COLUMBIA — Corey Morris was a hero in more ways than one. He was a loving brother, a caring cousin and an energetic teen who died in a heroic way.
Corey of Columbia died Saturday, Aug. 15, 2009. He was 15.
Corey was born Sept. 11, 1993, in Columbia to Roy and Donna (Poe) Morris. He was scheduled to start his sophomore year at Hickman High School on Monday.
Corey drowned after jumping in the Missouri River to save an 8-year-old boy who was swept away by the current. Family members say there was nothing surprising about Corey jumping into the river to save the young boy.
"It was a child, so of course he jumped in," his aunt, Cathy Morse, said. "He really loved all children."
Cathy said she keeps going through the incident in her head, thinking there must have been something more the family could have done. "There's always something you think you could do after the fact, but sometimes there's just nothing you could do," Cathy said.
Family members described Corey as an unconventional teen whose closest friends were his family.
"We weren't just cousins," Brooke Morse said. "We were more like best friends."
Boating and fishing on the Missouri River was a relatively new hobby for the Morris family; they just got their boat this year, but family members said it was one of Corey's favorite things to do.
"He's always been an outdoors kind of kid," his mother, Donna Morris, said. "He never wanted to be inside."
Besides his family and close friends, Cathy said Corey's next best friend was the family's dog, Maximus. The boxer would follow him everywhere he went. "I think Max was as sad as anyone," Cathy said.
Corey's younger brother Aaron, 13, with whom he shared a bedroom, said his brother had just started teaching him to play the guitar. The brothers had different personalities, but Aaron said it was special to him that his brother took time to share the music he loved.
Donna said she originally made Corey take guitar lessons to help him with his math skills, but when the two years of lessons were over he didn't want to quit. He started taking his guitar with him everywhere and used it to bridge the generation gap between himself and his grandfather.
"He would sit outside and pick at the guitar and grandpa would just sit and listen," Cathy said.
Cathy said Corey was more than just a friend to her daughters, but a listening ear.
"My daughter lost a confidant," Cathy said. "He helped her through a lot."
Corey's friend Becca Schranck agreed. "He's always been there for me. He always knew when I was down and could cheer me up," Schranck said.
His cousin Brooke said Corey's ability to be both serious and funny depending on the situation made him a great person. "He was the goofiest, freckled-faced kid I ever knew," she said.
Corey's cousin Anna Beth Morse said she was impressed by the outpouring of grief from Corey's many friends. She said that in just a matter of hours, the Facebook group devoted to memorialize Corey's life had jumped from 100 members to 500. As of Monday night, there were more than 1,000 members in the online group.
The Rev. Brian Evans said he never knew Corey in life, but the way he died said a lot about what kind of person he was.
"What he did was heroic," Evans said. "How many people would do that?"
Becca said it was his heart of gold that made him special. "He was a good friend," she said. "He was born a hero and he died a hero."
Corey is survived by his parents; two brothers, Roy and Aaron Morris; a sister, Kelsey Morris; and grandparents, William and Barbara Poe.
His grandparents, Roy Bruce Morris and Carolyn Sue Cunningham-Morris, died earlier.
Visitation will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Calvary Baptist Church, 606 Ridgeway Ave. Services, conducted by the Rev. Brian Evans, will be at 10 a.m. Thursday at the church.
Memorial contributions may be sent to the Mount Nebo Cemetery Association in care of Parker Funeral Home, 22 N. 10th St., Columbia, Mo., 65201. Online condolences may be left at parkerfuneralservice.com.