Velma Morrison
Velma Morrison

Obituary of Velma Morrison

Velma V. Morrison died Thursday, June 20, 2013 in Rancho Mirage, California at the age of 92. Velma was born August 1, 1920 to Earl and Gladys (Marvin) Mitchell. But Velma's story starts many years before she was born when her grandfather, Thomas J. Mitchell, left home at the early age of 12 and said good-bye to Sedalia, Missouri, westward bound on a covered wagon headed to the Gold Rush of 1849 in the hills of California. He teamstered freight from Sacramento to the gold mining camps in the mountains and worked his way up to become a large land owner with sheep farms in the central valley of California. He and his wife, Lorraine had three children; Elise, Earl Sr., and Harvey. Velma's father Earl Sr., married Gladys Marvin and they had two daughters, Melva and Velma, and one son, Earl Mitchell, Jr. The Mitchell ranch was located in Tipton, CA and Melva, Velma, and Earl grew up there. Early in their lives, their father Earl was killed in a car accident and the three children were raised by their mother and Aunt Elise. At their ranch, the kids did chores and Velma tells of churning butter by hand, milking cows, and washing clothes was the order of the day. Later they went to school in Bakersfield and traveled. Velma studied nursing and nursed in Alaska and later went to work, along with her mother Gladys, in the Richmond, CA shipyards, welding our famous liberty ships that helped America win the war. While working there, Velma met Ron Shannon Sr. and they married. After the war, Velma and Melva started a grain harvesting company, that traveled from the south to the north including many states such as Texas, South Dakota, Oklahoma, and as far north as Soda Springs, ID. There were both good and bad times during their travels. Melva married Archie Shepherd and they had two daughters, Argene and Sharon. You can just imagine 5 trucks with combines in tow, living in Army tents and house trailers with the sisters booking the jobs all over the mid west in good and stormy weather. What a dynamic pair the two sisters were! They called it "THE WILD HARVEST". Velma's two sons, Gary and Ron Shannon were born four years apart. Ron and his sister, Judyth, grew up on the road during the Harvest Company's tours. After the wild harvest, the two sisters opened a restaurant named the "Home Town Cafe" in Corcoran, CA, where some of the largest farms in America are located, and there they served the best meals in the valley. Always a proponent of music and the arts, Velma had her children take music lessons. Judyth took dance in Junior High and practiced ballet at home. Later her mother gave her voice lessons and she became a very accomplished vocalist. Velma gave Ron his first guitar at age 6. Eventually, Velma moved to Bakersfield and opened her own restaurant, named "The Broiler". It was there in "The Broiler" that she met Harry Morrison, co-founder of the Morrision/Knudsen Construction Company. He stopped by the restaurant for dinner while watching an away game of the Boise Junior College football team. He kept coming back, and then he told her that she was working too hard and he needed a traveling nurse. The rest, as they say, is history. In 1959, she married him and they traveled together for the rest of his life. In 1968, tragedy struck Velma severely when her youngest son, Gary Shannon was killed in McCall, ID by one of the most severe blizzards ever recorded. He and his friend were exploring the back country on snowmobiles when they lost their lives. Velma's pain was intense and she never got over it- ever. Forty years later, she still talked of how powerful and ruthless the blizzard was. After Harry died in 1971, she continued his work by taking over leadership of the Harry Morrison Foundation. She showed where her heart truly lay, and became a great Idaho philanthropist. It was thanks to her efforts that the Velma V. Morrison Center for the Performing Arts was built on the campus of Boise State University. In 1986, Velma married John Hockberger, a long-time friend. Together with John, she continued her love of philanthropy, mentoring and influencing her family and community. John preceded her in death in April of 2008. Velma lived by her strong faith in God, and her trust in Him carried her throughout her life. The stories of the life of Velma Morrison could fill a book. In fact, they have; her memoirs are published in the book "The Bluebird Will Sing Tomorrow". Velma will be sorely missed by her family and many friends. She is survived by her sister, Melva Brucker of Camarillo, CA; daughter, Judyth Roberts; son, Ron Shannon; and her grandsons, Drake Shannon, Michael Trindade, and Justin Wilkerson. Funeral services for Velma were held in Tulare, CA at the Tulare United Methodist Church with burial at Tulare District Cemetery. A memorial service will be held in Boise on Sunday, July 14, 2013 at 3:00 pm at First United Methodist Church, Cathedral of the Rockies, 717 N. 11th Street, Boise. Arrangements are at Summers Funeral Homes, Boise Chapel. In lieu of flowers, memorials are suggested to Boise Rescue Mission Ministries, 308 S. 24th Street, Boise, Idaho 83702.
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