Joseph A. Murphy (1925-2007)

By | 2017-08-15T15:40:57+00:00 October 24th, 2007|skmurphy|16 Comments

My father died suddenly of a heart attack at home in St. Louis last night with my mother and brother present. He had been to see his internist that morning and gotten a clean bill of health. He would have been 82 in a week.

You Can Always Tell a (Scotch)-Irishman

He lived a full and independent life to the end: “You can always tell an Irishman, but you can’t tell him much.” Although Murphy is an archetypical Irish name, Pop was always clear that we were Scotch-Irish. I think the aphorism still applies to Presbyterians.

I spoke with him almost every week by phone: Sunday night he called full of energy and in good spirits, we talked for perhaps 75 minutes and he had a chance to speak to each of my boys for a while as well.

His best advice to me was that “to not make a decision is to make a decision.”

Words You Regret

They say that the words you regret are the ones you never say, and in that regard I am fortunate.

He had a stroke in 1994 that he made a full recovery from. But the early diagnosis was so severe that his cardiologist advised me that I needed to fly to St. Louis immediately and “help my family get its affairs in order.” Pop made a complete recovery but the episode reset our relationship and gave us a chance to talk. Still, David Gates’ words in “Everything I Own” are good advice for all of us wrapped up in our startups:

Is there someone you know,
you’re loving them so,
but taking them all for granted.
You may lose them one day,
someone takes them away,
and they don’t hear the words you long to say
I would give anything I own,
Give up me life, my heart, my home.
I would give everything I own
Just to have you back again

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  1. Michael Danis November 1, 2007 at 6:02 pm

    I received an email from Pete, which was very kind, telling me about your father. Loss is never easy, but the points you touch on above are so true.
    We should never hesitate to reach out to others because today is all we have. I am glad that it appears your father left quickly and without undue pain or prolonged agony. My father also died quickly of a heart attack @11 years ago.
    All the best.

  2. alex k November 1, 2007 at 9:34 pm


    sorry about your Dad


  3. Jim Schier November 3, 2007 at 2:36 pm

    My sincerest condolences. Your father was a real gem. He was one dad that was always fun to be around. He came across as treating your classmates just like he treated any other adult — which means there was always a kid and that Irish humor in him at all times.

    Jim Schier

  4. John Geisse November 4, 2007 at 11:26 am


    I am sorry for your loss. Despite the good communication and relationship with your father the loss is not much less jarring when it happens.

    I am happy that your Dad lived such a good long life and was so full of energy and spirit till the end. My thoughts are with you,


  5. Charlie Berger November 4, 2007 at 3:11 pm

    Dear Sean,

    I am sorry to hear about your Dad as well. I don’t believe that I have seen your parents since grade school, but I remember them both very well and remember them fondly.


  6. Fr. Gregory, OSB November 6, 2007 at 7:42 am


    I just read Peter\’s email about your dad. I am sorry for your loss, but am so happy you had those years where you could connect with your dad in such a fine way.

    Be assured of my prayers and the prayers of all the monks for him, and for you all.

    As ever,


  7. Winston Rice November 7, 2007 at 12:20 pm

    Dear Sean,

    I’ve never met you but you certainly seem not to have fallen far from your father’s tree, if at any distance at all.

    I first met your dad at a maritime law meeting in New York in 1975, and we immediately hit it off. Although I lived in and just outside of New Orleans and he in St. Louis, we spoke frequently over the years; at various meetings and conferences, while consulting on legal matters and just to keep up with one another. He was not only a giant in his profession but a wonderful man in all respects. He was certainly a great friend who will be missed, but not sadly, by all of us. I say “not sadly,” because every time I think of him and the times we had, I can’t help but smile.

    May the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace.

    Winston Rice+

  8. SKMurphy February 18, 2008 at 11:23 pm

    […] My father always liked to point out that “to not make a decision is to make a decision,” which is also one of the lessons from Boyd’s OODA loop (Observe – Orient – Decide – Act). […]

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