Rich Morse, founder and owner of The Button Box, died Monday, March 2, 2009, following the recurrence and rapid progression of melanoma, which he first developed in 1995. The end was quiet and peaceful, for which we are all grateful.
Rich was born in Hawaii as Gordon Richard Morse, III. He came to the mainland to study at the Rhode Island School of Design and made New England his home thereafter. In his years as a practicing architect, his designs were a marvel, consistently displaying an exceptional sense of spatial relations and creative problem-solving. He was a longtime advocate for energy efficiency, incorporating conservation-minded principles into his plans for clients and practicing them in his private life. Rich riding his aging bike the mile between his house and The Button Box was a familiar sight; regardless of the weather, he was rarely willing to make such an inefficient trip using fossil fuel.
Rich started The Button Box in 1980, while living in a cabin in rural Wardsboro, Vermont. It was a sideline in the beginning, but his passion for free-reed instruments overtook his interest in architecture, and he eventually became a full-time "employee" of The Button Box. His capability as an innovative designer and his unlimited capacity for optimism were largely responsible for the development of R. Morse & Co. concertinas, and his abiding interest in all to do with concertinas made him something of a celebrity in the admittedly small niche of free-reed aficianados. In that role, he was unstintingly generous with his time, knowledge, and positive spirit.
Rich was in inveterate player of games, with an especial fondness for Go and Scrabble. He was a dedicated father, a talented photographer, an enthusiastic Morris dancer and contra dancer, and loved to play music and compose tunes.
He is survived by two sons, Geordie, of Sunderland, Massachusetts, and Kiva, of Phoenix, Arizona. His parents still live in Hawaii, and he has other close relatives in Hawaii and throughout the mainland.
Our last printed catalogue gave Rich's job description as "Guiding Light," and so he was, not only to us, but to others whose lives intersected with his. We at The Button Box will carry on, as will his friends and family, but we will miss him very much. Our thanks to all who have been in touch with us to express their sadness and share their memories of an exceptional human being.
There is now a website for memories, stories, and pictures of Rich. Anybody can edit it easily to add their own stories and pictures, and a few people have added stories already. Please take a look and feel free to add your own stories and pictures.
The New Box, composed by Rich.
Sound clip courtesy of Susan Conger, from her CD, Along the River. With Susan on fiddle and Timm Triplett on piano. The second part of the track is Triplett's Rolling Home.