John Murray died July 2, 2022. This tribute, by Fred Steiner, is followed by John's obituary.
John Murray is one reason Bluffton is such an interesting place to call home.
Proving handicaps are something to ignore, he championed more projects in Bluffton than any team of the rich and famous could even dream up.
Yes, barriers, he had; a lifelong challenge with cerebral palsy. Never finishing high school, he may have advanced to the eighth grade in Bluffton. During his school years, options for whatever label educational systems might have identified him with were non-existent.
Certainly, his mother, Ruby Murray, a Bluffton first grade teacher, deserved credit for John’s many achievements. John may well have been Bluffton’s first-ever home-schooled student beyond the eighth grade, thanks to Ruby.
John worked his entire adult life and quite honestly I doubt if he missed any days on the job. While in college, I worked summers at St. Rita’s Hospital. John was a full-time employee in the kitchen and as far as I can remember, he never took a work break. (I took several.)
John’s first automobile was a Cadillac, placing him in the elite Bluffton Cadillac-owners Society.
His first one was a 1951 blue model. He told my brother, Rudi, that he and his mom took a trip out west where they ran into a herd of locusts. The bugs got caught in the radiator and blew the engine.
But, not to worry, he came back from the trip in a new 1955 green Cadillac.
He used the ‘55 to drive Bluffton Methodists kids to Lakeside church camp.
The trunk was so big everyone’s suitcases could fit it. John’s Cadillac was one of earliest cars in Bluffton to have factory air. All the kids going to Lakeside wanted to ride with him because his car had AC and it was a real treat in 1955 to ride in a car with air conditioning.
Upon his retirement he returned to Bluffton from Lima where he eventually became a resident of Mennonite Home Communities of Ohio.
One of his bragging rights was that as a Murray, his name was among the oldest line of persons who ever lived in Bluffton – going back as far as Shannon. Who else do you know who can brag that? (I think the answer is “no one else.”)
With his sense of humor, he proudly announced to anyone within listening distance that not only was he a member of Bluffton’s first families, his great-great-grandfather Murray buried most of the Shannon pioneers because he was the town’s first undertaker.
Here’s a couple additional footnotes too good to pass up. Each speaks to John’s character.
When Larry Brunswick was Bluffton school superintendent, he came to me while I was Bluffton News editor. The new middle school was under construction and the old school bell was to be moved to the front of the school.
Larry asked me to place a story in the News inviting people to donate funds to relocate the bell. Around $5,000 was needed.
After the story appeared, I called Larry to see if I should repeat it.
Larry surprised me with a, “No need to. One person came forward and donated the entire amount.”
Who? I asked.
Larry’s response: “Do you know John Murray. He is dedicating the project to his mother.”
In another community project that unfortunately never developed in its original framework, John was ready to donate the entire amount of money needed to restore the Shannon Cemetery. We’re talking around $20,000 for this. Again, his sense of community pride prompted this. This story ended, in my opinion, as one of the biggest mistakes that occurred here in the past 25 years. Needless to say, John’s donation offer fell through as another plan took its place.
John was active in several Bluffton activities including the sesquicentennial. He was given the honor to fire a cannon located on the town hall corner to signify the opening of the week-long activity.
He served as parade marshal for the Blaze of Lights, and was a member of the ad-hoc save the town hall committee. In that project, John collected more signatures than the rest of the committee combined. The signatures were needed in order to place a petition on the ballot to establish an income tax levy for a town hall renovation. Next time you pass the town hall, thank John.
John regularly attended Bluffton council meetings as an interested community resident. He usually sat next to Bob Amstutz, in the audience.
Occasionally Bluffton council sessions get heated for an assortment of the most unusual reasons. In one of those unusual reasons, several regular audience attendees were tipped off in advance that something was about to explode – I can’t recall the reason, but the house was packed that night, so to speak.
Oddly, there was no fireworks at the meeting. It was dud. As John limped out of the meeting, using his walker, he turned to me, laughing, “I want my money back.”
That was John, one of the reasons Bluffton is such an interesting place to call home.
His obituary follows:
John Edward Murray, 85, died Saturday, July 2, 2022, at the Mennonite Memorial Home in Bluffton. John was born Aug. 21, 1936, in Bluffton to the late Clayton and Ruby (Beery) Murray. On March 16, 1968, he married Barbara Ann (Leffler) Murray who preceded him in death on March 1, 2003.
Mr. Murray went to school in Bluffton. He worked at The Robin Rogers School in Lima, where he met his wife, Barbara. He worked at the Ottawa Valley Tuberculosis Hospital in Lima, and for 37 years he worked at St. Rita’s Medical Center. He was a member of the Mercy Club at St. Rita’s.
He helped to organize the Adle Disabled Club of Lima in 1956. John was a member of Bluffton Lions Club and the Senior Citizens of Bluffton. He was on the Save The Bluffton Town Hall Committee in 2006, and the Bluffton sesquicentennial committee in 2010-2011. He was a member of the First Mennonite Church in Bluffton
He is survived by his son, Christopher R. Murray Sr. of Clearwater, Florida; daughter, Jennifer A. (Brian) Tate of Lima; four grandchildren: Francis Nicholas Murray, Christopher Robin Murray, Seth Alan Murray, and Carrie Ann Tate; and two great-grandchildren.
In addition to his wife and parents, he was preceded in death by a half-brother, Robert Clayton Murray, in 1917.
The family will receive friends from 3-8 p.m. on Thursday, July 7, at Chamberlain-Huckeriede Funeral Home, Lima. The funeral service will begin at 10:30 a.m. on Friday, July 8, at the funeral home.
Chaplain Herb Wilker will officiate. Burial will follow at Zion Mennonite Cemetery, west of Bluffton on Columbus Grove Road.
Memorial contributions may be made to The First Mennonite Church or Bluffton Public Library.
Arrangements handled by Chamberlain-Huckeriede Funeral Home. Condolences may be expressed at www.chamberlainhuckeriede.com.