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Joe Morrissey passes away

A man smiling
Joe Morrissey

CBM mourns the passing of Joe Morrissey, a long time CBM co-worker who recently retired, but was still active in deaf education.

Pioneering CBM co-worker

Joe Morrissey - a long time CBM co-worker - passed away recently in his adopted home of Tanzania. Joe, who retired in 2012, was still active in deaf education and in providing individual support to children living with poverty and disability.

He was a pioneer in the field of deaf education. In his own quiet and professional way, he transformed the lives of many deaf children, ensuring they not only received an education but became fully functioning members of their communities.

To a great extent, the CBM family was Joe’s family and this is a great loss. He will be greatly missed.

Personal tributes to Joe

(in no particular order)

First of all I thank Joe Morrissey for his selfless service of over 40 years in which he touched lives of numerous deaf and deafblind children! I have been fortunate to meet Joe in many occasions and always been impressed by his simplicity and knowledge on deafblindness.

On behalf of Sense International India, I extend my heartfelt condolences to the family, friends & colleagues of Joe and pray for eternal peace to his departed soul. 

With you in prayers,

Akhil S. Paul, Director, Sense International India

Joe Morrissey was my dear friend. He was the first person I worked with at CBM – Advisory Working Group in the area of deaf education. From the first day on, he was there to guide and inspire me with his gentle and kind manner; he was wise and funny, sweet and to the point. We shared the love for deaf people, for deaf education and for our work at CBM. We worked together in so many places, but he was always an ambassador for Africa and for deaf people. I thank the LORD for the life of Joe, my dear friend. May God comfort us all with the assurance of the resurrection.
“We give Joe back to thee, dear Lord, who gavest Joe to us.
yet as thou didst not lose him in giving, so we have not lost
him by his return. What thou gavest thou takest not away. O
Lover of souls; for what is thine is ours also if we are thine.
And life is eternal and love is immortal, and death is only an
horizon, and an horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight.
Lift us up, strong Son of God, that we may see further; cleanse
our eyes that we may see more clearly; and draw us closer to
thyself that we may know ourselves to be nearer to our loved
ones who are with thee.
And while thou dost prepare a place for us, prepare us also for
that happy place, that where they are and thou art, we too may
be for evermore. Amen.”
William Penn (1644- 1718 - paraphrased)
Beatriz Carmem Warth Raymann

I lost a loving and caring father: I am grieved after learning the death of my beloved father who moved my life from grass to grace. Joe was my mentor and a teacher during a trip to WFD- Congress in Durban-South Africa, dearest friend and guardian. You had me in mind all the time.  Joe stood strong and acted like a great father to me a Deaf boy in Africa. Educational assistance you gave me is like a pillar of love you had for the Deaf community. You have fought a good fight of faith for the Deaf and Deaf blind. You have finished the race. We will miss you. Rest in peace papa.

George Otieno Osawa

We have lost a wonderful friend and a professional who has a great passion for the education of persons with hearing impairment.  Our deepest condolences to the bereaved family.


To Joe Morris 
Friend. Brother. Father. 
That he was, and now - He is:

Your Life of Selfless Sacrifice,
In completion with Love & Peace;
You Gave to Share the Privilege of Living;
You Gave, not as Charity, but as a form of Oneness;
With Dedication, You Committed Yourself to Others, 
That the fullness of Humanness found expression in Your Kindness.

Your Life was Complete,
For You found Oneness in Humanity; 
As an African, You fulfilled your Ubuntu:
I am what I am because of who we all are.

Your Passing in Gentle Sleep
Was smooth transition: 
From human existence to the Spirit,
A Reflection of the Love & Harmony you shared with us.

Morris, we mourn not Your Passing,
But rejoice in Your Life.
You Continue with us:
In our Lives,
In our work.
Morris, Rest In Peace.
We are Grateful for Your Being with US.

