Frances J. Morin
10 October 1917 – 22 July 2012
Frank Morin, a key member of the Easter Island Foundation since its inception in 1989, served as co-editor of Rapa Nui Journal as well as the EIF treasurer for many years. He was a frequent collaborator with his longtime companion, Dr. Georgia Lee, in petroglyph surveys and research on Hawai‘i, Easter Island, and California. Frank died peacefully at home on July 22, 2012. He was 94, still with the verve and enthusiasm of a much younger man.
Born Francis Joseph Morin into a musical family in New England, he went on to study physics and chemistry, first at the University of New Hampshire, and then in graduate school at the University of Wisconsin. With the coming of WWII, he was plucked out of graduate school and recruited to work on advanced projects at the famous Bell Labs, at that time located in New York. There he collaborated with a number of eminent physicists, most notably Philip Anderson, winner of the Nobel prize in 1977. (From what I have been able to learn, Frank almost won one himself. Anderson called him “a superb experimentalist”.) Indeed, he was very much involved with the early development of transistors, thermistors and integrated circuits. He holds three U.S. patents for metal oxide semiconductor procedures that he developed in the late 1940s.
Frank continued at Bell Labs after the war but, with the rapid development of the U.S. space program, he moved west in 1962 having been asked by the North American Aviation’s Science Division to set up a lab there and, subsequently, to become its Director. There he was active in NASA’s Apollo Moon Program and a member of North American’s Rocketdyne Division, later Rockwell International. Frank retired in 1980 and moved north to the seaside village of Los Osos, California. A couple of years later his son Michael took him to hear a talk given by Georgia Lee on her work on Easter Island. They met and soon thereafter took up life together.
It was thanks to Halley’s Comet that I first met Frank and Georgia; I was on Easter Island photographing the famous comet for NASA, and they arrived aboard a cruise ship where they had been giving lectures about the island and the comet. We hit it off like gangbusters from the beginning, the three of us plus my late beloved wife, Matty.
Among our happiest of times was when the four of us rented various houses, two weeks at a time, first on Kauai, then at Côte de Beaune in the Burgundy Region in France where we spotted a billboard advertising Morin et fils wine — and followed it up with a delicious wine tasting in nearby Nuits-Saint-Georges where we found Frank’s roots. And lastly, we enjoyed Italy’s magical Tuscany. There was, too, a leisurely cruise from Tahiti to Easter Island that we took in 1991 which carried us and some 100 others to dozens of South Pacific isles along the way as dcoumeted in Georgia’s book, Te Moana Nui: Exploring Lost Isles of the South Pacific.
I honestly can’t count the number of times Matty and I stayed with them in their lovely home in Los Osos, and their hospitality was infinite. So seemed Frank’s knowledge about so many things. He had the most amazing ability to discuss all manner of subjects, from physics and astronomy (and sci-fi — he was a devout “trekkie”), to wine making and tasting, music, religion (Buddhism especially), and of course Hawai’i and Easter Island. And the good table; Frank was a master chef. And few know that a younger Frank was an accomplished concert pianist and was a featured soloist with the University of Vermont symphony orchestra. He was a serious student of Jungian psychology. Frank, in his gentle fashion, tried to explain to me what it was all about but alas, I was an inattentive student and he got nowhere with me.
For a number of years — until his knees went arthritic — the sand dunes and beaches of Los Osos were one of Frank’s favorite places to be. (The image above of Frank on his favorite beach was taken by Steven Roger Fischer). Frequently, he would take long (7 kilometer) walks along the shoreline, stripped down to as little as possible. Even to his last days he would often do, as Georgia used to say, his imitation of a lizard out in the walled-in back garden of their home, soaking up the California sun.
I last visited Frank with my dear companion Gabriela a little over a year ago, and he was still just as sharp as ever. He explained that his only major problem, the deterioration of his lungs, may have resulted from all the toxic fumes that he had inhaled as a student. (He was a non-smoker.)
Frank is survived by his devoted companion of many years, Georgia Lee; seven loving children, Thomas, Michael, Cynthia, Peter, Andrew, Sarah and Sylvia; and their mother, the former Joanne O’Riordon of Baltimore, MD., and a number of grandchildren.
William Liller, August 2012
This is a brief memoir to celebrate the life of Alan Drake, sometimes known as Alan Davis-Drake, who was instrumental to us in the early days of the Easter Island Foundation. He visited Easter Island only once but it was love-at-first-sight and he never got over it.
Alan volunteered to help out with producing the (then-titled) Rapa Nui Notes, and went on to publish articles about the island, edit submissions, set up issues for publications, and create excellent maps for both the Rapa Nui Journal and for books published by the Foundation. He authored and designed a delightful book, Easter Island: The Ceremonial Center of Orongo, which has been mostly overlooked. This is a mistake on the part of book-buyers because it is a marvelous little book on the site. It is identified as being published by “Cloud Mountain Press”, which was Alan’s “baby”. The credits page lists the book as being designed by “Bootswell Stevenson McKenna” – which was Alan’s alter-ego, of course. And he created the Rapanui Dingbat Font that we use today–whenever we need a dingbat.
Alan also was editor of ARCHAE, described as “a paleo-review of the literary arts exploring mythical and kitchen sink parallels between archaic and modern life.” Alan described himself as having “… appeared internationally both as poet and performance poet. His most recent collection of poems is Te Moana, an orchestrated choral accompaniment for ballet based on a voyage across the Pacific.”
Alan came along on one of our working field trips to Lana‘i, Hawai‘i, in the 1980s. He was the Star. We do not remember ever laughing so hard; having Alan around was like having a troop of monkeys on speed. We still talk and laugh about that trip. And Alan.
More recently, he came to the rescue of the EIF. When our website was lost at the beginning of 2010, we contacted him in the hope that he might have some material from the earlier days when he created our original website. It was a longshot, after all these years. Alan not only helped us get our website up and running in record time, but empowered and inspired us to keep it going. We will always remember him with kindness in our hearts.
Alan Drake has left us, but we will miss him and his great smile, and his off-beat ways.
We wish you smooth sailing, Bootswell.