Today, July 21 is my fathers birthday and the first that we will spend without him with us. Judge/Colonel Tim Murphy Would have been 86.
My father died earlier this year on January 8th. I am sharing this so many months later for those that would be interested in some details about his life and his passing. I did not share this online at the time, because I wanted to deal with the loss in a private rather than public way. Being somewhat of a public figure (in a very very small pond) whose social network friends include thousands of people I have never actually met, I was not really sure how to deal with everything in a public way. We do not really get to rehearse dealing with the loss of people we love.
In short my father was a great man. One of those people that accomplished so much with his life that it makes the lives of most of the rest of us seem un-eventful. He also managed to achieve so much with a well deserved reputation as being honorable, fair and just. He was the kind of man who even his adversaries liked and respected him. He was also a man that was far more generous and supportive of me than any father ever needed to be. I have managed to have a pretty wonderful life and accomplish a lot. I can attribute a lot of that to hard work and luck, but I do not believe that what I have been able to do with my life would have been possible without my father giving me far more advantages than any kid could rightly expect.
Dad waited for all the family to be by his side before he left us. According to his wishes, we had his wake at home, with him laid out by the fireplace. His funeral was at the parish church with police escorts leading the procession to the church and the Knights of Malta showing up in full regalia for the event. A month later, the morning after a massive snow storm he was buried in Arlington Cemetery. Despite the storm shutting down the federal government, The Marines still buried my dad with full military honors. A staggering tribute with dozens of honor guards, 21 gun salutes, trumpeter off in the distant hills. It was beautiful beyond description. Dad loved tradition and ceremony. He would have been very pleased. There is no way loosing my dad could be a good thing, but there is no way I could have ever hoped for all that surrounded it to been any better. I am completely aware of how lucky I am.
For lack of any better way to describe things, probably the best way to describe his passing and his life is to share the email that I sent to some close friends the night he died, and to share the wonderful Eulogy by one of his dearest friends, Tom Kennelly.
Happy Birthday Dad!
A GOOD WORST DAY
My family has Irish Blood. This means we wear our suffering proudly, have an almost moral obligation to find ways to enjoy a good laugh amongst tragedy, and a death is an excuse for a big party. We had a big party today in Virginia.
My father died tonight, this perhaps being one of the worst days in a son’s life. As expected, it was hard, brutal at times and something that I am sure will take a long time to process. But in all of the sadness, I could not get over how lucky I was, and am. My father who has been battling a degenerative disease for 13 years, lived 10 years longer than the doctors predicted, he was able to spend the last years of his life at home with my mother and received amazing and loving support from the professionals that helped my mother care for him. I was able to spend quite a bit of time with him these last few months including the Christmas holidays. There was nothing I wanted to tell him that was left unsaid. A few days ago after I returned to California, Dad took a turn for the worse, but he held on long enough for me to fly back to Virginia to spend two more days with him.
As Dad finally left us, my mother and all of his 4 children were with him. We all had a chance to say goodbye. He was comfortable, loved and at peace. It was as beautiful and as perfect as something so crappy could possibly be. As I said: I am lucky.
Ronan Chris Murphy
EULOGY AT THE FUNERAL OF HON. TIMOTHY C. MURPHY BY THOMAS A. KENNELLY
St. Agnes Church, Arlington, VA
January 17, 2015
My name is Tom Kennelly, formerly from Washington, now living in Napa, CA and a longtime friend of Tim Murphy. It is a great honor to have been asked by Tim to do his eulogy but a singular challenge as well. How do you do justice in describing the life, career and character of a man from Wevertown, a tiny hamlet in upstate New York that isn’t even on the map, who became a distinguished federal prosecutor in our nation’s capital; who received a presidential appointment to the bench at age 37 and became a highly respected jurist. A great public speaker who taught courses in five different law schools and gave lectures in more than a dozen other think tanks and institutes. A man who served on the faculty of the National Judicial College, training other judges, for more than 20 years. A man who held leadership positions in the American Bar Association. A man who on a simultaneous track rose to the rank of Colonel in the United States Marine Corps. A man whose deep and unwavering Catholic faith defined his life and informed his life decisions. A man with a huge heart with great compassion who dearly loved his wife, his family, and his friends. A man of wit and humor who was one of the alltime great Irish story tellers.
The clue, I believe, is in the word “justice.” Tim Murphy was dedicated to the cause of justice, the pursuit of justice and especially efforts to improve the administration of justice, to ensure its fairness, its impartiality, and its attainability for all .
I first met Tim in November 1954 when we were both in the United States Marine Corp’s Officer Candidate School at Quantico, VA. He had just graduated from Georgetown law school and I from Santa Clara. Among the hundreds in the OCC there were about a dozen of us who were recent law school graduates and we all got to know each other pretty well. One of them was Stuart J. Land, who later became a distinguished senior partner in the firm of Arnold and Porter here in Washington. Stu is here today to pay homage to Tim.
The betting among the drill instructors was that we lawyers would be the first to wash out —- we were older than the others, out of shape (which was generally true, having hunched over law books for the past 3 years) and would not be able to take the physical challenges and psychological harassment being
dished out by the instructors. But we all made it, and five months of infantry training thereafter (as some of the college athlete heroes in the class did not). After that we were all sent for seven weeks of training at the Naval Justice School in Newport, RI, before receiving our permanent assignments.
I might add that all of these lawyers went on to successful legal careers in civilian life, to which we attributed in no small measure the training and experience we received as Marine JAG officers.
While in San Francisco Tim got to know my parents and sisters, who lived in the Bay Area, and who became great admirers of Tim.
