Morrie's passion for books and educaion was inspired by his stepmother Eva.
Morrie's real mother died when he was only eight years old. His father, a Russian immigrant who could not read English, was a "silent" man not prone to "show(s) of affection, communication, warmth". Morrie lived with his father and brother David in poverty after his mother's death, but his frequent hunger for food was not nearly as painful as his longing for love and connection.
Eva came into Morrie's life like "a saving embrace". She was "a short Romanian immigrant with plain features, curly brown hair, and the energy of two women". Eva exuded "a glow that warmed the otherwise murky atmosphere his father created". Morrie took comfort "in her soothing voice, her school lessons, her strong character". Despite the poverty that still defined the family's situation, Morrie was taught by Eva
"to love and to care...and to learn. Eva would accept nothing less than excellence in school, because she saw education as the only antidote to their poverty. She herself went to night school to improve her English. Morrie's love for education was hatched in her arms".
With his stepmother's encouragement and support, Morrie as a youth studied hard each night "by the lamp at the kitchen table" ("The Professor").