“He came in and swept me off my feet!” said Karen about their initial meeting in 1962. At the time, the couple were doctoral students at the University of Michigan; they were engaged one month after meeting.
Soon after receiving their Ph.Ds and Joe’s Army stint was finished, the Morses relocated to Utah State University. The couple went on to have two sons – Robert and Geoffrey. In Utah, Joe taught chemistry and became the director of the Honors Program, and Karen was the dean of the College of Science. She was the only female to hold that position in the country at the time. Karen eventually became provost and vice president for academic affairs, and then was invited to be a university president.
“Chemistry and the Honors Program were both Joe’s real loves,” said Karen. “He gave up a lot so I could accept the presidency at Western Washington University.”
Love: A Simple Solution
For the Morses, love, sacrifice and support seem to be key components to their decades-long marriage. In 2000, when Joe suffered a stroke, Karen was by his side, a pillar of strength during his rehabilitation.
“I’m so proud of him because it hasn’t been easy,” she said. “He had to re-learn the alphabet, numbers, and how to speak. The physical therapist told us he wouldn’t walk again, but he walked out of physical therapy after 30 days! He’s incredibly motivated.”
Joe’s motivation, determination and self-discipline were developed over many years spent training for marathons and endurance cycling. He indicates that he ran nine marathons -- Boston twice -- and bicycled from Logan, Utah to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. “He biked 212 miles in 10 hours!” Karen added.
Today, Joe continues his passion for cycling thanks to a recumbent bike. By his side as always is Karen, with her trusty TREK bicycle. Together, they cycle dozens of miles around San Diego at least two to three times a week.
Life at Vi at La Jolla Village
In 2013 the Morses moved into Vi at La Jolla Village in San Diego. They enjoy Tai Chi classes as well as swimming and exercise with their neighbors in the Vi fitness center. “Practicing Tai Chi has really helped Joe’s balance, and mine too!” said Karen.
But for the Morses balance has attributed more to their lives than just stability -- for more than five decades the couple have managed their careers, family, and recently Joe’s medical challenges.
“We have a pretty balanced life,” said Karen. “We have four beautiful grandchildren, good friends and we participate in a lot of activities here at Vi. When you’ve been together for 53 years, a relationship is kind of second nature; we feel really lucky.”
The chemistry continues.