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Eleanor M. Morey, at 89; formerly ran VA’s nutrition services

Shifting views on nutrition helped to make Ms. Morey’s job duties challenging.handout

Early in her career, Eleanor M. Morey ran the food program at a hospital for veterans in the Bronx, N.Y., planning menus for hundreds of former World War II soldiers who needed special diets.

Many patients suffered from tuberculosis, and Ms. Morey contracted the disease, which led to a quarantine that lasted more than a year in the hospital, which is now the James J. Peters VA Medical Center. Friends say she took the situation in stride.

“She was in a room all by herself in what was a very huge hospital filled with thousands of men,” said her longtime friend Joan Connery of Westerly, R.I., who also is a dietician.

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Despite the quarantine that interrupted her career, Ms. Morey rose to become chief of nutrition and food services for the VA system before returning to the North Shore, where she had grown up.

Ms. Morey, who was known to friends and family as Ellie and Cissy, died of Parkinson’s disease Sept. 4 in the Sunrise assisted living community in Peabody. She was 89 and formerly lived in Salem.

Throughout her career, she was a mentor for dieticians, including Mary Canniffe McDonald of Marblehead. Ms. Morey helped McDonald get her first job, at the VA hospital in Brockton.

“You could say she was worshiped by all the veterans dieticians across the country,” McDonald said. “She was so personable, with a wonderful sense of humor, and always very humble.”

For most of her nearly 40 years with the VA, Ms. Morey was based in Washington, D.C. But she also worked in VA hospitals all over the country, including in West Roxbury, as a leader of a system that, according to the Veterans Affairs website, develops comprehensive nutritional services for veterans and their families.

Because nutrition and dietary guidelines change often, McDonald said, Ms. Morey’s job was challenging.

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“She was very highly respected among both food service managers and dietary managers,” McDonald said, adding that Ms. Morey “had a way with everyone. She was really great at coordinating things and keeping them running.”

Born Eleanor Walsh, Ms. Morey was the first of eight children of Charles Walsh and the former Margaret Trainor. Advancing quickly as a student, she graduated from high school at 16 and went to what is now Framingham State University, from which she studied dietetics and graduated with a bachelor’s degree.

She worked for the VA hospital in West Roxbury before moving to New York City. Later, she graduated with a master’s in education from Boston State College.

After Ms. Morey recovered from tuberculosis, she and Connery rented a room near Fordham University in the Bronx. “We did enjoy the city,” Connery said, recalling their outings to restaurants, museums, and theaters.

“She was my friend, but she was also my boss and a very hard worker,” Connery said. “She was a very sharp person, just bubbling over with personality, and she did a wonderful job for all the veterans.”

Ms. Morey married in the late 1950s and divorced within a year.

In a eulogy, her brother Brendan Walsh of Salem recalled taking a train to New York at age 10 to visit the sister who was 14 years his senior and his godmother. He spoke of their memorable trips to “fancy restaurants, to museums, to Central Park, and yes, to Yankee Stadium,” which resulted in “the little boy from Boston becoming a Yankee fan for a long, long time.”

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He added that his sister was known for never seeking credit for her many acts of kindness. Only recently, Walsh noted, he learned that his sister had paid his tuition at Merrimack College. That detail came to light, he added, after he “had to twist a semi-admission out of her.”

Pauline Stansfield of East Falmouth became friends with Ms. Morey in 1975, when Ms. Morey was her boss at the VA in Washington.

“She was just fantastic,” Stansfield said. “She had a wonderful sense of humor. She was really a lot of fun, but when she was at work she was all business. She was so dedicated to her position and just a delight to report to. It was a privilege to work under her direction.”

A service has been held for Ms. Morey, who in addition to her brother leaves a sister, Marjorie Reynolds of Salem, and two other brothers, Charles Walsh and John Walsh, both of Salem.

Active and athletic, Ms. Morey traveled extensively. In recent years, she swam and took exercise classes at the Salem YMCA and played in a Scrabble club at the Salem Athenaeum. Friends said Ms. Morey loved to dine out, attend concerts, and entertain.

“Her favorite thing was having company,” McDonald said. “She was extremely social, she loved having people visit. And when you went to see her, she was so focused. She always made you feel you were the center of her attention. She was just a humble, brilliant human being.”

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Kathleen McKenna can be reached at kmck66@verizon.net.