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Life Story / Obituary
There was nothing that brought Walter Murphy more joy than being surrounded by his family. Whether planning on a visit from a child or grandchild or traveling back and forth to Florida making sure to stop and visit cousins, family has been a vital topic for the chapters in Walt’s book of life. He was friendly, outgoing, and giving with a compassionate spirit that extended to family and friends. Walt and Pauline witnessed their family tree blossom to include numerous branches and with pride he shared the accomplishments of his children and grandchildren. He was never at a loss for words if he had the opportunity to tell a story, and most of all he loved to talk of family history. Particularly important were stories of the Murphy family tree and the generations of people that he grew up with. He was known as the historian of many groups. Deeply loved, he will be forever missed.
The 1930s were some of the most challenging days the United States has faced as a nation, as the Great Depression held our country and much of the world firmly in its grip throughout the entire decade. Jobs were scarce, the unemployment rate soared, but the small family dairy farm owned by Archable and Georgia (Parsons) Murphy was the perfect spot to add to the third generation being raised on the family farm. Archie and Georgia added the first addition to their family when they welcomed Walter on September 9, 1937. Born in East Jordan, Michigan, he was the oldest raised in the family home alongside his siblings: Wayne, Linda and Pat.
Walter was proud of his family legacy, which was started by an enterprising young man that homesteaded on the top of a hill in East Jordan Township in 1867. The family farm was transferred to his father, and eventually to him as the family ownership continues for more than 150 years. Growing up on a small family farm meant that when things broke, they fixed it, which taught Walt how to be quite handy. Walt attended local schools where he was part of Future Farmers of America and played the saxophone in the marching band. Walter was also active in 4-H and was part of a group that would travel all around giving demonstrations to various groups on how to run a business meeting. An active part of his community, Walt also belonged to The Grange, an agricultural group formed by the farmers. This organization helped farmers lobby to bring needed services, such as electricity, to their area. Walt then went on to graduate from East Jordan High School in 1955.
Walt was known for his strong work ethic. He started working for the railroad after his Uncle Gayle, who worked for the Pere Marquette Railroad, called to let Walt know they had an opening. Walt had been driving the milk truck for the dairy at the time, but he was ready for something else, particularly something with better hours and pay. He eventually became a train dispatcher and, since he was a people person, this was a great fit for him.
It was while working at the railroad that Walt was introduced to Pauline. She was friends with a coworker of Walt’s, and they arranged for him to give Pauline a ride home to Mancelona (which just happened to be 18 miles from East Jordan). With a desire to spend the rest of their lives together, Walt and Pauline were married, marking the beginning of a chapter in a love story that would span 58 years. Together they welcomed five children including Kim, Michael, Maureen, Patrick, and Mary, and they raised their children in Standale, Michigan. After a railroad merge and reorganization, Walt moved to Jacksonville, Florida, to finish the last 10 years of his 40+ year career; he retired in 1999. Walt and Pauline enjoyed visits from their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and everyone has enjoyed their Florida home, especially the pool.
Throughout his life, Walt was one to remain busy. He was very active in the Grand Rapids Masonic Lodge #34 for 60 years, where he was Past Master twice; also a member of the Order of the Eastern Star Peninsular Chapter #65 (both in Grand Rapids). While their children were growing, they spent a lot of time there as a family as there were frequent events and dances. After retirement, he acted on his love for old steam engines by becoming a member of the Antique Flywheelers Club. Both Walt and Pauline helped in the museum telling stories of life in the area at the turn of the 19th Century. He especially enjoyed talking through the process and importance of thrashing.
Walt’s love of storytelling helped bring to life the past for the next generation. As a history lover, he was part of Banks Township Historical Society, where he also served as president for a time. This was a great fit for Walt as he loved telling stories, and local history played a great part in his storytelling. People often remarked that they should be recording him because he had such a great memory of people, places and dates. Walt encouraged young people to get a college education and supported many children, grandchildren and friends by buying college textbooks. Walt was a breakfast meeting fan and had a group of friends in both East Jordan and Florida that he had breakfast with on a regular basis where he could regale friends and visitors with his storytelling.
Walt loved to travel, making annual pilgrimage to Florida starting in the mid-1970’s. According to Walt, the journey was the most important part, so driving was always the first choice. He never met a map he didn’t love, much to the aggravation of some family members who just wanted to get there. Walt insisted on stopping at the welcome center for every state to pick up another map. He and Pauline were excited to travel to visit Maureen in Israel, Egypt, New Zealand, China, Ireland, France, Switzerland and many other places. As a history lover, Walt found their visit to Normandy last year very meaningful and moving.
All who knew Walter Murphy would agree that he was an extraordinary man to know and love. He was an amazing conversationalist, and he lived to help others in ways both great and small. A man with unwavering morals and convictions, Walt was an inspiration to others to be helpful and friendly. He found no greater delight than the joy he found in his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Life will never be the same without Walt here, but he leaves behind a timeless legacy that his loved ones will proudly carry on.
Walter Murphy died peacefully on December 17, 2019. Surviving are his wife of 58 years, Pauline; 5 children: Kim Stewart, Michael Murphy, Maureen (Eric) Murphy Richardson, Patrick (Lisa) Murphy, Mary (Robert) Lawrence; 15 grandchildren: Steven, Beth, Nicholas, Peter, Siena, Maya, Zachary, Sarah, Stacey, Heather, Christina, Douglas, Katie, Aaron, Jennifer; many great-grandchildren; siblings: Wayne (Delores) Murphy and Linda Murphy; and his niece: Shannon (Joe) Murphy. Walter was preceded in death by his parents, Archable and Georgia, and his sister, Pat Kay. Cremation has taken place. Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. on Friday, December 27, at Heritage Life Story Funeral Home – Alt & Shawmut Hills Chapel, 2120 Lake Michigan Dr. NW, Grand Rapids, with a reception to follow with food and refreshments. Visit Walter’s personal webpage at www.BetzlerLifeStory.com where you may archive a favorite memory or photo and sign his online guestbook. Memorial contributions may be made to Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan. Arrangements by Betzler & Thompson Life Story Funeral Home, 60900 M-40 Hwy., Paw Paw, (269) 657-3870.