August 12, 2004
It was 60 years ago today that Marvin and June Morrison stood under an archway of white oleander blossoms beneath a Chinese elm tree in Gilbert and exchanged wedding vows.
The large, shady tree still stands in the front yard of June’s family home, which the Morrisons have called home for decades.
In that time, their family members have been cotton farmers, range cattlemen and dairymen. Family businesses include the Morrison Farms, Morrison Ranch, Arizona Dairy Company and Windmill Ranch.
The couple met one fateful day in fifth grade, when their teacher placed students in alphabetical order. Marvin Morrison was placed in front of June Neely, beginning their relationship.
The longtime Gilbert residents remember dancing together at an eighth-grade dance. June remembers accompanying Marvin many times in the high school band, which brought them even closer together. June plays piano and organ, and Marvin has played the harmonica, violin and clarinet.
The destined couple both received scholarships to the University of Redlands in California, where they studied music for two years until Marvin entered the service. Both are also graduates of Arizona State University.
They married after Marvin received a temporary leave from the military.
"When I asked June’s father for his blessing to marry June, her dad paused for what seemed a long time," said Marvin Morrison, 81, a Gilbert native. "Then he said, ‘If I was in your shoes, I’d want to do the same thing.’ ’’
The two didn’t see each other again for 22 months, while Marvin was fighting in World War II.
Through it all — the war, Marvin’s auto crash in the 1960s and years of farming family land in Gilbert — the couple’s love has grown and withstood all obstacles.
"You make up your mind this is going to last," said June Morrison, 80. "It’s a choice you make. And I made a good choice."
Family is very important to the Morrisons. Most of the family still lives in Gilbert and gets together annually for family reunions on Thanksgiving Day, special occasions and Easter egg hunts.
"We are very pleased to be able to reach this milestone and have our family around us," said June Morrison, a former student teacher who kept the books for the family farm.
Howard Morrison, one of the couple’s three children, lives next door to his parents and is part of a team designing a master planned community on family land known as Morrison Ranch.
June and Marvin Morrison have served with many community institutions including the Gilbert school board, Chandler Municipal Hospital, Gilbert Public Library, Maricopa County Extension Service, Arizona Public Service, 4-H Youth Foundation and the United Methodist Church of Gilbert.
The Morrisons provided seed money for the Morrison School for Agribusiness and Resource Management at ASU East in Mesa, and the Morrison Institute of Public Policy at ASU’s main campus in Tempe.
The agribusiness school recognizes outstanding students with the Marvin Morrison Leadership Awards in honor of his contributions as a role model for lifelong learning.
Judy Backus met the Morrisons at least 30 years ago through church. Her husband, Chuck Backus, is a retired provost at ASU East.
"They’ve always been so community-minded and so active," she said. "They’re just friends that you can enjoy an evening with and are the whole basis for a good long friendship. They certainly are a very deserving couple."