Memories of Billy R. Murphy (Obituary and Eulogy)

Billy Raford Murphy

Billy R. Murphy, 80, of Wadsworth, passed away, Saturday, May 30, 2015. He was born January 21, 1935 in Henderson, NC to the late Edward and Maggie Murphy.

Mr. Murphy was retired form the Barefoot Sole Company.

He was preceded in death by his wife of 48 years, Ruth Ann Murphy and 15 brothers and sisters.

Billy is survived by his children: Mike Murphy of Wadsworth, Brenda Hall of Barberton, Linda Murphy of Wadsworth and Danny Murphy of Henderson, NC. He is also survived by 4grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren.

Private services were held for the family.

Eulogy for Billy R. Murphy
June 13, 2015
by Rev. John Partridge

    Sometimes when you meet new people it’s hard to know what to think of them. That might almost describe my feelings when I first met Uncle Bill. He didn’t have a lot to say and usually, at the annual Christmas Eve family gathering, he just sort of held court in the kitchen while everyone else socialized in the dining or living rooms. If he wasn’t already talking with someone else, I might chat with him for a few minutes while I filled a plate full of food, but it’s hard to get to know someone like that. Aunt Ruth was easier because she talked more. The thing that I knew about Uncle Bill wasn’t from what he said, but from his references. It isn’t like he carried around a resume or anything, but you can know a lot about a person from the people around them. Since Harry was Patti’s dad, I spent a lot of time with him and I knew that Harry thought pretty highly of Uncle Bill. That spoke volumes. In most families, the standard for the man that marries your sister is pretty high and so if Harry not only accepted Bill, but both liked and respected him, that said a lot. I knew that although it might be hard to see what Uncle Bill was all about on the surface, there had to be a lot going on underneath the hood.

On top of that, there was Aunt Ruth and all of her kids. Although they were a lot different from my family, they were, and are, all stand up people who would give you the shirt off their backs to help someone. And so if that’s what Uncle Bill’s family was like, then that told me just about everything I needed to know about him, even if we didn’t talk a lot.

They say that like icebergs, trees are often at least twice as big under the ground as they are above ground. Uncle Bill was like that. You just knew that even though he was pretty quiet on the surface, there was a lot going on underneath.

The more I talked to Mike, Linda, and Brenda (Uncle Bill often referred to them as “Linder and Brinder”), and as I got emails and text messages from his grandchildren, more of the story of Billy Raford Murphy appeared. (I think Aunt Ruth was the only person that could call him Billy, or Raford for that matter)

Bill was born in Henderson, NC in 1935, and had 15 brothers and sisters. He went to school through sixth grade and then worked at home to help his family. He also had a son there before moving north with several of his brothers. None of the family up here knows much of anything about why he came north or has had any contact with family in North Carolina, but once Bill came to Ohio this became his home. The only time he ever went back was for his mother’s funeral.

Some time after arriving here, Bill met Ruth at the Bunny Drive In restaurant. He was eating, and she was the classic server girl on roller skates. The way everyone has heard the story, When Bill saw Ruth for the first time, he turned to his friend and said, “That who I’m going to marry.” And he did in 1961. It was a good call because they were married for 48 years.

One description that almost everyone uses was that Bill was a simple man. It didn’t take much to keep him occupied and happy. He loved his garden and he could just sit for hours on the back porch watching, the birds, his garden, and the back yard. And we all know that he enjoyed an occasional can of beer. Particularly Stroh’s. At least until they stopped making it.

Just about every other Mom, Ruth would sometimes threaten her kids by saying, “Just wait until your Dad gets home.” But Bill was not really the disciplinarian and he let Ruth do all the punishing. Although he did, occasionally, get mad. Most of us knew we were in trouble when our parents used our middle names, but Bill was different. Mike said that he always knew he was in trouble when his dad switched from calling him “Mike,” and started calling him “Boy.” When Bill said, “Boy, get over here.” Mike knew he was in trouble.

Even so, every single day, after school, Mike would have everything ready to go fishing. The fishing poles were laid out, the tackle boxes were ready, and a few cans of freshly dug worms. And no matter how tired Bill might have been from a long day at work, the entire family would load up and head for one of the Portage lakes to fish. Everybody had their own gear and everybody fished, except maybe Aunt Ruth, but even if she wasn’t fishing, she would be there sitting in a chair watching everyone else. Bill taught all of his kids to fish and catch turtles and he was good at cooking them too. Because they fished a lot, they ate a lot of fish… unless of course Uncle Harry was around. Harry loved to eat Bill’s fish and Bill’s kids sometimes worried that Harry was going to eat all of it.

