Former isle priest survived Bataan Death March
John J. Morrett, who survived the Bataan Death March and a ship sinking during World War II to become an Episcopal priest in Honolulu, died Oct. 14 at the VA Medical Center in Lake City, Fla. He was 95.
Morrett founded the Church of the Holy Nativity in Aina Haina in 1950, and also served as dean of St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Honolulu in 1962, and as vicar at St. George’s Church near Pearl Harbor and St. Augustine Church in Kapaau, Hawaii.
He recounted his experiences in the Army during World War II and in the church in his 1993 autobiography, “Soldier-priest.”
“He was somebody who made a mark, and he made a difference,” said his daughter Sandy Morrett.
During World War II Morrett served as an Army captain in the Philippines. He was captured by Japanese forces, survived the infamous 60-mile Bataan Death march and spent 2 years in four prisoner-of-war camps.
In 1944 he was aboard the Shinyo Maru, a Japanese cargo ship transferring 750 American prisoners of war to Japan, when it was torpe- doed by the U.S. submarine USS Paddle off the coast of Mindanao.
Morrett was one of 82 prisoners to survive. He swam to safety and was picked up by Philippine nationals.
Morrett was ordained into the Episcopal Church in 1947. After a stint of ministry in China, he moved to Hawaii in 1949 and spent two decades working in the Episcopal Church.
He spent the 1970s working for the Episcopal Church in his home state of Ohio, and in the early 1980s went to Bangkok to work at Christ Church, helping the Karen people, refugees from Burma fighting for independence.
“He would ride an elephant to the encampment,” Sandy Morrett said of his missions in Thailand. “He was always the missionary, always reaching out to not just people locally, but people like that, the refugees.”
Morrett returned to Hawaii after his work in Thailand. For 11 years, he lived on Hawaii island writing his autobiography as well as a book of 12 biographical sketches about St. Francis of Assisi and 11 modern Chris- tian men and women, “Saints I Have Known and Known About.” He retired to Jacksonville, Fla., in 1999.
He is survived by his wife Joan, son Daniel, daughters Sandy Morrett and Lisa Morrett Reid, and stepdaughter Christa Germanson.
A service will be held at the Church of the Holy Nativity at a future date.
Donations in Morrett’s memory may be sent to Karen Refugees, c/o The Brackett Refugee Education Fund, P.O. Box 8, Hamilton, NY 13346, or Holy Trinity Anglican Church, 3889 Eloise St., Jacksonville, FL 32205.
John J. Morrett: He founded the Church of the Holy Nativity in Aina Haina in 1950.