The memory of a swim coach, and friend, to much of the Pittsburgh Jewish community will be honored later this month at the first annual Jack Morris Swim Meet, to be held at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh.
Jacob “Jack” Morris, of Highland Park, taught swimming in Pittsburgh for six decades to students ranging from children with special needs, to senior citizens, to an Olympic athlete. He passed away in August 2008 at the age of 89.
During his years as a swimming coach and instructor, he worked at the Young Men and Women’s Hebrew Association, the JCC, the Shadyside Boys Club, the Rehabilitation Institute and countless other public and private pools.
“It was literally have pool, will travel,” said Mayda Roth, director of development for the JCC, who is helping to organize the meet.
The meet was the brainchild of Dr. Sidney Busis, a student and friend of Morris’.
Following Morris’ death, Busis thought it would be nice to do something to “keep his name alive,” because he had touched the lives of so many Pittsburghers.
“I recruited Edgar Snyder because he swam with Jack, too,” Busis said. “We decided we would like to do something.”
Busis and Snyder, along with support from Morris’ wife, Fran, spearheaded a campaign to raise money for an endowment that would fund an annual swim meet in Morris’ memory. So far, their efforts have raised about $40,000, according to Busis.
“There are over 100 families who have donated to the endowment,” said Roth.
Roth added that because Morris was so loved in the community, soliciting donors for the meet is easy.
“When we call the donors, you can hear them smiling on the other side, saying ‘Oh, we loved Jack,’” Roth said.
“He had a way with kids,” Busis said. “In my view, he was like a psychiatrist. He knew exactly how to handle little children. He had a way with all ages, but especially kids.”
The invitational meet will be held Sunday, Feb. 21, from 2 to 4 p.m. Teams participating include the Squirrel Hill Swim Team, the Pittsburgh Sailfish Team, the Tidal Wave Swim Team and the Oxford Athletic Swim Club. All of the children participating are age 10 and under.
“I thought his name should not be forgotten,” said Busis.
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)