And fish wasn’t the only thing that Bill could cook. He loved to cook and did most of the cooking for the whole family. His favorites of course, were T-bone steaks, hush puppies, sausage gravy and biscuits, fried potatoes, collard greens, and black-eyed peas. And of course, fish.
Bill was also more than a little bit of a handyman. He didn’t have much money and his tools were simple, but there wasn’t much of anything that he couldn’t fix, or build. He made his own guns and crossbows, wooden trains and little houses. Bill didn’t need a reason to make things, he just liked doing it. He made stuff and gave it away. It was just the building that made him happy. Along the way, he taught Mike to build things too and as he got older, he would watch Mike build things and would, occasionally, offer suggestions.

And, more than anything, Bill loved his family. He rarely raised his voice but he was always protective of his kids. He never played favorites and he taught them all independence and respect. He never discriminated against anyone and he would occasionally offer good advice like, “It doesn’t hurt to make mistakes, as long as you learn from them.” Bill loved all of his grandkids, he loved spending time with them, and he loved to sit and tell them stories.

And as much as Bill loved his grandchildren, they loved him back. They heard the stories, they remembered them, and they have stories of their own that sound like this:

I lived with him for most of my life. He used to make me sausage every morning before school till I graduated from high school. We used to sit together on the back porch for hours. He would tell me stories about his childhood. He also taught me so much. Like how to garden, different birds and their calls, how to shoot a sling shot , the proper way to use a pocket knife and he gave me so much advice about life in general. One of the best things he taught me is simply just how to sit and listen. He was a man of very few words but if you took the time to sit and listen he would talk your ear off – Jenn

I got to know him when Aunt Ruth was in the hospital. He was a gardener, wine maker, carpenter, gunsmith, handyman, fisherman, boot-maker, and bootlegger. He was determined, knowledgeable, and still humble. – Mike

I always saw grandpa as a man’s man. No matter where he was, no matter who he was around, he was himself. I admired that. With him, there were no facades. What you saw is what you got. Though, on the surface would seem to be the ‘all American tough guy,’ beneath laid a gentle, caring, and humble husband, brother, father, and grandfather. That is something I strive to be one day because of him. – Kevin

    Bill loved Hank Williams and Johnny Cash, liked watching “Wild Kingdom” and “Hee Haw” with his family and always cheered for Ohio State and the Browns. And although he didn’t go back to North Carolina, he often went to Ruth’s family reunions and other events in West Virginia.

Maybe all of you weren’t there, but a few years ago, when both he and Aunt Ruth went into the nursing home, they called me and told me that they wanted to be baptized. They knew that neither of them were going to be around for a lot longer and felt that this was unfinished business for them both. I told them that I would be happy to do it, but would like to talk to them both first, and so, before the service, we sat and talked. Both of them told me that they knew Jesus and believed that he was the Savior of the world and had put their trust in him. They knew that baptism was important but, over the years, somehow it had gotten missed and they wanted to make sure that they did it in front of their kids and their family to make sure that they all knew it was important too.

That meant a lot to me and showed everyone something about his character. Bill was a man who always led by example. He was always himself and even near the end when he could have coasted a little. He made sure to invite everyone to watch him take care of unfinished business with God. I am sure that he intended for all of us to learn two things. First, take care of unfinished business and second, make sure that you are right with Jesus.

In that place, and for the rest of his life, Bill loved his family and wanted to make sure that they were taken care of. Even in a nursing home Bill led by example.

We can all learn from the things that Bill taught. In this room, and wherever we go, much of him remains because of what he taught all of us.

And in the end, that is his greatest legacy.

2 thoughts on “Memories of Billy R. Murphy (Obituary and Eulogy)

  1. Bill was my Uncle. We were playmates, we went to school together. We were best friends always. I haven’t seen him for many years but I know Bill well and I think he chose his wife very well and had a very nice family.I guess the reason he never came back to Henderson was that most all his family moved away. I for one moved to Arizona and did not come back very often myself.The last time I saw Bill or Connie was when my grandmother died. December of 1965. A lifetime ago. so sorry we all lost touch with each other after that. Sad about his passing!


  2. Pastor.I for one,am glad you posted this very fitting story of a man I sure wished I knew! He was much like the Potter men in my family: silly honest, true to the end w/family GOD and just being what he was made to do, nothing added like pleasing the wrong crowd! Hoepw I long to see younger men like his kind! May his tribe increase!


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