It is with much sadness that we note the untimely death of Dennis Murphy, our dear friend and fellow bookclub member. Dennis died suddently on December 4, 2022, of a heart attack. Dennis was a charter member of our bookclub. He was loved and respected by everyone. His book selections always introduced the group to new authors, poets, and genres. Dennis was a valued member of the club. Our condolences go out to his wife, Nodie, and all his family. He will be forever missed.
Dennis Eugene Murphy was born on November 17, 1941, in Denton, Texas, to Dennis James and Mary Barton Pugh Murphy III. His father was a bookkeeper and manager of a lumber yard. Dennis' younger sister is Marita Murphy. She is credited with his nickname, "Tunky." Dennis' paternal grandmother, Mayrena Gertrude King Murphy, was born in Indian Territory, moving in the 1900s to Gainesville, TX. Dennis' paternal great-grandfather, Dennis James Murphy I, was born March 3, 1845, in Cork County, Ireland. His paternal great-grandmother, Katherine Hagerty Murphy, was born in Ohio in 1853. Dennis had an uncle, Ralph Eugene Murphy, who served in WWII in Europe and Dennis had two aunts, Dorothy Murphy Horton and Loveta Murphy Sewell. Dennis greatly admired his Uncle Ralph. He provided Mel Oakes with a few details about Ralph's Army career resulting in a military biography for Ralph Eugene Murphy.
Dennis had an early connection with one of our bookclub members, Bill O'Brien. Bill writes, "As a youth in Gainesville, TX, Tunk and the Murphy family attended the Bible Prebyterian Church which is where we met in 4th grade—I was a country kid of seven miles west of Pilot Point and he was a big-city kid in Gainesville, some 20 miles north. His father, DJ, was the music director there and Tunk and I were the tenor section till we went off to college in different directions." Bill to U. North Texas and UNC at Chapel Hill. Bill eventually came to Southwestern in Georgetown as professor of physics and they renewed their friendship.
Dennis attended Gainesville High School where he excelled and participated in many activities including golf. His senior English teacher, Roberta Floyd, was very special to him. He wrote of her "Miss Floyd was my senior English teacher at Gainesville High School during the academic year 1959-60. She was a teacher who expected a lot from her students and constantly challenged us to dig a little deeper and do better. In retrospect I think hers was the only one of my high school classes that really prepared me for university-level work. I can't say that I enjoyed every single day in her classroom, but I am still benefiting from the "Floyd way." She was an exceptional teacher."
Dennis attended Tulane University where he met Norma Jane "Nodie" Nice who was attending Newcomb College. They both earned an A.B and were members of Phi Beta Kappa.
During his junior year, 1962-63, Dennis studied at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, as a participant in the Tulane-Newcomb Junior Year Abroad program. He studied modern languages in the Honors School of Trinity. Dennis commented on the experience, "The education system in Ireland differs greatly from the system here. At Trinity we had large impersonal lectures usually given once a week in each subject, and small tutorial sections allowing close personal contact with the professors." His purpose at Trinity was to learn as much as possible about Irish authors, which was to be the subject of his honors thesis at Tulane. This information came from an article in the Gainsville, TX Daily Register, Dec. 18, 1963. In the article, Dennis comments, "An education isn't just something you experience and, all of a sudden decide to apply it to your daily life. To the contrary, one of the main goals of an education is to enable an individual not only to interpret his environment, but also to contribute to it. As soon as we learn something new, we must start putting this knowedge to work." As we all know, Dennis did just that with his life.
Dennis and Norma Jane "Nodie" Nice were married on May 30, 1964, in New Orleans, LA, Nodie's home town.
In 1964, Dennis and Nodie were both awarded highly competitive Woodrow Wilson Fellowships, providing for their first year of graduate studies at Brown University in Providence, RI.
Dennis pursued a thesis under Professor Mark Spilka at Brown. The subject of his research was "A Critical Study of Gissing's Short Stories."
In 1967, Dennis and Nodie both were awarded master's degrees from Brown. Dennis in English and Nodie in French.
