a Fifth Avenue bench near his home, one local official said.

It was his do-more, hands-on approach to community-building that warmed his widow Phillippa to him when they first met in 1995. Morrish called it an early night on their first date, because he and some friends were waking up early the next day to clean up Owls Head Park. Phillippa almost did not believe it, but she saw for herself the next morning, she said.

“When I saw them there, I said to myself, ‘This is a man with a heart,’ ” Philippa said. “That more than anything was what drew me to him — the largeness of heart.”

Moorish had a reputation among local pols as a straight-shooting activist who would work with or campaign for anyone on both sides of the proverbial aisle if it benefitted his neighbors. A score of federal, state, and city officials lauded Morrish’s wide body of civic work following news of his death on Monday, many calling him the epitome of a community activist. A former congresswoman remembered how Morrish “adopted” her during her 1990 campaign and always kept spirits high with his can-do attitude.

“He approached life with a sunny side and a joke, and for people who were privileged enough to know him, he had a very serious and responsible side — that’s why he was such an asset,” said former Rep. Susan Molinari. “He was the heart and soul. He was really the No. 1 cheerleader for Bay Ridge.”

Morrish died of an short-term illness caused by an intestinal issue. He is survived by his wife, brother, a niece, two nephews, and a sister. The family has not finalized funeral arrangements.

Reach reporter Dennis Lynch at (718) 260–2508 or e-mail him at dlynch@cnglocal.com.

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