Villages developer H. Gary Morse praised for his remarkable vision

H. Gary Morse
H. Gary Morse

Villages Developer Gary Morse was remembered Thursday for the lifestyle he created in Central Florida for thousands of retirees.

Morse died Wednesday night at age 77.

“Ann and I mourn with Florida families for the loss of Gary Morse, a remarkable individual who we were proud to call a friend,” Gov. Rick Scott said Thursday in a statement issued to the media.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio praised Morse’s vision.

“Gary Morse looked at the pastures and prairies of Florida’s interior and saw the American Dream — not just for him, but for the tens of thousands of seniors who have been able to enjoy their golden years and continue to live them to their fullest,” Rubio said.

Morse’s eye for detail and marketing skills created not just a retirement community but a lifestyle that people fell in love with at first glance.

Long-time residents of The Villages vividly recall Morse’s father, Harold Schwartz who was a real man of the people.

His son Gary chose a different way and remained behind the scenes.

Morse’s brilliance was always on display even though he wasn’t.

He leaves behind three children — Mark Morse, Jennifer Parr and Tracy Mathews — who have vowed to keep The Villages’ core values alive.

In addition to his three children, Morse is survived by his wife, Renee; and stepson Justin Wilson. He also is survived by 16 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. His first wife, Sharon, died in 1999.

Services for Morse will be private.

“Dad never sought the limelight,” the family said in a statement. “He was content to stay in the background and enjoy seeing Villagers revel in this amazing lifestyle of their adopted hometown. While he was a friend and adviser to captains of industry, presidents and heads of state, he never lost focus on this community and making it the greatest retirement development in the world.”

Even with Morse’s passing, the work continues from the revitalized Sharon Morse Performing Arts Center to the preparation for the newest homes in The Villages of Fruitland Park.

Morse was born Dec. 19, 1936 in Chicago.

The original Brownwood in Michigan.
The original Brownwood in Michigan.

His parents Harold and Mary Louise Schwartz divorced seven years later. She made her way back to Torch Lake, Mich. and remarried. Gary eventually took the name of his stepfather, Clifford Hudson Morse.

Morse decided to pull up stakes in Michigan and move to Florida in 1983 where his father was operating the Orange Blossom Gardens mobile home park.

What happened over the next three decades can only be described as amazing.

And Morse was the driving force behind it all.

The seeds for Brownwood were originally sown back in Michigan. Today The Villages’ third town square resembles the original Brownwood of Michigan days.

Gary and Sharon Morse with their young children.
Gary and Sharon Morse with their young children.
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