Friend Mal Morrissey remembered by many

Karen Danner

Chillicothe lost one of its most respected former businessmen last week when Mal Morrissey died in Missouri.

For several years, Morrissey managed the JC Penney store in Chillicothe, both on Second Street and then its move where Family Dollar is now located.

Morrissey also had a son who managed the JC Penney store in Galesburg.

After Morrissey retired from Penneys, he became involved with the Chillicothe Foundation.

His move to Missouri left a void for many of the people who called him friend.

When it came to the humorous side of Morrissey, Bill Prather recalled a performance of the Super Bowl Shuffle on City Park stage one year during Claud-Elen Days.

“Mal was a little bit short, and he really stood out,” Prather said of the all-male group.

Dressed in high school football uniforms, the men imitated the song recorded by Chicago Bears football team.

“I don’t know if words could express how I felt about Mal,” said Prather. “He was a great, great guy, one of the greatest guys I’ve ever known.”

Prather said, even after Morrissey moved from Chillicothe to Kirksville, Mo., he often sent cards congratulating Prather on any of his many awards or the success of Claud-Elen Days.

“He never said no when you asked him for anything,” said Prather. “He always had a pleasant, kind word for everybody. I don’t think he ever knew an enemy.”

Evelyn Stedman, who was employed at Penney’s about 30 years off and on, worked with Morrissey for several years.

“He was a very, very nice person and very nice to work with,” she said. “He was just really pleasant always.

“When he first came, he made a remark that we were going to work but were going to enjoy it and have fun, and we did.

“He was a good family man, and he showed a lot of interest in civic things, like the chamber of commerce and doing a lot of volunteer work.”

As friends go, Bob Johnson was one of those close to Morrissey.

Through the late Pete McAllister, a group of men met every morning for coffee.

“We were all coffee buddies,” said Johnson. “We’d meet and sit around and talk. Mal was quite a storyteller. He always had a joke to tell. He was something else.”

When Johnson received a call from Bev Morrissey telling her of her husband’s death, Johnson told her he would not be able to come down. Instead, he sent her a plant.

“I’m gonna miss him,” said Johnson. “I only saw him once when he came back to Chillicothe shortly after he moved to Missouri. He had a very, very nice wife.”

Johnson also commented on Morrissey fame as the local Santa Claus each year.

“He was the best Santa Claus in Chillicothe,” said Johnson. “He had a strap with bells on it, and he’d shake it. He enjoyed touching base with those little kids, going to the schools and kidding around with them.”

On one excursion, Johnson drove Morrissey, in his full Santa Claus regalia, to Lacon in search of Helen Newman’s daughter, who worked at the County Co. Insurance office there.

“We stopped in to see if she was there, but she was up getting her hair fixed,” said Johnson.

“Mal walked into the beauty shop and started ho-ho-hoing. She didn’t know who he was. I just drove the sleigh.”

Johnson summed up his feelings for Morrissey.

“Everybody liked Mal,” said Johnson. “He was a nice little guy.”

Also a big fan of Morrissey was Pat Willard, former Chillicothe Chamber of Commerce secretary/facilitator.

“He was just a wonderful man,” said Willard. “He used to call me even after he moved.

He always remembered something special about you.”

While the Willards were in Florida last winter, Morrissey called their home to wish Pat a happy birthday.

“He left a message on the answering machine for me, and he mailed me a joke,” she said.

Before the Morrisseys moved to Missouri, the chamber had a going-away party for Morrissey at Dockside.

Imagine his surprise when he saw his gift was a porcelain toilet, complete with a

laughing device inside.

“When you touched it, it laughed,” said Willard. “Mal always had a smile and a joke.

“He was a very, very sweet man, the nicest man in the whole world.”

Friend Mel Dierdorff summed up the person he also called his good friend.

“Mal always was a joy to be with and a true friend to me,” said Dierdorff. “He was a person anyone would be proud to call their friend, always smiling and always happy.”