Richard Morrison, the Flanders man whom a neighbor rescued from his burning home last month, died in his sleep Monday at the home of a family friend. He was 73.
Shelley Egan, a longtime family friend in Riverside, said Mr. Morrison always kept his spirits up, even in the wake of the fire that destroyed his home.
“He was a really good guy,” she said. “He had a great disposition and he didn’t let anything ruin it.”
Mr. Morrison had been staying with Ms. Egan after the Dec. 16 fire, which came two days after he was released from the hospital. He had been treated for congestive heart failure and diabetes.
Ms. Egan said a recent trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles was the only time she ever saw him get mad.
“I told him, ‘I don’t get it. You get upset over the motor vehicle department and you didn’t say a word when you’re house burned down,’ ” she recalled.
Although they weren’t related, Ms. Egan said she referred to Mr. Morrison as Uncle Richie.
“Everyone called him Uncle Richie,” she said. “He was one of the sweetest men you could ever meet. He was a gentle soul. He wasn’t depressed, and he never got mad.”
Mr. Morrison had been planning to move to North Carolina to live with a relative later this year, Ms. Egan said.
“But he really didn’t want to go,” she said. “He grew up here and I was spoiling him rotten.”
Joe Marshall, Mr. Morrison’s neighbor on Priscilla Avenue, noticed the flames coming from the home on the morning of Dec. 16. He banged on the door, imploring him to get out. He helped pull Mr. Morrison, who used a walker, to safety shortly before the entire house caught fire, officials said.
Mr. Morrison suffered second-degree burns on his back from falling debris, but was released from the hospital three days later.
Richard Naso of Flanders, a member of Southampton Town’s Citizen Advisory Committee for Flanders, Riverside and Northampton, said members of the CAC and others, including parishioners from his church, Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Aquebogue, had been helping Mr. Morrison and even bought Christmas presents for him.
“The people have been wonderful,” Ms. Egan said. “People from all over the state, even people he didn’t even know were reaching out to help him.”
Mr. Naso said residents were planning additional help, such as building a handicap ramp for him and helping him get his homeowner’s insurance restored on his home. The homeowner’s insurance policy had been canceled on Oct. 30, while Mr. Morrison was in the hospital.
Mr. Morrison was born Sept. 7, 1940, to Herbert and Anna Morrison. He served in the U.S. Army and worked for 40 years as a produce clerk at King Kullen in Riverhead. He was also a member of Loyal Order of Moose. Family members said he loved doing word search puzzles.
He was predeceased by his sister, Helen Kruk and his brother William and is survived by his brother Frank, of Seattle, Wash.; two nieces; and four great-nieces.
The family will receive visitors Thursday, Jan. 16, from 7 to 9 p.m. at McLaughlin Heppner Funeral Home in Riverhead, where a funeral service will be held Friday, Jan. 17, at 10 a.m. Interment will be at Calverton National Cemetery.
Memorial donations may be made to American Cancer Society.