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Hundreds remember airline pilot found dead off Burbank freeway

October 10, 2012 | 11:08 am

An Alaska Airline pilot found dead in Burbank last week was remembered at a memorial as a fun-loving grandfather who enjoyed golf, the Seattle Mariners and camping on the Columbia River near his Washington state home.

Lee Morris, a 55-year-old Seattle-based pilot, was found dead last week on a 5 Freeway offramp in Burbank. The death stunned loved ones and co-workers. A spokesman for the airlines said Morris had passed regular physical checkups and appeared to be in good health.

Los Angeles County coroner’s officials continue to investigate the cause of death.

More than 400 gathered in Washington on Sunday for the memorial, the Burbank Leader reported.

“He was way too young to die,” said Alaska Airlines First Officer John Allison, who described Morris as a “great pilot” who commanded a “safe, efficient ship.”

“When I’d fly with guys like that, I’d pause and think, ‘When I’m a captain, that’s how I’m going to do it,’” Allison said. “Now, I’m a captain, and it’s guys like that that I’ve learned from.”

Morris was also remembered as a family man with a love for kids.

“I felt like I hit the lottery with him,” said longtime fiancée Eileen Hively, who lived with Morris for nearly 12 years. “He was really my best friend.”

In Morris’ flight bag, Burbank police detectives discovered a stack of kids’ drawings of airplanes and stick-figure captains. He collected the drawings over the years as children would exit his flights.

“He took [the pictures] to work with him every day,” Hively said.

He’d often steer children to the cockpit to sit in the captain’s seat and try on his hat while parents snapped photos. “He was a big kid at heart,” Hively said. “If he could make your day, he would.”


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-- Alene Tchekmedyian, Times Community News

Follow Alene Tchekmedyian on Google+ and on Twitter: @atchek