After what he’d seen in the South Pacific, Elmer Morris Jr. ’50 was ready to get back to college. But the school where he’d started was full. So he enrolled at his mother’s alma mater, near his hometown. Just for a few classes. Just until he could get back to Williamsburg.
Enter Marceline Weatherly ’50. Drum Major. May Queen. Class President. Daughter Sent to an All-Girls School to NOT Meet a Boy.
Unbeknownst to her parents, Mary Washington College of the University of Virginia would welcome men, including Elmer Morris, in 1946, the year Marcy arrived, more than two decades before going officially co-ed. Who could have guessed an agreement to admit World War II veterans would change everything for a 17-year-old beauty from South Carolina and a sailor lucky to be alive? Or that their love for each other – and for the magical place that brought them together – would still be unfolding today?
“Joined at the hip,” Marcy said, reflecting on her 67-year romance with the man she dubbed “Juney,” as she sat near the pool they put in for their children in the ’50s. It’s now seen five grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren through a string of steamy summers.
In early February 1947, though, the mercury hovered near 40.
Inside Mary Washington’s C-Shoppe, things bustled. Young women – and now young men – flung off their coats and gathered at straight-backed booths and square tables, sipping sodas and rocking the jukebox.
Marcy was chatting with girlfriends, having a Coke in the Chandler Hall hangout, when Juney approached her from behind with a question.
“It took me a long, long time to get up nerve enough,” Juney said of the exchange, when he asked her to a veterans’ Valentine’s dance. “I don’t know how I did it.”
A few days later, when the freshmen boarded the bus for the Spotsylvania County dance – Juney’s gardenia corsage pinned at Marcy’s waist – they had no idea they were embarking on what would, in a sense, be a one-way trip.
“I don’t know how they allowed you to go,” Juney told Marcy of that long-ago date.
The formidable Dean of Women Nina Bushnell had imposed her stringent standards on students since 1921, two years after Juney’s mother graduated from what was then called the State Normal and Industrial School for Women. Bushnell didn’t prohibit dating, exactly, but strongly discouraged it through a daunting list of rules involving curfews, chaperones, and rosters of approved visitors.
But love finds a way.
Juney and the other male veterans lived off campus. But he and Marcy met for banana cream pie at the C-Shoppe; danced to their favorite song, That’s My Desire, on the jukebox at Baker’s restaurant; arranged weekend getaways to Westmoreland County, Washington, D.C., and New York; and strolled along the tree-lined Mary Washington walkways.
“We went everywhere on campus together,” Marcy said.
When Juney drove his cream-colored ’46 Dodge convertible along Campus Drive, Marcy waved from her Virginia Hall window.
In all their courtship – and most of their marriage – Juney never spoke of his experience as a pharmacist’s mate second class. Never mentioned that May Sunday in 1945 when two kamikaze planes tore through the USS Braine in what became known as the worst attack on a destroyer that didn’t sink. Never talked about the way, though injured himself, he sprang into action for his shipmates, helping to treat the 80-some wounded and praying for the more than 60 who were killed. For his bravery, he received the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal.
Being on campus was “wonderful,” he said, compared to what he’d been through. And there was Marcy. By junior year, he’d proposed.
Marcy’s parents loved Juney, too, but stood firm: Graduation before marriage.
Besides, who had time for a wedding? Juney majored in business, played basketball, and was in the Veterans Club. Marcy majored in music, served as class president junior and senior year, and was on May Court each year, taking the coveted title of May Queen as a senior.
She and Juney received their degrees in May 1950. Marcy’s parents offered her one of two graduation gifts: a brand new convertible in her favorite color – blue – or a wedding.
The ceremony was held at a church in Marcy’s hometown, the reception in the Weatherlys’ living room. Marcy’s Mary Washington roommates, Anne “Ozzie” Osborn Cox ’50 and Billie Mitchell Hanes ’50, were bridesmaids. Billie’s husband, Dick, was a groomsman. The two couples still are in touch.
“When they were together, I felt like Juney would do anything in the world for [Marcy],” Hanes said recently.
Indeed, he sprang for that convertible Marcy wanted and drove it on their honeymoon to Niagara Falls.
The years that followed were a swirl of children – first Ellen, then Elmer R. “Tip” Morris III – grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Juney bought Morris Chevrolet in King George and ran it for 47 years. He dealt in real estate, served 20 years on the school board, and helped found King George State Bank. Marcy taught piano and directed church choirs. She formed the Backyard Players theater group and helped found the Woman’s Club of King George.
A collection of scrapbooks – bulging with playbills, mementos from cruises, and memories surrounding their Mary Washington days – captures their story. Their alma mater had provided a haven of peace for Juney, been a springboard to the world for Marcy, and sparked a love affair that spans four generations.
The Morrises hadn’t forgotten. Marcy has been involved with the Alumni Association since graduation; served on the board, twice as reunion VP; and helped form an alumni chapter in King George. They support UMW Galleries and the Great Lives lecture series, and still get to Mary Washington as often as they can.
“Every time the doors open, we’re there,” Juney said.
They’ve known seven UMW presidents, from Morgan L. Combs to William M. Anderson and beyond, but it’s with the current administration that the couple has found a connection. During the University Centennial Celebration in 2008, the Morrises endowed the Richard V. and Rosemary A. Hurley Employee Appreciation Commendation for staff or faculty who’ve shown dedication to the University.
“I think they can feel how much Rose and I admire their love for each other and their love for Mary Washington,” Hurley said. “It’s a humbling experience for me.”
One of the Morrises’ grandsons, Paul Morris ’10, earned a theater degree at UMW. For his grandparents’ 63rd anniversary in August, he sent a gift – a live gardenia, like the one Juney bought for Marcy that very first Valentine’s Day.
The couple – she’s 84; he’s 89 – still live in their modest King George County home, with family nearby, and they still eat dinner by candlelight. Sometimes, by the flickering glow, they remember those long-ago years, when they found themselves – and each other – at Mary Washington.
“It’s a storybook love story and couldn’t be written any better,” Hurley said. “They still hold hands while walking down Campus Walk and speak so lovingly about each other. They are a beautiful couple.”