By Bryan Marquard
Boston Globe, 1/28/07
DURHAM, N.H. -- "Only connect," a phrase from an E.M. Forster novel, was one of many quotations Donald M. Murray used to coax the writer within from his students, and himself.
"He spun a web that binds us together irrevocably now in grief," said Chip Scanlan, who teaches writing at the Poynter Institute and spoke yesterday at a memorial service for Murray on the University of New Hampshire campus, where he had been professor emeritus.
Teacher, author, newspaper columnist, Murray was on the cusp of launching a website for his writing acolytes when he died, at 82, on Dec. 30.
A Pulitzer Prize-winner for editorials he wrote in his late 20s, he was as revered as a no-nonsense writing instructor as he was for the columns he published in the Globe the past 20 years.
In Johnson Theatre yesterday, about 600 people watched a montage of photos showing Murray as a child, a man, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a writer.
"I thought, 'This guy writes like water going downhill,' " said Don Graves, a retired UNH professor, of his first encounters with Murray's prose.
The eight speakers recalled a man who was by turns sensitive and cheerfully profane, crafting sentences that helped readers through grief, and whooping it up at the university's hockey games.
"I found him a profoundly human, human being," said Hans Heilbronner, a retired UNH professor. "Unlike most of us, he had the courage to be his own master."
Murray did not stand on ceremony in person or at the keyboard. Tom Romano, a former student who now teaches at Miami University in Ohio, said a note Murray wrote inviting him to dinner instructed him to "dress sloppy -- you saw my suit, I believe."
"Don taught us when the muse would visit -- every time you pick up a pen," Scanlan said, and that Murray always applied a cardinal rule of writing, which was "applying your behind to a chair."
Putting memory to good use was something dear to Murray. In his Globe column "Over 60," later renamed "Now and Then," he sustained the presence of his wife, Minnie Mae, who died in 2005.
"He taught me to take note and remember," his daughter Hannah Starobin said in a remembrance read by her husband, Michael. Michael Starobin, a Tony Award-winning orchestrator and arranger, also wrote a musical tribute that he performed with his two sons -- Murray's grandsons.
"Remembering may be a celebration or it may be a dagger in the heart," Murray wrote, in a passage from one of his books quoted by his daughter, "but it is better, far better, than forgetting."
"I loved you, Don," Scanlan said. "And for the rest of my life, dear friend, I will miss you."
By Bryan Marquard
Boston Globe, December 31, 2006
Five days ago, in his last "Now and Then" column published in the Globe before he died, Donald Murray was as in love with writing as he had been as a teenager -- and just as anxious.
"Each time I sit down to write I don't know if I can do it," he wrote. "The flow of writing is always a surprise and a challenge. Click the computer on and I am 17 again, wanting to write and not knowing if I can."
He could, and did, for decades -- winning a Pulitzer Prize at 29 for editorials he wrote for the Boston Herald, teaching writing at the University of New Hampshire, publishing book after book, penning column after column.
"He basically lived through his writing," said his daughter Anne. "In some ways that was more real to him than his real life. Everything had to be sifted through his writing -- the good and bad. His whole life was writing."
Mr. Murray, who lived in Durham, N.H., was visiting a friend in Beverly yesterday when he died, apparently of heart failure. At 82, he was about to launch a website where aspiring writers could apprentice with the aging master, extending his career from the days of typewriter carbon copies to cyberspace.
For two decades, Mr. Murray wrote the Globe's "Over 60" column, which was renamed "Now and Then" in 2001. Ostensibly aimed at the retired and the elderly, the column drew in readers of all ages.
"You would think that his column would appeal almost exclusively to older readers, but I know so many younger readers who follow Don Murray and have to know what happened," said Steve Greenlee, Living editor at the Globe and formerly Mr. Murray's editor.
Effortlessly turning the personal, the private, and sometimes the painful parts of his life into universal experiences, Mr. Murray crafted columns in which the passing of his years became a narrative embraced by legions of loyal readers.
As his beloved wife, Minnie Mae, declined slowly from Parkinson's disease, readers were with him as he savored their remaining years. Silently watching from the vantage of newsprint, they sat with Mr. Murray beside her bed in their home and later in the assisted living facility where she died in February 2005.
When he reflected on the changes wrought in his life after he suffered a heart attack in the mid-1980s, readers trembled at his fears and basked in his triumphs -- one of which was simply living to write again, and again.
"I have achieved another generation," he wrote in March 2001 when his column's name changed. "I am no longer young-old, but at 76, old and looking forward to graduating to ancient in another 15 years. I had always thought the title of the column would be 'Over 60' until it could become 'Over 100,' but my editors suggest that I am so much over 60 that we should rename it.
"It will be called 'Now and Then' (Minnie Mae's idea) and will allow me not only to report on the interior landscape of one who continues to ripen but also to comment on the external life with the perspective of an elder."
Donald Morrison Murray was born in Boston and grew up in Quincy. He had no siblings and, characteristically frank, described his childhood as unhappy.
"My parents and teachers got together and decided I was stupid," he wrote last year. "My response was to develop a private mantra: 'I'm stupid but I can come in early and stay late.' Surprise. It worked. Good work habits will beat talent every time."
Mr. Murray was a paratrooper during World War II and married Ellen Pinkham in 1946. Their marriage ended in divorce and he graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 1948 with a bachelor's degree in English. He went to work as a copyboy at the Herald and became a staff reporter in 1949.
