Mourners couldn’t help laughing through their tears yesterday as friends and colleagues remembered Lexington attorney Leslie W. Morris II and his wife, Kaye Craig Morris, who died in the crash of Comair Flight 5191.
Praised over and over for a keen intellect and his skill as a trial lawyer, Morris, 72, had no understanding of numbers or things mechanical, said his law partner J. David Smith Jr.
Smith told of the time Morris carried a portable bar to the Kentucky Bar Association, and when he got ready to open it, couldn’t remember the combination to the lock. He called home and was told the combination was the same as his house number. Morris hung up, “only to realize he didn’t know his own house number,” Smith said.
More than 500 friends, lawyers, judges and relatives gathered at Central Christian Church yesterday for the combined funerals of Morris and his wife.
Talented and unassuming, Morris practiced law for 49 years with Stoll Keenon Park, (recently the firm became Stoll Keenon Ogden) in Lexington. He was the firm’s most senior counsel, according to a statement released by the firm.
He was a member of the American College of Trial Lawyers, a select group of premier trial attorneys, and was the recipient of the 2005 Henry T. Duncan Memorial Award from the Fayette County Bar Association.
Smith remembered the first time he saw Morris. “He was short, retiring to the point of shyness. He kind of shuffled when he walked and he mumbled,” said Smith, at the time a summer intern. “I said, ‘Who is that?’”
Morris was an unfailing gentle man and gentleman, Smith said. That initial encounter began “a 25-year tutorial” in how to have class, he said.
Attorney Julius Rather and Morris lived together for several months. “We were Lexington’s answer to the odd couple,” Rather said. One time Morris accused Rather of throwing out all the forks, cups and plates. “I told him ‘I didn’t throw them out. They’re in the dishwasher,’” Rather said. “I don’t know if he was putting me on, but I had to take him to the kitchen and show him where the dishwasher was.”
Kaye Morris, 57, a former radiology nurse, was a terrific cook, a voracious reader and a writer of poetry, said her friend Natalie D. Brown. She was also a compassionate person who served breakfast at a local homeless shelter, delivered Meals on Wheels, made pumpkin bread for friends at Christmas and organized friends to bake cookies for inner-city schoolchildren. She loved her dogs.
“Kaye was a modest woman who didn’t like being in the spotlight,” Brown said. “If she were here, she’d say, ‘Babe -- she called a lot of people Babe -- stop talking about me and get back to talking about Les.’”
The couple loved movies, especially if they were taking one or more of their seven grandchildren, Brown said.
Kaye Morris was a Lexington native and a graduate of Henry Clay High School and the University of Kentucky.
The couple were on their way to Alaska when the plane crashed Aug. 27.