Roger and Valerie Morash remembered for brilliance

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Berkeley residents Roger and Valerie Morash, who died at 35 and 32, respectively, in their South Berkeley home Jan. 23, are remembered for the brilliance and talent they brought to all areas of their lives.

Although Berkeley Police Department has been unable to confirm the cause of their deaths, there have been several unconfirmed media reports blaming the Morash’s 3D printer for releasing carbon monoxide gas that killed the couple. BPD, the Berkeley Fire Department and PG&E, however, have repeatedly stated that all tests for carbon monoxide poisoning and other hazardous materials were negative. BPD is awaiting the coroner’s report to confirm the cause of death.

Roger and Valerie met as undergraduates at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and dedicated their lives to their passions — Roger worked as a game developer and Valerie was a researcher. The pair moved to Berkeley in 2006. Valerie attended UC Berkeley to earn a master’s degree in statistics and a doctorate in psychology, while her husband worked in the video game industry and founded his own video game development studio called Glug Glug.

“Val and Roger were true Renaissance people, successfully tackling projects from many disciplines and creating wondrous collaborations with dozens of people,” said the Morash’s family and friends in a statement.

Valerie had been studying haptic perception and visual impairment at the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute in San Francisco at the time of her death and earned extensive recognition for her work in the field and as a graduate student. While attending UC Berkeley, she was awarded the 2014 Elizabeth Scott Memorial Award for outstanding master’s research in statistics.

“Val was incredibly driven, both as a scientist and as a humanitarian,” said Amanda McKerracher, Valerie’s friend and research collaborator, in an email. “She was always full of positivity, teaching me to view critical feedback and rejections as a chance to improve our work, not an excuse to give up.”

In addition to her research on visual impairment, Valerie spent much of her free time working with the visually impaired community by volunteering with organizations in the Bay Area, according to McKerracher.

Valerie also focused much of her research on solving issues faced by blind and visually impaired individuals.

“She was … deeply devoted to the children and adults her work sought to help,” McKerracher said in her email.

Roger Morash worked as a programmer at Harmonix Music Systems and Demiurge Studios, helping to develop many games including “Amplitude,” “Rock Band 3” and “The Beatles: Rock Band.”

Before he died, Roger had been working on a game called “Shard” for his company Glug Glug.

“(Roger) worked with us on multiple games over the years, and Amplitude was the culmination of his deep experience, as well as his intense love for video games,” said Ryan Lesser, creative lead at Harmonix, in the statement. “Amplitude would not have shipped without Roger, and his impact is seen and felt in every second of our game.”

The two were married for more than eight years. They owned two cats named Minsky and Malloc — named after artificial intelligence researcher Marvin Minsky and a C programming language function — that were also found dead Jan. 23.

Friends and family remember Valerie and Roger Morash for the impact they had on other people’s lives and the immense love they carried for those around them.

“Val and Roger were two bright suns, pulling friends into their orbit and showering them with love and support,” the statement said. “In their short lives, Val and Roger accomplished much more and touched many more people than others do in much longer lifetimes.”

According to the statement, family and friends are already working to ensure the completion of Roger’s game “Shard” and Valerie’s research. Their family and friends are also planning to establish scholarships in their name.

“Val and Roger have produced so much knowledge and have given so much love, yet they had so much more knowledge and love left to give, and their legacy must live on,” the statement said. “We, their family and friends, will ensure that it does.”

Sydney Fix is the lead schools and communities reporter. Contact her at at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sydney_fix.