*A Tribute from us: deaf, deafblind, hard of hearing and hearing East Africans who have been recipients of Morris' Kindness, Generosity, Support and Love: 

Nassozi B. Kiyaga
Deaf Link Uganda
21 January, 2014

My dear friend and colleague Joe, Morris, José, Mr. Deaf, is no more.

Altruistic, loving, caring and with a heart of gold, he devoted his life to the work for persons with deafness and deafblindness in Africa.

We miss him.

We shall never again enjoy his smile and humour or his infinite patience and wisdom.
We shall no more eagerly open his emails and read “Greetings from Moshi, we are fine this way..” or see his pictures of Kilimanjaro or the flowers blossoming in his garden.
We shall not be able to consult him on small or big matters.

He shall never again in the meetings of the African Federation of the Deafblind
interpret any combination of Swahili- English- Sign Language- French, take notes, assist a person with deafblindness in the breaks so his interpreters can relax a moment, take a person who is ill to hospital, care for him and comfort him and his family, negotiate with the hospital.
And he shall not be able to connect us to others who may assist in whatever needs we may have. 

We, who had the privilege to learn from him and to be his friends, shall remember him and his achievements and carry on his tireless efforts for persons with deafness and deafblindness in Africa and the rest of the world.
We shall continue to work together in his spirit without looking at our own personal gain.

Ann Thestrup, Consultant on Deafblindness, Denmark

With deep sadness we received the message that on Wednesday the 15th of January our colleague and dear friend Joe Morrissey passed away.
We will always remember Joe as a passionate person with a big heart for the people he worked with.
With his characteristic African outfit he seemed to express that he was one with the Africans. He felt at home in Africa. He felt one with the Deaf community.
His gentle and friendly character made him loved by everyone he encountered. With his work and the schools he built he really leaves a priceless legacy. We will miss his extensive knowledge on the situation of Deaf children in Africa, his strong connection with the Deaf community and his passion for realizing equal rights through deaf education.
His contributions at meetings and conferences came right from his heart. We are very grateful that he shared his vision on the Kentalis East Africa conference on Deaf education two years ago. Personally I most remember him saying, “We are doing a lot, but it is not enough…. we should do more!”. Let us try to remember this. May his soul rest in peace.

Fred Marinus
Kentalis International Foundation
The Netherlands

I find it difficult to believe that Papa is no more. I have known him for twenty years. I first met him in 1994 when I joined Kerugoya School for the deaf. In fact he is the one who recommended I attend the school after spending more than a year looking for one after I became deaf. He shaped my life in many ways than I can remember. One thing he always mentioned was how proud he was of me after completing my undergraduate.

I was with him in Kerugoya just last year in November during the graduation ceremony for the deafblind children. Mr. Deaf will always remain close to my heart.

Rose Kwamboka

His encouraging  and appreciation words  are still in my mind which motive me to do further innovative programmes  for deafblind  and Multi sensory impaired . He really admired the restaurant programme run by Deaf and deafblind young adults.

His visit to Holy Cross service Society is the first and Last Visit

When I dropped him at airport he made Emotional Good Bye and he wished me to have same enthusiastic sprit to support special need children -  which is unforgettable event to me.

