James P. Murphy Jr. '66
Deceased March 19, 2008
James Patrick Murphy died on March 19, 2008, of heart failure.
He and I had a wonderful time at our 40th Reunion reminiscing about our Amherst days and looking forward to visits in Montana. We kept track of our families and career life thru Christmas cards and an occasional phone call, but we hadn’t seen each other in years. Murph had triple bypass surgeries back in 1982 and 1989. At reunion, he mentioned how he felt he had carefully tended to his hereditary heart problems with exercise, diet, and professional care. I was absolutely shocked when Russ Clark called with the news of his death from a sudden heart attack in March.
The thing I remember most about Murph is his smile. It was ever present and a sign of his warm and friendly personality. His smirk was even friendly. He had a confidence that was contagious—not cocky, but a calm “we can do this” attitude. He practiced the “servant as leader” principle way before it was ever penned.
There isn’t enough space to tell all the stories, but if you’ll permit a digression to a freshman English tactic, here’s a stream-of-consciousness from Russ, Carl Knutsen, John McKenzie and me related to our Murph memories: Always positive - U president - rush chair - geology minor - scooters in Pioneer Valley - asking Casey for a “whether” report every morning – Goose - Dodge Dart convertible - squash - economics major - Wild Turkey - Chinese dinners - true friend – Bullwinkle - Dr. Foose’s honesty - meticulous - flying model airplanes - %#@* burger at Joe’s - decorating - Bolero (room at DU) - golf balls and the second floor patio - alumni fund agent - beer pong - leadership - returning to the house way ahead of everyone else from pledge hike - mud football - smart - funny - cheerleader - Harlan Fiske Stone Society - fixing clocks - Newman Club - “beverage” vending - House Management Committee ... and, did I mention - friend! Each of you who knew Jim can add to this list. And when you do, I’m certain you’ll do it with a smile on your face.
After Amherst, Jim attended Univ. of Montana School of Law where he earned his Juris Doctorate and was selected to be an associate editor of the Montana Law Review. Most importantly, he met the love of his life, Patricia Ann O’Laughlin. Irish eyes were smilin’ on Jim when he married Patty O in 1968.
Billings, MT, was Jim’s home. There he served as law clerk for two years, then was a partner at Berger, Anderson, Sinclair & Murphy until 1980. He practiced law solo for several years until he became the founding partner of Murphy, Kirkpatrick & Fain, where he remained until his death.
Jim was an extremely active leader in the community. From founding director of Horizon Home for Abused Children to YWCA. Murph received the State Bar Distinguished Service Award, the Univ. of Montana Community Service Award and the Yellowstone Area Bar Association Professionalism Award as symbols of his dedication to the community.
As you might expect, Jim (with his Irish passport) and Patty O traveled to Ireland frequently, reconnecting with cousins and other extended family members. They also went beyond their beloved Ireland—most recently visiting China, France, and the Balkans.
Murph’s proudest accomplishments were his children. Ryan, with his fiancée Layne Paddock, resides in New York City. Patrick lives in Houston, and Erin is closer to home in Bozeman. They all have the middle initial “O”!
The kids put together a wonderful slide/video show of Murph moments shown at his wake. They know their dad very well. The closing of the show was a video of Jim riding a bicycle at their summer lake home. He rode the bike onto an “L” shaped pier ... straight, then a hard right, and without slowing he pedaled off the end of the pier ... disappearing into the water. He had a smile on his face the whole way.
Murph, you blessed us with your friendship and a legacy of wonderful memories we will never forget.
Roger Kurz ’66