Let me tell you a little about my father.

By John K. Murphy
My father just turned 91 years old and he’s my HERO. He remains active in his community on Cape Cod in Falmouth, Massachusetts. He golf’s, bowl’s, goes to Mass every Sunday and sings with the choir, drives his car, walks around town, lives in a senior apartment complex, cooks at the senior center for the “old people” and the homeless and drinks an occasional beer. He’s active, vibrant and vital and remains relevant and vital to his children and members of his community.

My father was one of a kind – community minded and family oriented. He and my mother were married for over 50 years until breast cancer took her from us. My father never remarried as he says that no other woman could replace her. I was always thinking that no other woman would want to be married to him ‘cause he’s a curmudgeon – a lovable one however. We had the typical two parent family with three boys. We had a fourth brother who died at birth. My brother named one of his sons after him - Daniel Matthew Murphy.
The things that made my dad unique to me and my two brothers was that he always loved us, first and foremost even though growing up in a small town in upstate New York, we were on a first name basis with the local police. Community lore said if the local police could not solve a crime by going to three houses in town, the crime was unsolvable! The other families that shared in this notoriety were the Fosters, the Moore’s and of course the Murphy’s. All had hell raising sons in their families and we were buddies in our youth – a tribe of sorts. We were all altar boys at the local Catholic Church which was a whole other story, but we were tight with God and we felt absolved on Sunday from our weekly sins.

My dad was involved in Rotary and as a Coach of my Little League team. Our name was the Green’s among such other team names as the Reds, Blues, Yellows, Golds, ect. You get the picture, not very creative but we had a lot of fun. He loved baseball and wanted to pass that love of the game to his sons and other children in town. We played hardball – no “T” ball or softball for us. It was player pitched and I cannot tell you how many times I got hit by an errant pitch. My dad was always there saying get up and get back in the box – and stop crying. Isn’t there crying in baseball? Nope he would say. He was there to teach me about sportsmanship and to be a team player.

He provided me with the shortest sex education class ever. We were driving around town and he all of a sudden says, “do you know what the word “starting with an F and ending with a K” (it wasn’t fire truck) means?” I said, “yes I do” and that was the end of my sex education. He wasn’t much of a teacher but he worried about his sons coming of age with raging hormones and tons of pimples. He also taught me and my brothers to respect our elders, to say please and thank you and to place a napkin on my lap when eating. He taught me to open and hold doors for anyone who was entering into the same business and to love my wife and children. He taught me how to drive a car and taught me the value of a turn signal and speed limits.
My father was a WW II Navy veteran of serving in the Pacific Theater on the USS Bennington with Torpedo Squadron 82 (VT 82) also known as Devils Diplomats. There was no love lost between him and the Japanese as many of his flight crew friends died in that war, shot down and never to return. He discovered the fate of a couple of the flight crew who were shot down over Ichi Jima in a book by James Bradley, Flyboys. In this book the author discovered the Navy aviators crashed their airplane on Ichi Jima were captured and were eventually beheaded after months of torture. Everyone in the Squadron thought they perished at sea – a much better ending in the sailors minds than getting beheaded.

My father was there for me and my brothers when we went into the military. My one brother and I were in the Navy and the other brother went to the dark side and joined the Army. My dad would write letters to me and my brothers who were all in the service at about the same time. The funny thing about my dad was he would write ONE letter starting out with Dear ___________ and leave the name out. He would Zerox the letter, fill in our names and send us the letter. This guy was efficient and funny.

My dad was not a war hero, a fireman or a cop. He was a chemical engineer who went to night school after the war as so many did, built a productive life and had a beautiful family. While he was going to school he also worked as he had a young wife and son. He worked hard; he taught us core value that continues to guide our lives. He also taught us that hard work never killed anyone and you get further ahead making the effort rather than slacking off. He taught that education was important but you could do well in life under his “hard work” beliefs. My brothers and I went on to successful careers and raised robust families. My dad now has a “large” family in addition to his sons and their wives; he has eight grandchildren and six great grandchildren. We all gathered at his 90th birthday last year and he is still talking about it.

My dad is now thinking about his mortality. He worries about money, his health, his aging joints, his allergies and most of all he worries about dying and people finding him dead in bed. We keep tabs on him every day and we reassure him that we are there for him like he was there for us. “Don’t worry about money” we say. We reassure him that he is in great health confirmed by his several doctors. We urge him to stay active in the community, his church and with his friends. He is a very social creature and has hundreds of friends although most are dead or dying. That is what happens to old people and will eventually happen to us as well, but not too soon we hope.

What has my father taught me has stuck with me through my entire life and career. He also taught me to laugh, love, share my knowledge, be nice, get a dog, and love my family. In the end, he says, family is all you have left.
He is our hero and remains our hero every day that he lives. I share this story with you because of the upcoming celebration of fathers all over the world but more importantly, because of my father, who is my HERO. I love you dad.

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