Obituary: Thomas Morris / Engineer and bridge enthusiast never stopped teaching

A mechanical engineer who worked 34 years at U.S. Steel, Thomas Morris eventually found himself the director of a bridge association.

Mr. Morris had actually mastered bridge, the complicated card game, and was teaching dozens of younger people how to play.

The progression encapsulates Mr. Morris’ abilities and interests lying in a variety of pursuits. It also shows Mr. Morris as family members remember him best, as someone who was generous with his time and who could seemingly learn and teach others anything.

A resident of Jefferson Hills, Mr. Morris died Sunday at age 86.

Born in 1930 in Duquesne, Mr. Morris was a child of the Great Depression. Growing up, particularly because his father died when he was 3, he learned how to creatively use resources, said his daughter, Linda Santoline of South Park.

Mr. Morris would salvage trashed bicycles and parts and teach himself how to repair them, Ms. Santoline said. Even as an adult and as an avid supporter of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy program, he completed some long rides on old bicycles he had bought in the Pittsburgh Pennysaver.

After high school, Mr. Morris joined the Duquesne Works, the beginning of a long career with U.S. Steel that was interrupted only by a four-year stint in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War. Through the G.I. Bill, he earned a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Pittsburgh.

Mr. Morris designed continuous casters, which allowed a new steelmaking process at that time to achieve increased productivity and cost efficiency. He obtained two patents and traveled to Japan, Italy, Germany and Brazil installing his designs, Ms. Santoline said.

When he left the company in 1983, he deepened his involvement in music, gardening, hunting and sports — competing in the Senior Olympics for more than 20 years, winning national medals in track, tennis and badminton. He also rode the Great Allegheny Passage from Pittsburgh to Frostburg, Maryland. Although he played guitar and harmonica most of his life, he took up piano at age 70.

When one of his friends introduced him to the game of bridge, Ms. Santoline said, he read stacks of books and eventually achieved the title of Life Master, a distinction awarded by the American Contract Bridge League that marks a high level of success in the game. He became director of a group that coordinated bridge tournaments and began teaching the game to his friends at a table inside the Galleria of Mt. Lebanon.

“He was the most generous person,” said Susan Ferrare of West Mifflin, another of his four children.

In addition to his daughters, Mr. Morris is survived by a son, Thomas Morris of Eighty Four; and four grandchildren.

Visitation will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8:30 p.m. today at the Stephen D. Slater Funeral Home, 1701 Route 51, Jefferson Hills, where a funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday. Burial will follow at Mt. Vernon Cemetery, Elizabeth.

The family suggests memorial contributions to the Montour Trail Council, 304 Hickman St., Suite 3, Bridgeville, Pa., 15017.

Daniel Moore:, 412-263-2743 and Twitter @PGdanielmoore.

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