Bob Murphy

Murphy respected by staff, students and community

Murphy remembered as dedicated father, friend, coach, principal and community member

By Roxanne Dass

The late Robert Murphy is known in his family for his hardwork and his storytelling, which was reflected through his daughter Melinda Driscoll when she sat down to remember her father's life.

Driscoll, the only child of Murphy and his late wife Betty, and her stepmother Marilyn recalled some of Murphy's proudest and greatest moments and some of his hardest times throughouthis life.

Murphy was born in 1923 in Atlantic to Martin Leslie and Anna Bertha Matilda Murphy. He was the youngest of three sons. Martin was an employee of the water works.

Murphy was faced with hardship early on in life.

As a young child, Murphy had to deal with racism. Two of his good childhood friends were African American. One day Murphy was going to the community pool and ran into his friends, who were crying. They had been turned away because of the color of their skin.

"That was something that always bothered Dad and stuck with him," said Driscoll.

One of the hardest times in Murphy's young life was the day his father died.

"Dad always remembered the day his father died," said Driscoll. "The thing he remembered most was when his brothers came to school to tell him his dad had died."

Murphy was a freshman in high school when his father died of cancer after years of pipe smoking. During those times, there was no life insurance, only a small widow's pension.

From that day, Murphy worked hard to help the family and help himself. All three boys found jobs to support the family. The young Murphy helped deliver groceries and any other side jobs that could bring in some money.

Murphy graduated from Atlantic and attended Upper Iowa University, Fayette. During his freshman year, the United States entered World War II. Murphy enlisted in the Navy.

Driscoll said Murphy would often recall his Navy years in his usual fashion.

"He always talked about his many girlfriends," she laughed. "He would tell them all he'd come back for them after the war and get married and settle down. Who knows how much of that was true."

He returned to Upper Iowa University to finish out his college career. He was on the football team and was named an All-American. He became good friends with one of his teammates Jerry Starkweather, who would eventually become his brother-in-law.

"One weekend Mom came to visit my uncle, but he had better things to do, so Dad ended up showing her around," said Driscoll.

In addition to sports and academics, Murphy worked a part-time job to pay his way through college. He was a short-order cook at a little cafe in town. Despite all the hard work, Driscoll said his time at Upper Iowa was filled with wonderful memories.

"Those were truly happy times for him," she said. "He loved to talk about his time there."

Murphy and Betty married in 1949 and moved to Williamsburg that same year.  Murphy came to Williamsburg mostly for a coaching position, but he also taught history.

"When I say he was a coach, he was the coach," she said. "He coached football, basketball and track and field."

Murphy's favorite sport to coach was football though. He loved to play, coach and watch football.

Murphy: Being a father was most cherished accomplishment

Murphy never forgot his years as an Upper Iowa football player. In fact, Murphy had so much talent, he was scouted for professional football, but was deemed "too small to play professional."

When Murphy came to Williamsburg, the football program had only started a few years earlier. The big Raider rival was Marengo, and it took several years before Williamsburg beat Marengo.

"That was probably one of his proudest moments," said Driscoll. "He really helped start and build the football program."

Murphy became principal shortly after. Colleagues remembered him as supportive and fair. Retired Williamsburg teacher and athletic director Gar Mayer always felt like Murphy treated staff like equals.

"You see, I worked with him, I never worked for him," said Mayer. "Once Bob realized a teacher could teach, he allowed them to teach, which I think was very important."

Murphy was known as a fair principal, but could also be strict when a student needed discipline.

"He told students what they needed to hear, whether they wanted to or not," said Mayer. "Even if students didn't like him, they respected him."

Driscoll and Marilyn agreed with Mayer.

"We've heard from several former students that their lives changed direction because of their time at Williamsburg with Bob," said Marilyn.

Murphy was principal at Williamsburg High School for 35 years when he retired in 1985. After his retirement he served on the school board and city council. He was even voted by write-in to be mayor shortly after he retired.

"He turned the position down, though," said Driscoll. "He wanted to stay retired. But Dad truly loved the Williamsburg community. He said that at the stadium dedication."

One of Murphy's proudest moments in his life was when the Williamsburg Community School Distrct named the high school football stadium after Murphy on Sept. 16, 2005.

"He was thrilled when he found out," said Marilyn. "He was happy, proud and humbled by it."

Driscoll recalled that a cousin visited one year and before Murphy would take her back to the house, they had to drive by Bob Murphy Stadium.

Murphy joked the Raiders never lost a home football game since the stadium was named after him and he never missed any of those games.

"I don't think he missed a game until this year when it rained so hard during that one game," said Marilyn.
One of Murphy's greatest and proudest jobs, though, was father, husband and grandfather. Driscoll was the only child of Bob and Betty Murphy, who died in 1981.

"There's a picture of Dad carrying me home from the hospital and if you can't tell by the look on his face, that was one of his greatest moments," said Driscoll.

As a father, Murphy taught Driscoll several important life lessons.

"He taught me how to crack an egg with one hand," she joked. "He also taught me how to read a paper, he always said you should be informed of what's happening in your community. He taught me that you should look to yourself to accomplish what you want to achieve. He taught hard work, honesty and responsibility."
One of Driscoll's favorite memories with her father was their early morning conversations. Murphy and Driscoll would wake up at 6 a.m. every morning since she was a child. He would make coffee and breakfast and they would chat away.

The most important thing Murphy taught Driscoll was how to be a good parent.

"When my first daughter was born, he told me the thing to remember was that to always show you love the, no matter what," she said. "And that's what he's always shown me.


Author & Contributor : Roxanne Dass and the Williamsburg Journal Tribune, a Marengo Publishing Corporation (MPC) newspaper
Published: Williamsburg Journal Tribune, Williamsburg, Iowa;4 Dec 2008, Vol. 107, Issue 49, page 1 & 12 . Iowa County IAGenWeb Website, 27 Feb 2009. Permission to publish here granted by the author, MPC and Bob Murphy's family. Copyright © 2009 by Roxanne Dass and MPC. All rights reserved.
Bob Murphy being honored
Bob Murphy, center, was honored Sept. 16, 2005, by the Williamsburg Community School District when the high school football stadium was officially named "Bob Murphy Stadium." According to his daughter, Melinda Driscoll, and wife, Marilyn Murphy, it was one of his proudest moments. Pictured are, first row, from left, Jamison Moeller, Nick Driscoll; second row, Anne Moeller, Marilyn Murphy, Bob Murphy, Melinda Driscoll and Beth Driscoll.