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90-year-old Idaho Democratic delegate hasn’t given up hope for Bernie Sanders

At 90 years old, Faye Morris will be a delegate to the Idaho Democratic Convention in support of Bernie Sanders. She talked about her decision to back Sanders at her home in Boundary County, Idaho, on Tuesday, April 26, 2016. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
At 90 years old, Faye Morris will be a delegate to the Idaho Democratic Convention in support of Bernie Sanders. She talked about her decision to back Sanders at her home in Boundary County, Idaho, on Tuesday, April 26, 2016. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

BONNERS FERRY, Idaho - On one side of her jean jacket, Faye Morris wears a “Bernie” button. On the other, a button says “wage peace.”

In the months before Idaho’s Democratic presidential caucus in March, Morris would stop people on the sidewalks of Bonners Ferry.

“I’d have this on,” she said, pointing to her Bernie Sanders campaign button. “And I’d say, ‘How do you like my button? If we elect him, we’ll probably be doing this.” She would end by pointing to her other button.

“The slightest chance, and I’ll accost them on the street,” she said.

Her work seemed to pay off. Of the nearly 200 participants of the Democratic Caucus in Boundary County, 84 percent supported Sanders, a figure higher than Sanders’ support in any other Idaho county – not including a county that had only four voters.

Morris, who turned 90 last month, lives in a cabin in the forest in Boundary County. She climbs a ladder to get to her bedroom every night. Her husband, Bill, suffering from memory problems, moved to assisted living a couple years ago, but she still occasionally takes him to stay overnight at the cabin they bought and fixed up in 1992. He is 96. Next week, they will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary.

In the months since Sanders’ big Idaho win, Morris’ strong support for Sanders hasn’t ebbed. And she hasn’t given up hope, though voting has ended leaving former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with a large lead.

Morris was one of three Boundary County delegates elected to the Idaho Democratic State Convention. She arrived in Garden City for the convention on Wednesday and says she will support only delegates to the national convention who support Sanders.

She believes Hillary Clinton is too much of a hawk and too big a pawn of Wall Street. Since Franklin Roosevelt, Morris has been unenthusiastic about the candidates the Democratic Party has nominated for president.

Sanders, she says, would be different.

“He will think before he does and we won’t be a tool of the military industrial complex, which was said by Eisenhower, but only in his farewell speech,” she said. “I want someone who will say it in his first speech and mean it.”

This is her first political convention. At least on the inside.

An opponent of the Vietnam War, Morris and her family lived in Chesterton, Indiana, during the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago.

“I sat on the street in Chesterton handing out literature for Eugene McCarthy, the man that wanted to stop the war,” she said, recalling that some people responded by yelling a racial slur typically directed at white people who supported civil rights for blacks.

“And I said, ‘Oh thank you! I am glad you noticed that. I think loving people is just the best way to go,’” Morris recalled. “You can defeat people in strange ways. Turning the other cheek is one of them.”

Morris grew up in Gary, Indiana, and spent much of her childhood on the shores of Lake Michigan.

“When I was a kid I didn’t spend one minute inside if I could possibly spend it outside,” she said.

She became a ski instructor. Bill was a high school teacher. They raised four children. They spent summers camping and retired early to move west in 1977.

“I always like to say we called out the dogs, pissed out the fire and moved on,” Morris told a visiting reporter at her cabin in April. “You could say whizzed if you need to.”

In the cabin that she and her husband named “Fable House” (for Faye and Bill), Morris keeps a box of her handwritten poetry. After smoke from wildfire darkened the sky last summer, Morris was moved to write a poem and publish it in a literary publication that serves North Idaho.

For the most part, she’s only shared her poems with her husband.

“When I have one of these moments of comprehension, exultation – call it what you will – I feel I have to capture it because that way I can reread it myself and re-experience what I experienced to write it,” she said. “Poetry should be beautiful and it should evoke emotion tied to an important thought because the emotion fires that important thought into the brain like nothing else does.”

Every Tuesday, Morris takes Bill to Under the Sun, a cafe and gift shop in Bonners Ferry.

“We have always done things together,” she said. “He helps me wash dishes. I help him dig out the septic tank. We were never apart. I never did things alone. We were always a team.”

Kendall Cady, who works at the cafe, said Morris is a “foodie” and always ends her meal with an espresso gelato.

“She’s such a personality,” Cady said. “We’ve gotten to love her.”

Debbie Flory, who also was elected a delegate to the convention, drove with Morris to Boise on Wednesday.

“Wherever she goes, she’s talking to somebody about Bernie,” Flory said. “She walks into the middle of a room and says ‘Go Bernie!’ ”

That included a small town mini-mart where they stopped to refuel on their drive from Boundary County.

“She doesn’t get tired.”

She also didn’t get email until her 90th birthday when Flory signed her up with a Gmail account because she needed an email address to register for the convention.

She stays informed through mail, publications and keeping in touch with friends.

“She manages to know more than people with the latest technology,” Flory said.

By Thursday afternoon, Morris had picked the delegates she will support to send to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

“I’ve got mine picked out and they’re all strong Bernie people,” she said.

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