That Smiling Irishman
John Murphy was born July 22, 1920, the first of two sons of John and MaryAnn. Both of his parents were from Ireland (County Kildare and Laois, respectively) and John's Irish-Catholic heritage is evident in every part of his life.
John Murphy with brother and parents
He has a story about just about everything, and each story is funnier than the last. He loves to laugh and make other people laugh - a true social being!
John would probably not be able to live if he wasn't surrounded by family and friends (and yes, everybody turns into a friend once they meet him). It shouldn't be a concern to him, however, since this is a man who will never be alone.
He grew up on 172nd and Nottingham on Cleveland's East Side. He spent his grade school years at St. Joseph's at 144th and St. Clair and graduated from Collinwood High School in 1938. Then it was on to Fenn College, John Carroll University and finally Cleveland College, which was then part of Western Reserve University.
He worked toward a degree in Industrial Engineering. He stayed in school until 1941 all the time working a wide assortment of jobs. An asthma condition gave him 4F status with the draft board.
In 1936-37 he worked for Great Lakes Express until, in 1938, he and a partner went into business for themselves. He bought bleach concentrate, which he separated, bottled and then sold.
While going to school he started working for Parker Appliance where he stayed until 1945. Then there was White Motors and finally Pressure Castings, where he stayed until 1986.
Unfortunately Pressure Castings had no Pension plan and after 40 years and 10 months John left with nothing.
He had married Mary Jane Conry August 26, 1944 and between 1944 and 1959 they had six children. They lived on Wymore in St. Philomena Parish in East Cleveland from 1944-1949. When his mother died in 1949, John, Mary Jane and their two children (Michael and Mary) moved to take care of his father.
By July 1955 sons Jack and Patrick had been added and they moved to Euclid, where he still lives today. Daughters Helen and Bridget were born after the move to Euclid.
It was important to John that his children all have a Catholic education - which they did. His youngest child, daughter Bridget, was born with mental and physical disabilities and by 1986 she was moved to Our Lady of the Wayside for treatment and care.
So here he is 60 years old, with a wife and six children, no job and no pension. In addition to daily bills John had the extra stress of tuition and the expense of Bridget's care. But John was never without resources.
He had always been active in politics. He was Democratic Ward Leader and Secretary and Treasurer of Cleveland's 32nd ward. The very first thing he did in his political career was in 1928 when he passed out handbills for Al Smith.
Smiling Irishman John Murphy
But the political activity that came to his aid now, was his work toward the election of Tim McCormack. When he ran into Tim at the Medic Drug Store Tim immediately offered him a job at the Cuyahoga County Auditor's Office. John became an Outreach Officer, a position he successfully held for 16 years until he retired in November 2002.
He developed a special relationship with seniors because they could bond with him. He was noted for his hard work and dedication to the job. He was chosen Employee of the month and Employee of the Year as a result of his hard work.
John openly talks about his bout with alcoholism. He remembers starting to drink at 10-12 years of age because at that time "everybody had a still in the house somewhere". John is now sober for many, many years and doesn't want the issue hidden.
"No, I think it's better if people know. Maybe someone will say ' Hey, Murph - can you help me?' I want to help other people and I'm active in sponsorship. A.A. saved my life" He also remembers that in those days, a quart of whiskey was only 50 cents!
Now that he's retired John, also known as "that smiling Irishman" loves to spend time with family and friends, travel, play cards and socialize whenever possible. His best friend is a woman - something he gets razzed about by his kids all the time. "Especially Jack - boy that Jack. He loves to give me a hard time, that kid. I'm so lucky with all my kids"
He's been to Ireland three times and been on a number of cruises. Of course there's also the trips to various gambling spots like Mountaneer and Las Vegas - he loves to gamble!
He still has many relatives in Ireland and one of his favorite things is to have them come and visit and stay with him. The first thing they always want to do is go to Niagara Falls - and he's more than happy to take them.
John's in relatively good health, too. He had a pacemaker put in last September and knows he needs to make an appointment for a follow up, but he's afraid something better will come up at the same time and he doesn't want to miss anything.
If you tell him a name - he'll tell you a story about them, their parents and possibly their grandparents. And if by some chance you mention a name he doesn't know (and the chances of that are rare) he'll know someone else with the same name and by the time you're done you'll discover a connection.
He considers himself lucky that his children all want to be with him and spend time with him. "They call me up and say let's go here or there. Of course I go. I love to go out and I love to spend time with my kids. Pat's in Wisconsin, but everybody else is right here."
John Murphy with map of Ireland
He has always been active in whatever parish he belonged to, Holy Cross for the last forty plus years. He helped form the Knights of Columbus 3164, was an usher for many years and even coached a fourth grade basketball team even though "To this day I don't know what a forward does. Hey - they needed someone. So I coached"
He says he's had a good run- a "wonderful wife and good, lovable kids". "When Mary Jane died, I loved her like the very beginning. She was the best. She yelled at me more when I stopped drinking then when I was drinking all the time.
My kids always razz me with the Mary Jane sayings. Like whenever someone said what a good guy I was, she'd say "But you don't have to live with him" Or if a bought something new " You don't need that". The kids still laugh about those things she said all the time. Those kids. God love 'em"
His special nature and hard work is attested to throughout his house with a myriad of plagues and awards. He doesn't cook at all, but between dinner with his children and the wonderful contributions he receives from a special neighbor, he is never wanting for a meal.
"You know, some people would say 'Oh those poor Murphy's' when they heard about our Bridget. The family would laugh - we were all thrilled with Bridget and wouldn't trade any one of us for someone else. They're the best - all my kids. I've got eleven grandchildren you know - six kids and eleven grandchildren. I really am lucky!"
What does the future hold for John Murphy? He says if he were to go today " I've gotten so much out of life, what more can I ask for? But let me know if there's something going on - I sure don't want to miss anything. I'm always ready for a good time".
John Murphy - Irishman of the Year
John Murphy is not only ready for a good time, but also creates one wherever he goes. He is a genuinely kind man with a heart as big as the smile that never leaves his face.
He considers himself lucky in life. Luck probably paid a very small part. The good things that have happened to him can certainly be traced back to the good things he has done for others. He cherishes his family, his friends, his Irish heritage and his faith.
When you put those things together you wind up with John Murphy, one of the truly good guys!
Profiled by Debbie Hanson
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