Having a true nature to nurture

POULSBO — Ardis Morrow still vividly remembers the morning her eldest son got up for his first day of school at the third school he’d attended that year.

POULSBO — Ardis Morrow still vividly remembers the morning her eldest son got up for his first day of school at the third school he’d attended that year.

The family’s life traveling around the country for his father’s job had obviously taken a toll on the first grader as he tried his best to convince his mother he was too ill for school.

“I kept saying, ‘You’ll feel better once you get to school,’ and then he fell off his chair onto the floor and said, ‘I have a broken leg and I can’t go to school. You don’t know it but I know I have a broken leg,’” Morrow remembered with a smile. “For all the moving they had to do, our kids turned out very well.”

Years after her son has grown up, you can still see a mother’s love and compassion in the telling of the story. She laughs about it, but you can still see in her eyes that she felt badly for her son.

The idea of compassion for children, whether her own or someone else’s, seems to be the thread that binds most of the community activities that Morrow has been involved in over the years.

This was one of the commitments that earned her a spot as one of the 14 Kitsap County YWCA Women of Achievement for 2003. She was one of four Poulsbo-area residents who received the award at an April 2 awards luncheon.

Morrow first joined the North Kitsap community more than 30 years ago when her family moved to Kingston. She helped start the successful Kitsap North Inc. real estate business, that merged with Windermere in the 1980s.

But besides being an accomplished businesswoman, Morrow said she has always been deeply interested in making a difference in her community.

She first got involved in North Kitsap by joining the North Kitsap School District Board.

“And it just kind of snowballed from there,” Morrow said.

Her other civic service include: being a Boy Scout Den mother and Executive Board member; being a Kingston Port Commissioner; being a Red Cross swim instructor for more than 30 years; volunteering for the North Kitsap Mentor program and the North Kitsap School District Art Docent program; and serving on the Martha and Mary Corporate Advisory Board. Last month, she was named to the City of Poulsbo’s Civil Service Commission.

Morrow said her favorite activities involve education and children.

“Just the magic of seeing them learn, seeing the wonder unfold as they grow and watching them turn into such beautiful people,” Morrow said of what motivates her to work with young people.

A Poulsbo resident since 1990, Morrow has recently been known for her tireless efforts against domestic violence in the name of another child who was very near and dear to her heart.

In 1986, Morrow’s great-grandnephew Eli Creekmore was fatally beaten by his father, just two weeks after the youngster’s third birthday. Since Creekmore’s death, the toddler’s story has become a cautionary tale for state Department of Social and Health Services about how children and families can fall through the cracks.

“DSHS blew it,” Morrow recalled. “I think we had Eli in and out of that home every two to three weeks and they’d put him right back and he’d have to take more of it. They never followed up on the dad’s anger management either.”

For Morrow, Eli’s death became a motivation to make a change. She has testified several times before the state legislature, and has managed to get a handful of laws changed.

One of the biggest changes Morrow helped enact was that previously when domestic violence or child abuse was reported, the abused person or child would be removed from the home. Today, the abuser is the one who is taken away from the situation.

Morrow has also worked locally on domestic violence and child abuse issues. She’s recently been involved in trying to get transitional housing for battered women and children built in the Poulsbo area and her work has been supported by a number of North Kitsap High School clubs. Morrow said she sees the changes her work has brought about, but she’s not done working yet.

“We probably have made big strides but there’s so much more to be done, it’s such an insidious problem in our society,” she said.

And as for all the recognition for the work she’s done, Morrow said she is flattered and honored, but that honor was not what she was looking for. She said she will never reach the point where she rests on her laurels, because there’s so much yet undone.

“They say you’re only as good as the company you keep so I figure I’m in pretty good company with the other women who were nominated,” Morrow said.