Leela Agnes
Holy Cross Service Society

To Joe, a colleague and friend:
Joe's candle will stay alight in my heart for as long as I can draw breath. His light will continue to shine in the hearts of countless others, people who were seen as professionals, parents, colleagues, deaf or deafblind alike. His light shone across nations, but mainly in his adopted land of East Africa where he has spent most of his professional career. He died in his special place in the world and I know from what he shared, that this is exactly where he was at peace. He would not have wanted to die anywhere else in the world.
I had the privilege to be introduced to Joe in 1993/4 when I joined the then two person band of CBM International Advisors for Deaf Education, save Beatriz Raymann (Brazil) and the inimitable Joseph Morrissey - our Mr Deaf. The group had only recently been formed, but nonetheless I felt like a newcomer. They say first impressions count, well first impressions did not do justice to the special person I was about to spend the next 20 years working with. I was struck by the way he always wore his African tops (and this with pride) and by his moustache which became the basis for his signed name. From then his style never changed. During our first meeting he immediately put at my ease with his caring, professional, passionate and valuing ways. As people who knew Joe, not only was he very serious about his work, but he had the enormous gift of humour and joy. It was at this first meeting that I was introduced to Joe's famous dance of joy. Whenever we made a statement which we were all happy with, he would clap his hands and give a little jump in his own unique style - this was Joe's dance of joy. In turn this gave a leap of joy for others to enjoy.
Needless to say that my admiration for his achievements and commitments to lives of persons who are deaf / deafblind only grew in respect and understanding from those early years.
He was always willing to share his knowledge and understanding. Once, whilst I was working in Papua New Guinea, I had the good fortune to attend a CBM Co-Workers conference in Mombassa. Following the conference I had decided to take a week's leave. Joe was kind enough to invite me to stay at Uganda School for the Deaf, Kampala. He was then a CBM co-worker assigned as Principal of the school. We travelled to Kampala by road from Nairobi. The day started early, but en route Joe would stop now and then to check on children who'd had operations / or were in hospital (whilst he worked with deaf children, he also ensured medical attention for those with visual impairments too). Further, as we travelled the road, passing amazing scenery and wildlife, the like I'd never seen before, we picked up a child and his parents who'd had medical attention from a hospital to take them home to Uganda. The details escape me now, but I was struck by how he took advantage of every situation to maximise the best use of time to follow up on all in his care. Later, after a long journey by dusty road, we arrived at the school. We were settling down to a cuppa when there was a knock at the door by a young deaf man. Joe patiently listened and dealt with the matter in hand. This was not the first of the visits during the course of the evening, teachers and deaf people alike called to share their worries or just to say a welcome back. This was Joe, patient and willing always.
I was introduced to the school the following day and was impressed with the standard of signed communication amongst teachers and pupils. Many of those children are now adults, and many of them work to improve the lives of other children and young people who are deaf / deafblind through initiatives like Deaf Link Uganda.
The list of memories could go on, professional memories, memories of dancing until the early hours, memories of great joy and serious debate, memories of him staying with me in Wales - there is a book here somewhere!
Last year I was fortunate enough to go to Uganda to visit Deaf Link Uganda (DLU), led by Nassozi Kyiaga and her team of faithful deaf volunteers. One of the visits to see DLU's work was to Ngora, where Joe first worked with deaf children. He developed the School for the Deaf in Ngora and has asked that half his ashes are laid to rest there. I am so grateful to have had this opportunity during his lifetime to hear from teachers and deaf people of the difference Joe made in their lives. He truly was a father figure to them all! He was praised so highly by all we met. Indeed the regional coordinator (also a teacher of the deaf) for DLU was trained by Joe; all the volunteers were educated by Joe, or supported through their education by him / CBM in some way. When I asked these individuals why they were volunteering with DLU to work with deaf people in the area whilst also working full time themselves, the answer was simple This is what Morris showed us - the work never stops. When you have had such great opportunities, you need to give to the next generation; share your gifts...
Joe still privately sponsored a number of deaf children through education until his death last week.
Whilst Joe never looked for praise for himself, but rather champion the cause of others; praise others for what they are doing. His recent concerns were quality education for persons who are deaf / deafblind; secondary and higher education opportunities; reaching deaf children in rural areas; HIV and Aids and focus on the preventable causes of deafblindness.
When Joe retired from CBM as a co-worker in 2012, I am so pleased that the joint group of CBM advisors in Ear and Hearing Care, along with advisors in the Education of persons who are deaf / hard of hearing / deafblind managed to give him a small gift to show our appreciation as he retired from full time work. The joint group had an Advisory Working Group meeting in Zimbabwe just before the AAENTA Conference in Victoria Falls. To Joe the gifts he received were special, but of greater pleasure was that we were together and that his close colleagues were there to celebrate his life with CBM with him. Thankfully, he agreed to continue as an advisor on a part time contract and continued to work professionally and with great enthusiasm until his sudden death last week.
To close, what will stay with me is the quiet unassuming character that Joe was. He would sit quietly in meetings, until he had reflected on the discussion, and then hit you with a powerful and meaningful comment. When he had a cause to champion, he would never miss the opportunity to bring this to the attention of those at hand.
He was the quiet champion; the light that shone; our Mr Deaf.
May his soul rest in peace in the house of our Father, may his light continue to shine in the hearts of those he touched which were many and may his smile continue to give joy in our hearts.
Thank you for the gift of knowing you, Joe. I will always appreciate all you gave to me my friend.
The best celebration of his memory is to continue Joe's journey for a better life for persons who are deaf / deafblind all over the world, wherever they may be.
With multiple memories

