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Canton man remembered by hotel coworkers after hit-and-run death Monday

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CANTON — A Canton man who was killed Monday night while riding his bicycle to his longtime job at the Best Western Plus University Inn in the village was revered by coworkers as a man with limitless care and generosity for others.

Richard F. Morrow, 69, of Ellis Road, died when he was struck by a car on County Route 27 in the village at 10:49 p.m. Daniel W. Lester, 28, of 8 Heuvelton St., Rensselaer Falls, was driving his 2011 Toyota Corolla northbound when he allegedly struck Mr. Morrow and fled, according to police. Mr. Morrow was pronounced dead at the scene; an autopsy will be scheduled to determine the cause of death, according to police.

Police charged Mr. Lester with second-degree vehicular manslaughter, second-degree vehicular assault, leaving the scene of a fatal motor vehicle accident, driving while ability impaired by drugs, driving while intoxicated with prior convictions and aggravated unlicensed operation, all felonies. He is being held in the St. Lawrence County jail on $7,500 bail pending a preliminary hearing Friday in Canton Town Court.

Mr. Morrow owned The Meadows Restaurant at 5855 Route 27 in Canton and was bicycling to the hotel where he worked as the night auditor for just over 15 years.

But as suddenly as Mr. Morrow died, stories of his generosity and kindness began to surface from longtime friends and coworkers, along with a portrait and flowers to memorialize him at the front desk of the hotel.

Hotel General Manager Justin A. Chapman was home in Rochester for Christmas, but said he learned of Mr. Morrow’s death and wanted to share his memories of the man whose generosity he had seen first-hand.

“There was a family that showed up at the hotel late one night and the kitchen was closed when they were looking for something to eat,” Mr. Chapman said. “Dick offered to fix them some sandwiches and then charged it to his credit card. That’s just the type of guy he was. He just took care of people.”

That was the shared consensus. Mr. Morrow wanted others to feel comfortable and taken care of.

Elaine A. Ames, the kitchen manager at the hotel’s County Seat Restaurant and Lounge, said Mr. Morrow’s generosity was unmatched.

“The restaurant ran short on food Saturday and he took me in my truck over to his restaurant to pick up eggs and things and said to repay him whenever we were able,” Ms. Ames said. “He was a generous, unique and soft-spoken man.”

County Seat’s chef, Kevin M. Pask, said he and Mr. Morrow shared a passion for the restaurant business; it was a bond between the two men.

“We talked about his new endeavor with the Meadows” in July 2012, “and it meant a lot to me that he valued my opinion,” Mr. Pask said. “He was a personal role model to me by how hard he worked with both jobs.”

Paul W. Kessler, front office manager of the hotel for 10 years, recalled Mr. Morrow’s kindness to hotel guests.

“It wouldn’t be uncommon for Dick to foot the bill for folks’ overnight stays when they were down on the luck,” Mr. Kessler said. “He was a huge help to me and was largely reliable, so when I got the call (Monday) night that he wasn’t in, I knew something was wrong.”

Mr. Morrow also spent 10 years teaching math at Norwood-Norfolk Central School and was president of the Canton Church & Community Program board.

Police said several witnesses described Mr. Lester and his vehicle, leading to his arrest on Miner Street Road in Canton.

In 2009 he was charged with driving while ability impaired by drugs, leaving the scene of an accident, reckless driving and other traffic violations when he crashed his vehicle on Irish Settlement Road and attempted to drive away on three wheels after he lost the front driver’s side tire.

In 2010, he faced DWI and other charges when he crashed his car into guardrails on County Route 15 and abandoned the vehicle in Rensselaer Falls.

Times staff writer Katie Anderson contributed to this report.

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