Larry Morse — loving husband, father, friend and champion of justice
March 20, 1957 — Sept. 14, 2021
While deep in conversation with his loving wife of over 35 years, Larry D. Morse II of Merced, California, died on September 14th, at 9:45pm.
He died as he lived: passionate, engaged, and as an irreplaceable, charismatic, and compassionate force of nature. As his friend, you were a friend for life— encouraged, nurtured, and always a phone call away from his help. His foes faced a fierce, skilled, and dedicated adversary. Even they recognized the depth of his empathy. Those suffering, and those in need found a compassionate supporter, who without hesitation, brought his full strength and influence to bear in order to make them whole. He was proud that if you were the victim of crime, you had a tireless and relentless advocate in pursuit of justice. Most of all, if you were family, you were loved without reservation, supported in every phase of life, comforted in loss with his care, words, and deeds. To hear his voice on the phone, or feel the loving warmth of his smile and booming voice, made the world a better and safer place.
Larry was born March 20th, 1957 and grew up in the hot, dusty, desert town of Lancaster, California, just outside of Los Angeles, the fourth of six children in a large, loving Irish-Catholic family. His father, Larry Morse Sr. was a respected attorney (later a judge) and his mother Saranne, a beloved school teacher. The former bestowed upon Larry a lifelong passion for justice, and the latter a commitment to education and learning. He loved growing up in Lancaster and treasured the friends he made there, many of whom he counted among his closest until his death. In high school he excelled in athletics and was a three-sport athlete, as many have heard (from him, no doubt). He passed on his love of sports and competitive spirit to his children, coaching innumerable youth teams, and often paying for equipment and fees for those less privileged. He always ensured that everyone would be able to participate, regardless of their financial situation. He truly believed in the value of sports as both a unifying force and as a means for keeping kids out of trouble.
After high school, Larry attended the University of Arkansas and received a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. He served on the student newspaper there and after his graduation in 1979 went on to work as a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat (now Arkansas Democrat-Gazette). Among his many assignments with the paper were interviews with then-Governor Bill Clinton, Watergate Prosecutor Leon Jaworski, and coverage of the second landing of the Space Shuttle at Edwards Air Force Base. He loved the craft of journalism, revering the heavyweights of his day and believing it to be a proud and noble profession. It was in Little Rock where Larry would meet the love of his life, Cindy Roberson.
In 1981 Larry left the newspaper, and Arkansas, to move to Washington D.C. and become Press Secretary and Legislative Aide to Congressman Bob Whittaker, beginning a career in politics that would last the rest of his life. After a couple of years, Larry decided to enter the family business, moving across the country to Sacramento and attended the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law, where he learned constitutional law from former Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. Cindy went with him, attending the same school, and of course, getting better grades. While at McGeorge, Larry worked as editor of the Senior Spectrum newspaper and in the California Legislature as Communications Director for the Senate Democratic Caucus.
After earning his law degree Larry became the Legislative Director for State Senator Milton Marks of San Francisco. He reveled in local and national politics, writing countless speeches and becoming a skilled lobbyist, a passion he returned to many years later as the voice of the California District Attorneys Association.
To be close to family, Larry and Cindy, now with son Dylan, decided to move to Merced. For reasons never fully explained, his initial application to obtain work as an attorney in Merced was mysteriously directed to the sewer department… Despite that auspicious beginning, he joined the Merced County District Attorney’s office in 1993. As with everyone starting out, he spent his work day rushing from courtroom to courtroom on minor offenses but with ever-increasing skill. His assignments, often traffic, meant he was to come up against older brother Neil in court. While Larry may have “won”, his brother tells a different tale. He swiftly moved through the ranks, trying cases that were difficult and heart wrenching. Along the way, he became convinced, and later insisted, that to be a member of his office and succeed, you needed to not only handle cases, but try them. It was, as he felt, a badge of honor and duty, to be known as a trial attorney. Because of this, he was appointed Chief Deputy in 1998.
