J. Austin Murphy, 91, of 22 Elm Street, died October 1, 2021 after a brief illness, just 11 days after the death of his beloved wife of 63 years, Pat. Mr. Murphy was born Nov. 7, 1929, in Brooklyn—only a week after the stock market crash that started the Great Depression. He was the eldest son of the late J. Austin and Ethel (Gibney) Murphy.
As an infant, Mr. Murphy moved with his family to Westerly, where he attended local schools. The family also lived in Stonington, Conn. for a time. During World War II, Mr. Murphy moved with his family to Buffalo. He graduated from St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute and then accepted a football scholarship to Colgate University. Mr. Murphy was a key member of the football and basketball teams and sang in the Colgate 13, the school's renowned a capella group.
Shortly after graduating and working for a few months in a sales job he considered drudgery—hawking jockstraps and trusses for a company called Bauer & Black—Mr. Murphy enlisted in the Marine Corps. He played on the USMC football squad, travelling the country competing against college teams. At the end of autumn in 1951, he shipped out to Korea and spent two years fighting in the Korean Conflict. He earned several medals, including a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star (with "V" for valor), and returned to the United States with the rank of Captain.
Following the war, Mr. Murphy enrolled at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, earning his MBA while courting Pat, then a student at nearby Rosemont College. They married in 1958 and by 1966 had seven children adding an eighth in 1970. Following graduation from Wharton Mr. Murphy embarked on a 30-year career at US Steel, which saw him manage progressively larger sales territories, serve as Assistant to the General Superintendent of the Fairless Works Steel Mill, and become General Manager of US Steel Central Sales. In 1984, he left US Steel to become CEO of Blair Strip Steel in New Castle, Penn. After five years at Blair Mr. Murphy became Vice President and General Manager of Kenilworth Steel in Warren, Ohio.
Mr. Murphy was a tough but affectionate and loving father. He traveled frequently and worked long hours but always found time to stress to his children the importance of—in no particular order—family, faith, sports, education…and weeding his increasingly prodigious flower gardens. Mr. Murphy spent countless hours in what appeared to be prison-issue coveralls, tilling, planting, fertilizing, clearing, watering—then ordering his children to take over as he stood by, offering unsolicited instruction. Moreover, he rarely missed one of his children's—or grandchildren's—athletic events. He thought nothing of driving ten or more hours to some far-flung college to bellow his support and offer constructive criticism to game officials.
Mr. Murphy was also an avid, if chronically mediocre, golfer, who sometimes told the story of striking with his errant shots not one but two golfers—they were brothers—in the same round. The siblings, who turned out to be priests, were slow to grant him absolution when he apologized later in the clubhouse. Thanks in part to his sales jobs, he belonged to numerous country clubs over the decades and was able to avail himself of many prestigious courses. After retiring, he joined Point Judith Country Club in Narragansett, where he played for 20 years. In addition, for 35 years, Mr. Murphy was a member at Pine Valley Golf Club, generally regarded as among the world's best courses. He thoroughly enjoyed hosting friends at Pine Valley, where the staff adored "Murph."
Mr. Murphy was an outstanding vocalist and sang in the choir (and served as a lector) at every parish he belonged to, including St. Clare, where he was a daily communicant. He was also a longtime member of—and extremely active fundraiser for—the Chorus of Westerly. Mr. Murphy sang with the Chorus into his 80s—until he could no longer stand on the risers for any length of time. And, despite being a voracious reader and history buff, Mr. Murphy engaged in weekly, futile battles with the Sunday New York Times crossword—wearing out dozens of erasers each year.
Mr. Murphy leaves seven children, Leslie Murphy of Westerly; Austin Murphy and his wife, Gina Raith, of Petaluma, CA.; and Chris Murphy and his wife Jeanine of North Attleborough, MA. They also leave Gibney (Gibby) Ries and her husband John of Reston, VA.; Matthew Murphy and his wife Kimm of Conifer, CO.; Mark Murphy and his wife Sabrina of Scarborough, ME; and Amy Rectenwald and her husband David of Conneaut Lake, PA. Mr. Murphy was the father of the late Lorin Peterson of Minnetonka, Minn. and will also be missed by Lorin's husband, Rodney Peterson.
“Rex” also leaves 20 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Mr. Murphy leaves his sister-in-law Diane Murphy of Essex, CT, widow of Mr. Murphy’s beloved brother Albert “Gib” Murphy. He is missed by his brothers and sister’s in-law, Martha Cole and her husband Phil, Rick Reeves and his wife Sally, Tina Eisenberg and her husband Richard, all of The Villages, FL, Tanha Luvaas and her husband Jon of Chico, CA, and Harry Reeves and his wife Nancy of Vero Beach, FL. Mr. Murphy was predeceased by his sister-in-law, Mary Dale Reeves. Many nieces and nephews also mourn his loss.
Mr. Murphy was supported by the caring staff at The Elms, where he and Mrs. Murphy had lived for the past several years, the kind and capable Beacon Hospice team; and especially his daughter Leslie, for whom no sacrifice was too much.
There will be a Mass of Christian Burial for Mr. and Mrs. Murphy at 10 a.m., October 18 at St. Clare's Church, 4 St. Clare's Way, Westerly followed by internment at St. Michael the Archangel Cemetery in Pawcatuck, Conn. A reception for family and friends will follow. The Murphy family requests that attendees be fully vaccinated or masked.
In lieu of flowers please consider a donation to the WARM Center, The Blue Mitten, or the Chorus of Westerly.
For online condolences, please visit www.buckler-johnston.com
To plant a tree in memory of John Austin Murphy, please click here.