Bob Morrow, Hamilton's longest-serving mayor, dies at 71

Bob Morrow, Hamilton's longest serving mayor, has died.

Former mayor an 'unforgettable character with a true gift for connecting with people from all walks of life'

Bob Morrow, Hamilton's longest serving mayor, has died. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Bob Morrow, Hamilton's longest serving mayor, has died Monday at age 71.

Morrow was first elected to council in 1970. He served as old city of Hamilton's mayor from 1982 to 2000, making him the city's longest-serving mayor. 

He's survived by two sons, George and Kerr.

He was a friend to all and a mentor to many and was noted to be a passionate advocate for the average working men and women.- Mayor Fred Eisenberger

Mayor Fred Eisenberger said he was "very saddened" by Morrow's death. Besides both serving as mayor, the two men worked together while Eisenberger was on council for 10 years. 

Morrow had had "a number of health challenges" in the past year, Eisenberger told CBC News.

Eisenberger said city of Hamilton flags will be flown at half-mast until Morrow's funeral, details for which will be announced at a later date. 

Anyone who wishes to leave a memory or message for Morrow's family can do so in a book of condolences that will be set up outside the mayor's office at city hall beginning at noon on Tuesday.

Served in challenging times

Eisenberger praised Morrow's service to the Hamilton community as alderman, mayor and citizenship judge.

Morrow spearheaded the push to diversify Hamilton's economy, Eisenberger said, and was an advocate for the city's cultural community as a talented pianist and organist. 

Morrow "presided over some of the most challenging transitional years that saw many major employers downsize and relocate," Eisenberger said in a statement. 

"He was a friend to all and a mentor to many and was noted to be a passionate advocate for the average working men and women," he said.

He also advocated revitalizing Hamilton's waterfront.

Larry Di Ianni, another former mayor of Hamilton, said Morrow was "always upbeat about Hamilton." The two were friends and met for lunch monthly over the past year-and-a-half, he said.

"He presided over some very hard times in the city when manufacturing jobs were leaving, the tax base was shifting and the infrastructure was crumbling," Di Ianni told CBC News.

"A lot of the success that we're enjoying today, he started planting the seeds for that when he was mayor," he said. "The renaissance that we're enjoying now you can write Bob's name on it with some certainty and I'm sure he appreciated that."

Ward 6 Coun. Tom Jackson served with Morrow for 12 years and says "he was a fine gentleman."

"He was probably ahead of his time on a couple of fronts in terms of advocacy and promotion of greater funding for the arts and the music community in our city," said Jackson. 

'An unforgettable character'

Terry Cooke, who served as regional chairman while Morrow was mayor, said on Twitter that Morrow was "an unforgettable character with a true gift for connecting with people from all walks of life."

He posted a photograph of himself with Morrow, second from right, along with Mayor Fred Eisenberger and former mayor Larry Di Ianni. 

In 1968, at age 22, Morrow ran for council and won. But because of his youth, he didn't own property, which was a requirement then. His father had transferred some property to him so he could be a candidate but the lawyer didn't register it in time, Morrow said.

Morrow's dad ran and won the seat in the meantime, and two years later, Morrow won the election again and became a councillor.

Morrow stepped in as Ward 3 councillor after Bernie Morelli died in 2014.

Condolences 

Political colleagues, friends and Hamilton residents shared condolences on social media on Monday. 

"Mr. Morrow was our main organist here at the parish for 9 years. Parishioners and friends held him in high regard. He loved this parish and always was interested in promoting its presence in the city of Hamilton and beyond," said a statement on St. Patrick's Catholic Church's Facebook page.

"He will be remembered as a true statesman and kindhearted man in our parish and beyond."