Robert John Morse Jr
27 June 2020
Prepared by Valarie Wilson, Family Historian, Genealogist
This research project aims to discover what caused Robert Morse, Jr. to be institutionalized in the 1970s until the day he died. Robert John Morse, Jr. was born on 8 August 1936 in Burlington, Chittenden County, Vermont and died on 27 February 1999 in Glover, Orleans County, Vermont. Robert’s father was Robert John Morse, Sr. (1914-1973), and mother Madine Eleanor Sears (1919-2000).
On Sunday night, October 31, 1971, there was a single-car crash on Route 17 in Starksboro, Vermont. “According to state police, the 1968 sedan was traveling west when it left the north side of the highway, rammed into a rock ledge, rolled over and came to rest in the highway.”
Family lore is that there is a dispute as to whom was driving. The car belonged to Robert (Bobby), so many speculate that he was the driver. Also, in the car was his half-brother Edwin (Eddie) Gardner, and his sister-in-law’s brother, James Nolet. Other family members say that James was driving because Bobby was thrown from the car, and Eddie was lying down in the back, so it must have been James. Unless the state police report proves otherwise, or a direct family member knows the facts, this part of the story may never be known. What is known is that when Bobby was tossed from the car, his head received blunt force trauma. Included in this report are the newspaper clippings that account for his critical condition and time spent in intensive care.
After the accident, Bobby was in a nursing home in Rutland, Vermont, and then moved to The Vermont State Hospital (formerly known as Vermont State Asylum for the Insane and the Waterbury Asylum) in Waterbury, Vermont. Bobby was in the state hospital in the 1980s at the same time as his Aunt Phyllis (Sears) Gravelle. Bernard, a first cousin to Bobby, remembers seeing him at the state hospital when he visited his mother, Phyllis. Bernard said that Bobby didn’t recognize him, but that sometimes Bobby recognized his Aunt Phyllis. At some point, Bobby relocates to a care facility in Glover, Vermont, where he remained until he died.
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This research project was successful in detailing the events surrounding the car accident that caused traumatic head injuries to Robert Morse, Jr. What is missing is the medical diagnosis for his injuries and a full comprehension of his condition and mental capacities following the accident. We are left to surmise that they were significant enough that families’ members could not care for him; thus the need to be institutionalized.
SUGGESTIONS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH
- Contact the Bristol Rescue Squad to inquire if records are available for their report written on the night of the accident.
- Contact the Middlebury State Police to inquire if records are available for their report written on the night of the accident.
- Contact the last know living sibling of Bobby’s; sister, (name withheld for privacy), and ask if she would be willing to be interviewed to discover more about Bobby’s life.
 City of Burlington, Vermont, “Vermont Birth Records” [Vermont State Archives and Records Administration; Montpelier, Vermont; 1909-2008] for Robert John Morse Jr., database with images, [Ancestry.com, image 2272 of 2766 : accessed 27 June 2020]
 “Robert Morse,” Critical Condition, The Burlington Free Press, 2 November 1971.
©Valarie Wilson 2020. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form, including photocopying, scanning or digital imaging, without prior written permission from the author.