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Thomas Morrow, 66; helped in rise of Canobie Lake Park

Thomas O. Morrow III served as operations manager for 30 years at Canobie Lake Park, and played a key role in making the amusement park a favorite summer destination. Thomas O. Morrow III served as operations manager for 30 years at Canobie Lake Park, and played a key role in making the amusement park a favorite summer destination.

Thomas O. Morrow III always loved amusement parks, the sights, sounds, smells, and the smiles on the faces of children and grown-ups who also find pleasure in them.

That passion eventually took him to Canobie Lake Park, where he served as operations manager for 30 years and helped to guide the development of the Salem, N.H., park into a popular regional destination.

Mr. Morrow died from cancer at Lahey Clinic in Burlington on Sunday. He was 66 and lived in Salem, N.H.

Carl Berni, a member of one of the three families who own the 105-year-old park, said Mr. Morrow's death leaves a void at Canobie Lake.

"Tom loved the park," Berni said. "Tom was a key player in the success of the park at a time when parks were going out of existence in New England in the late '70s and '80s.

"Not only did Tom know everyone in town but he knew all the ride manufacturers and suppliers," Berni said. "He knew the owner on the other end of the phone. He knew what worked at other parks and what we should stay away from."

Mr. Morrow began working at amusement parks at an early age. At 16, growing up in Pittsburgh, he got a job at West View Park, where he worked summers while attending California University of Pennsylvania.

He had sought to become a biology teacher after graduating in 1966, his family said. But the pull of the rides, the games, the food stands, and the people lured him back to West View, where he was made manager's assistant and later assistant general manager.

"Dad just fell in love with it," said his son, Greg, of Rossville, Ga.

In 1977, Mr. Morrow heard Canobie Lake Park had an opening for an operations manager.

"Dad happily made the drive north for the chance to spread his wings," his son said in an e-mail. "In doing so, he has been a driving force behind all aspects of the park's development, expansion, and operations."

William H. Robinson of Hamilton, Ohio, who was in the amusement park business, knew Mr. Morrow for 30 years. "He was well respected in our industry," Robinson said. "He put a lot of time in."

In 1971, Mr. Morrow married Katherine Lyne, who worked at West View Park with him, their son said. The couple divorced 10 years later, he said.

Mr. Morrow was a big man in stature, 6-feet-6 with a heart just as big, said Kathleen Horner-Wall of Southington, Conn., who had been in the amusement park industry before becoming a teacher.

"Though Tom did not become a teacher, he was foremost a teacher," she said.

"He taught young people -- including those who came to work at the park -- to be good citizens and to treat people with respect and kindness."

For 20 years, he worked to provide scholarships for high school students through Dollars for Scholars, the Salem chapter of the national Citizens Scholarship Foundation.

In March 2006, Mr. Morrow was inducted into the New England Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions' Hall of Fame.

Berni said that "once the amusement park business gets into your blood, it's hard to get out." Mr. Morrow confirmed that with a comment he made on being inducted into the Hall of Fame.

"I wouldn't trade my years in the business for anything," he said.

In addition to his son, Mr. Morrow leaves a daughter, Shannon Santandrea of San Francisco, and a sister, Linda Mitchell of Philadelphia.

A private funeral service will be held at 9 a.m. today at the Douglas & Johnson Funeral Home in Salem, N.H. A memorial celebration will be held at 10:30 a.m. today at the Canobie Lake Park Catering Center, and burial will be Wednesday at Sunset Memorial Park in Feasterville, Pa.

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