Later, back in civilian life in 1962, Tim was an Assistant U. S. Attorney in Washington and I held the same position in San Francisco, both of us still bachelors in our early thirties. I accepted an invitation from the Dept. of Justice to transfer to Washington, and Tim very generously invited me to share the home in Cleveland Park occupied by himself, Ken Pye (God rest his soul) who was then teaching at Georgetown, and Peter Cella, another distinguished member of the DC Bar, who later practiced in New York.
Then on December 16, 1962, a wonderful thing happened. Tim and I each went to separate Christmas parties that evening, still hoping to find the perfect mate. The next morning I came down to breakfast and said, “Tim, I met the girl of my dreams last night. Her name is Susan Powers, and I’m going to marry her.” Tim’s reply was, “What a coincidence. I met the girl of my dreams last night. Her name is Barbara Garrity, and I’m going to marry her.” And we both did, and we were best man in each other’s wedding. Tim was a little faster than I. He and Barbara were married on October 12, 1963, and Susan and I on April 4, 1964. And we have both celebrated our 50th anniversaries.
Thereafter from the time of our marriages we celebrated both Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners together, with the usual chaos and noise of eventually seven children. We did this, if memory serves me, until the Murphy children began having children of their own, and it was finally decided that it was time to start new traditions.
In 1981 Tim was admitted to the Order of Malta, and in 1982 he sponsored my admission. And at the annual banquet the Murphys and the Kennellys were always the last couples on the dance floor.
Tim Murphy was an Improver. He was hellbent on making things work better. Wherever he saw a need for improvement, he set about to make it happen, often over entrenched opposition, be it initiating programs to improve the
administration of justice, or eliminating a court’s backlog, or getting deadbeat fathers to make their child support payments, or modernizing debt collection procedures in U.S. Attorneys offices nationwide, as he did during his post- retirement tenure in the office of the Associate Attorney General, or changing the By-Laws of the Order of Malta to make elections more democratic. And when it was finally accomplished Tim usually got an award for accomplishing the next-to-impossible. I believe that Tim had a sense of his own responsibility for the world in which he lived, and that he found satisfaction in demonstrating that one person can make a difference.
Tim had an abundance of energy. Here is just one example of Judge Murphy’s prodigious work on the bench, as reported by the Judicial Commission: In one nine month period, he conducted 114 jury trials, 55 more than his nearest colleague. During that same nine month period, he conducted 925 in-court paternity reviews, taught 3 hours a week of contract law, and performed two weeks active duty with the Marine Corps.
During all of this time Tim rose in rank in the Marine Corps Reserves, retiring after 30 years with the rank of Colonel. For the Marine Corps he made six trips to Europe and Asia where he conducted legal and judicial training programs. Upon his retirement he was awarded the Marine Corps Legion of Merit.
To recite all of Tim Murphy’s awards would be akin to reciting the Litany of Saints. Among others, he received awards from the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Justice, and the National Judicial College. From the Order of Malta he received the Cross of Merit Pro Merito Militensi. But the award I like best is the one from the United States Army, for meritorious service to the Army Judiciary, the first ever given to a Marine Reservist. Way to go, Tim!
But more meaningful than all the awards were the words used to describe him by both the lawyers and the individuals who appeared before him. The Judicial Commission cited “repeated and favorable comments on his diligence, fairness, impartiality and wisdom. His special interest in the problems of the family, the juvenile, the non-supported spouse, the young probationer, has provided hope and sensitivity where too often lay despair and neglect.”
Tim carried those qualities into his numerous volunteer activities. He was a volunteer at various times at Providence Hospital, the Cherrydale Nursing Home, Father Horace McKenna’s soup kitchen at St. Aloysius, and he and Barbara made numerous pilgrimages to Lourdes with the Order of Malta. Tim was active every year until the onset of his illness in the Christmas in April program, which repairs and renovates the homes of the elderly and
infirm. This judge could be found painting or scraping, right alongside a taxi driver or a janitor, along with many other members of the Order of Malta.
Lest it sound as though Tim was all work and no play, let me emphasize that this close-knit family always found time to enjoy each other’s company.
There was the annual extended family sojourn to Capon Springs, W.Va., their regular trips to their camp on a lake near Tim’s hometown, and twice Tim and Barbara took the whole family to Ireland. You can imagine the hilarious stories that came out of those trips. Tim accompanied Barbara, an avid birder, to many a remote locale to find a species to add to her lifelist. Tim supported Barbara in her studies at the Notre Dame Institute and he took her to Rome to receive her Masters degree in catachetics. And together, after his retirement and while his health prevailed, they traveled extensively to most places in the world, including trekking and hiking trips to Nepal, Patagonia, and Oberguergle. While he was able, Tim made innumerable trips around the country to celebrate the lives of his many departed friends. I think he would find it most gratifying to see so many of you here today.
Tim bore his lengthy illness with extraordinary grace and dignity. Or as Barbara put it, he was too tough a Marine and too stubborn an Irishman to give up.
To sum up Tim Murphy’s life, I think he would not mind my saying that he lived the motto of the Marine Corps. He was always faithful to the cause of justice; always faithful in the service of his country; always faithful to his wife and family and friends; always faithful to his Church and to the Catholic tradition of moral commitment, ethics, and promotion of the common good.
I think you will agree that all of us have been fortunate and privileged to have known him, and our lives have been enriched by him.
Semper Fi, my good friend. You have lived a good life in the image of God, and you have had a great wife to assist you. May you rest in peace.