In 1974, Dennis was an assistant professor of English at Drake University and Nodie was on the French faculty. Dennis taught a course in French film. He continued his interest in film for the remainder of his life, building a large collection of classic films. Dennis was conversational+ in French. He also studied German at Tulane. In 1975, Nodie completed her dissertation at Brown, entitled "Orphic Light and Shadow: The Poetic Vision of Jean Tarieu."
Following his time at Drake, Dennis joined a Des Moines management-consulting firm, Batton. Batton, Hudson and Schwab. Sam Sutherland, who worked for Dennis, relates a story told by him. "He told me that early in his consulting career, his boss called him into his office shortly after lunch for a performance review -- then slowly nodded off and began snoring as Dennis recounted his accomplishments. At that point, Dennis decided his best move was to quietly slip out of the office and go back to his desk. Later that afternoon, the boss dropped by and said "I forgot what we agreed on as your raise -- can you remind me?" Dennis pondered for a moment, then offered a number significantly higher than what he'd hoped for. The boss said "Thanks. That's what I thought," and headed back to his office. As Dennis put it, "There's a lesson in there somewhere."
While at BBHS, Dennis met two other Dennis Murphys (unrelated): Dennis R. and Dennis J. They founded a highly successful company, Professional Training Associates, Inc., a publishing company that specialized in monthly newsletters for front-line supervisors and office professionals. Dennis eventually moved to Round Rock to open a second location. Dennis eventually bought the Murphys out. He also created and published Hard@Work, Inc, a Web-based sounding board for employee concerns. Hard@Work was one of the very first work-based web pages (Dennis very much had his finger on the pulse of the potential of the internet – ahead of most) and for a while AOL was courting him to be part of their front page when they were the dominant internet provider in the 90s. Sam Sutherland wrote, "Dennis' leadership of the company reflected his integrity and concern for others -- from ensuring subscribers got a free replacement newsletter when the post office lost an entire press run in a fire, to delaying his own retirement until each of his employees had a new job lined up."
Nodie became a professor of French at the University of Texas.
Dennis and Nodie have three children, Sarah (Larbi Sennour), Seth and Ben (Faye) and five grandchildren.
Dennis was an avid ham operator. Call Sign: KD5QJR, Licensee ID: L00422843, Grant Date: 11/21/2001, Expiration Date: 11/21/2011, Cancellation Date: 03/28/2002, Certifier: Dennis E. Murphy, Registrant: Dennis E Murphy. His more recent Call Sign was W5KQF which was granted to MURPHY, DENNIS E. by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Feb 02, 2022.
Dennis' ham radio activities meant he was aware of changes in the ionosphere and the influence of the sun on radio communications. He became very interested in astronomy especially results from the Hubble Telescope and the new infrared Webb telescope. He was looking forward to the many new results anticipated from its operation.
Dennis continued his youthful love of golf, playing throughout most of his life. One of his great joys after no longer walking the course was to watch the Majors on television with his son, Seth.
Dennis held many positions in his church, The Congregational Church of Austin, United Church of Christ— treasurer, choir member, trustee, deacon, etc. His advice was greatly valued.
Following retirement, Dennis devoted much time to charitable organizations. He was a regular member of the Freeze Night program at the Congregational Church of Austin and he also cooked and served the homeless on Christmas Day at the church. He devoted much time to the Serving Center Food Pantry in Round Rock. He treated the clients as individuals, always learning more about them and how he could provide further help. He was alway available to help friends, visit the sick, and provide counsel.
Later in his life Dennis had a chronic health condition that cause him at times much pain, discomfort and inconvenience, however with courage and determination he soldiered on, spending most of his time worrying about and comforting the pain of others.
Dennis requested and received a green burial in Our Lady Of The Rosary Cemetery in Georgetown. Texas.
The Dennis and Norma Jane Murphy Endowed Scholarship has been established at Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Texas. Contributions can be made at this link. Donate.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to Seth Murphy, Sam Sutherland and Pat Oakes for information and photos.
On March 18, 2023, a memorial service was held for Dennis at the Unitarian Church in Austin. Here is the program from that service.
|Dennis Murphy Memorial Service|
*The eulogy for Dennis by Rev. Tom VandeStadt can be found here: Eulogy for Dennis Murphy
|Dennis Murphy Photos|
|Gainesville High School Yearbookk Photos|