Larry’s greatest source of professional pride was being elected District Attorney in 2006. He was officially sworn in on the steps of the historic Merced County courthouse by the Honorable George Zenovich, mentor and lifelong friend, who had been his father’s classmate. He was subsequently reelected in 2010 and 2014. In his esteemed career as the County’s top prosecutor, Larry successfully prosecuted nearly 20 murder cases, numerous consumer fraud cases, and initiated the county’s Violence Interruption and Prevention Emergency Response team (VIPER). At the time, he had personally tried more cases while serving as the elected District Attorney than any of his colleagues throughout the State. He also founded the county’s first Crime Stoppers Program, and shepherded the District Attorney’s office into the 21st Century by bringing it to the current downtown location, and implementing cutting-edge technology to turn the office “paperless.”
Always civic-minded, Larry cherished his many leadership positions within the Merced community he so loved. He played an instrumental role on the committee that brought the tenth campus of the University of California to Merced, served as a founding Board Member of the Boys and Girls Club, and lent his passion and expertise to countless other boards and commissions, including: the Greater Merced Chamber of Commerce and the successful Measure S Campaign for Merced City schools. He was also a member of Elks Lodge 1240, the Los Banos Sportsmen’s Association, and since 1996, a proud member of E Clampus Vitus.
Loss and rebirth were a part of his life. The devastating loss of beloved son Ethan, was tempered by the beauty and joy of Ethan’s daughter Ava, who was forever in the house that was his sanctuary. With Ava in his arms, and friends and family gathered in the kitchen sharing food, drink, stories, and love, he was truly at his happiest. Likewise, his challenging election loss in 2018 led to auspicious new beginnings, returning him to Sacramento, working for the California District Attorney’s Association, and with friends old and new.
As the voice of the Morse family and for his many friends, Larry was often called upon for the task we now face, to give comfort, and find the words to sum up a life well lived. Larry loved life, loved his friends, and loved his family. It’s not always easy to navigate the waters of familial dynamics. Over time, the individual tributaries which form mighty rivers sometimes go astray. Especially in a family of six. Larry’s parents always stressed the importance of family and great effort was made to maintain family cohesion and strength. He loved their innumerable trips to Bear Valley, the family beach house in Carlsbad, hunting trips, and holidays when the family would gather. His close relationships with his siblings were a great source of pride in his life. To his 3 boys – Dylan, Ethan, and Ryan, he was the center of the universe. They loved and revered him. He was a devoted father, coaching countless teams, taking them on myriad trips all over this state he so loved, and far beyond, frequently and famously running out of gas in more places than can be remembered. He instilled in them a love of music, his earnest belief in “The Golden Rule,” the overarching importance of family, a love of reading, the value in always keeping an open mind, and importantly, that if they got hurt, they’d be ok if they “rubbed some dirt on it” or “taped an aspirin to it.” However, more than anything or anyone, Larry loved his wife of over 35 years, Cindy. The two met shortly after college and dated for 7 years before marrying at the Capitol Hotel in Little Rock, Arkansas. To those who attended, the ceremony was legendary, the setting spectacular, and the bride, as she remains, breathtakingly beautiful. Larry used to jokingly say they dated for so long before marrying because, “he had to be sure,” though anyone who knows them knows Cindy had all the cards in her hand. She was truly his best friend and his rock.
He is survived by his loving wife Cindy, sons Dylan and Ryan, honorary son Saad, granddaughter Ava, the resplendent Aunt Margy, his five siblings – Brian (Beverly), Neil (Teresa), Anne (Chris), Emily (John), and Ellen. He is also survived by nieces – Adria, Elise, Lettye, and Rachelle, and nephews – Michael M., Matt, Michael T., and Cortland.
He is preceded in death by his son Ethan, and his parents, Saranne and Larry D. Morse Sr.
Funeral services will be held at Our Lady of Mercy Church at 459 W 21st Street, Merced, on Friday, Sept. 24. A Rosary will be at 1 pm with the Mass starting at 1:30 pm. Seating will be limited with preference for family and close personal friends. The service will be live streamed at 1 pm on Stratford Evans Merced Funeral Home Facebook page. All are invited for a celebration of life at 3 p.m. at the Boy’s and Girl’s Club at 615 W 15th Street in Merced. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to Ethan Morse’s scholarship foundation for wrestlers at Golden Valley High School. Contact Law Offices of Morse, Morse, & Morse at 760 W 20th St. Merced.
Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at www.stratfordevansfunerals.com for the Morse family.