In Memory of ‘Morris’

Joseph Michael Morrissey was known by many names including ‘Joey’ by his aunts and ‘Ernie’ by his nieces and ‘Morris’ by his African friends. The most cherished was the sign-name used by the deaf and Deaf-blind communities of E Africa: the right thumb and index finger rubbed together at the right corner of closed but smiling lips - the place where his handle-bar mustache hangs.

February 14th 2014 will be “Morris-day” in these African deaf communities that proudly included Joe as one of their brothers in sign and heart.  

Morris and I date back to 1973 in Nairobi, Kenya.   He was working with the Kenya Society for the Deaf and I was seeking to volunteer in deaf education / audiology.  Morris, having a wealth of experience as a Peace Corps (special education) Volunteer in Uganda took me under his wing and helped me develop a school for the deaf near Meru while Morris was directing a new school for the deaf in Kerugoya, Kenya – his first and most memorable of many deafness and development projects.    We crossed paths often and became mutual supports.   During these days we began working with Italian human rights activist, Annalena Tonelli in Wajir Northern  Kenya.   Our dedication and work with her mission became yet another bond in our friendship. 
Morris, was given wings long ago, but the resources to support his visionary work for the deaf came in 1984 from CBM, Germany.  Over next thirty  years he served as the pleading ‘voice’ of the deaf and deaf-blind and the conscience for moral and political correctness at international meetings where participants discussed what is best for his beloved Africa.  

After living for years at various schools for the deaf with an apartment in Nairobi as CBM regional advisor,  Joe’s last years were passed enjoyed at his quaint home at the CBM office in Moshi, Tanzania and later to a charming cottage with a bedroom view of Mt. Kilimanjaro, probably his last view before joining his beloved Lord.  

Meet one of hundreds of the Morris legacy,  Kasseth Andrews.  Like hundreds of other deaf students capable of higher education, Morris made it possible for Kasseth to join the Rochester (NY) Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf.  Upon hearing news of the passing of Joe from the E. African Deaf community blog “Joe Morrissey is No More”, Kasseth wrote us the following:

 “Today, I lost a very important person in my life. RIP Joe Morrissey.  I will Miss you.   Before he died, (January 14 Seth was with Morris in Moshi – on winter break) he gave me 20 letters to mail to his relatives in the USA and gave $2,000 for me.  I am very sad! 

Because of Joe I’m able to go to RIT to study. He helped me a lot.  I met so many wonderful people through Joe Morrissey.”

May the Legacy of Joe Morrissey live not only within the walls of the schools he built, and within the hearts and minds of those who were lovingly touched by his gentle spirit, but moreover in our continuing commitment, passion and actions that can enable the deaf in Africa to rise to their full potential.                      

Shine on, Joe Morrissey…..

Ron Brouillette

In Joe's Memory
Joe,  you were a friend indeed.
A friend in need a Friend indeed.
Many of us are what we are now because of you.
In need of Braille material and equipment? you were there.
In need of Sponsorship, Guidance and counselling? you were there.
In need of Personal presence with a smile? you were there.
You knew no boundary / no distance!! St. Francis School for the Blind was your home. You were "Papa" indeed.
Thank you Papa.
Now you are physically no more,  to us there is one more Angel in heaven.

Rest in Peace Papa.

Sr. Agwang Winifred Mary
Headteacher(S. Francis Schools for the Blind Madera, Soroti - Uganda)

Man on a mission - Joe Morrissey 1993

In 1993, Michael Morrissey wrote an essay about his uncle Joe Morrissey. It captures the spirit of his work in Africa in the mid-1990's.

Man on a Mission
“Darktari” (Swahili for Medicine Man) was shouted from the masses of children racing towards the oncoming Land Rover which was carrying (with it) food, medical supplies, carpentry tools, and “Mr. Deaf.”
Joseph Morrissey (Mr. Deaf) exited the vehicle with a boy in his arms.  The boy was bandaged from ear to ear, but he had retained a smile upon his face.
Muthike, the young boy who was recovering from and ear operation, was able to hear again, thanks to Mr. Morrissey’s persistence in helping the boy receive the necessary attention to restore his hearing capability.
Muthike was found in a small tribal village in Northern Kenya by Mr. Morrissey.  The boy was deaf, but because he was found in time, it was possible, through an ear operation, for him to regain some of his hearing.
Mr. Morrissey isn’t a doctor or a missionary, but he is a well-experienced man on his own “mission”… a mission to help as many underprivileged children in Kenya as he can by providing them with health care and education.
On these principles, he founded a school with the help of a Catholic Consolata Nun named Sr. Groachina.
They began the Kerugoya School for the Deaf with the financial support of the Christoffel Blindenmission of West Germany (CBM), a charitable organization.  The main objective of the school has been to provide education and general health care to hearing impaired children of Kenya, Africa.
They started with only six children, but today there are over 160 children and 50 faculty and staff members.
The children come from different parts of Kenya with a few from Uganda, Somalia, and Burundi.  This variation of localities qualifies the school to be a boarding institution.  The children live in large dormitories holding an average of 40 pupils.
The children are hand-picked by Mr. Morrissey and his staff.  And, many of the children often come in poor health condition.  Those who can benefit from operations are always given the best possible attention.  With the help of Mr. Morrissey and CBM, these children often receive the necessary operations and are given the ability to hear again.  Because of Mr. Morrissey’s efforts in helping the hearing impaired children of Kenya, he had properly been labeled “Mr. Deaf” by the children he helped.
Mr. Morrissey challenges many obstacles, but his determination and will to help the children of Kenya has never been deterred.
A home has been found for Mr. Morrissey in Kenya.  A home where he is the “father” and friend of many children. A home very far away from his childhood home in America. He has given up what we many of us know as home, to build one in a land so strange and different from ours.
The home he has helped build for the natives (The Kerugoya School for the Deaf), once a single-room construction with no chairs or chalkboards, now contains many structures with all the necessities.
There are eight classrooms and vocational training facilities, four dormitories (one named after Mr. Morrissey) and housing for the staff and administration. There is now a large bathing complex available with running water.
Not only has the Kerugoya School for Deaf grown over the years, but the students have grown as well. Many of the children, who were enrolled in the school at the time of its conception, have progressed on to higher levels of education.  Many of the children now attend African public high schools, and some even attend universities.
Due to the completion of the school and the overwhelming progress of the children, Mr. Morrissey no longer lives in Kerugoya.  He has packed up his bags and headed to the neighboring country of Uganda where he may help as he did in Kenya.
To us, the sacrifice to live this type of lifestyle is too great, but to Mr. Morrissey it is the only way of life he could be happy with. The people there need him almost as much as he needs them.
“They were immeasurably astonished, and exclaimed, ‘How well he has done everything! He even makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak’.” (Mark 7:37)

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CBM co-worker Mr Joseph Morrissey retires

Sian Tesni interviews Mr. Joseph Morrissey, a CBM co-worker who worked as a teacher in East Africa for more than 40 years



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