Two years later he turned to editorial writing and married Minnie Mae Emmerich, who "was five years older than I was, an embarrassment her mother never accepted," he wrote this year.
Mr. Murray was awarded a Pulitzer in 1954 for editorials "on the 'New Look' in National Defense which won wide attention for their analysis of changes in American military policy," according to the Pulitzer website.
Turning down an offer to become an editor, Mr. Murray continued to write and started teaching college writing courses, then moved to New York City, where he worked briefly for Time magazine. He became a freelance writer in 1956, a tenuous existence for someone supporting a family. He began publishing books and joined the University of New Hampshire faculty in 1963, becoming professor emeritus in 1990.
The university awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1990. Earlier, in 1981, he won the Yankee Quill Award, awarded by the New England Society of Newspaper Editors and the New England Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
As a writing coach, Mr. Murray was revered as he brought his plainspoken message to classrooms and newsrooms.
"What Don did was take the mystique and myth out of writing for so many in newsrooms and elsewhere who thought you just had to wait for inspiration to come," said Chip Scanlan, who teaches writing at the Poynter Institute and was working for The Providence Journal when he met Mr. Murray. "He did this with a simple but powerful message: Good writing may be magical, but it's not magic. It's a process, a rational series of steps and decisions that all writers take."
"He said those words and they galvanized me," Scanlan said. "I think I know what it's like to be an apostle, because I've been quoting and teaching Don Murray ever since that day."
For Mr. Murray, each column, each sentence presented an opportunity to teach, and writing was never the only lesson. One of his many books, "The Lively Shadow," was about his middle daughter, Lee, who died at 20.
"We don't get over the death of those we love," he wrote in a 1999 column. "Don't tell those who have suffered such a loss to get over it. Think how terrible it would be if we could forget."
In addition to his daughter Anne, who lives in Weymouth, Mr. Murray leaves another daughter, Hannah Starobin of Mount Kisco, N.Y.; two grandsons; and a granddaughter.
© Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company
By Tom Long
Boston Globe Staff, February 9, 2005
Even if you had never met Minnie Mae (Emmerich) Murray, there's a good chance you know a lot about her.
For years, Mrs. Murray was portrayed in intimate detail in ''Now and Then," a column written regularly for the Globe by her husband, Donald M. Murray, as a down-to-earth helpmate whose common sense and humor were an anchor for some of his writerly flights of fancy.
Mrs. Murray, 85, died yesterday after a 13-year battle with Parkinson's disease, the day her husband's column recounted the final hours of her illness.
In memorable columns, Murray described Minnie Mae as ''mother, wife, housekeeper, cook, hostess," and wrote that she ''took care of the children, cooked and baked, laundered and cleaned, sewed and mended, gardened and managed the money."
She also typed and edited his work, corrected and retyped his manuscripts, and took dictation for his book drafts on a typewriter as they drove cross-country. And she kept him firmly grounded with a withering remark if his ego got too big.
Mrs. Murray did not mind sharing her life with strangers. ''She enjoyed seeing our life treated that way in print," her husband said yesterday.
Mrs. Murray was born in Henderson, Ky. A gifted mezzo-soprano, she sang in churches in Washington, D.C., while employed as a secretary to an adviser to the secretary of war during World War II.
After the war, she worked at Raytheon Co. in Waltham and continued to perform in churches in Boston and Cambridge. She met Murray on a blind date in 1951. They were married 10 months later.
Through Murray's columns, Globe readers came to learn much about their 54-year relationship: how Mrs. Murray always wanted to be in charge and jealously guarded her territory in the kitchen; how she stuck the pickle jar where the milk belonged in the fridge, and the cheese in the meat tray; how she turned up the volume on the TV when the air conditioner was set too cold; how they fought for the covers in bed.
He also shared pearls of Mrs. Murray's folksy wisdom. She said, for example, that a good relationship can be damaged by 20 minutes of honest talk, and believed that humor could lighten even the darkest moments.
Murray said people were always asking for her when he went to speaking engagements. ''She was much more popular than me," he said. ''And rightly so."
In recent columns, readers learned of Mrs. Murray's battle with Parkinson's, her slip into dementia, and her move from their home in Durham, N.H., to an assisted-living facility 7 miles away.
In yesterday's column, her husband informed his readers that she had refused medication, food, and water and was slowly drifting away.
''What was to be said had been said," he wrote. ''She feels no pain, suffers no loss of dignity. It is as she had wanted."
In addition to her husband, she leaves two daughters, Anne Nestelberger of Weymouth and Hannah Starobin of Mount Kisco, N.Y.; and three grandchildren.
Funeral services are private.
© Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company
By Matthew Tetrault
Portsmouth Herald, 1/28/07
DURHAM -- Throughout his long career as a writer and educator, Donald Murray shared his life with the world. His Boston Globe column "Over 60" allowed readers to be a part of his thoughts and fears and insights. Saturday afternoon was the time to let others tell the story.
Friends, family, colleagues, and students squeezed into the Johnson Theater at the University of New Hampshire for a memorial service dedicated to Murray, 82, who died on Dec. 30. All were intent on sharing their experiences with the former UNH journalism professor.
Murray is often described as a bear of a man, bespectacled, with a full white beard and often clad in flannel. He also had generosity and heart twice his size.
Murray's empathy towards others was a constant theme from those who spoke at the service. They were quick to share the many instances when he took a special interest in their lives.
"Don Murray not only had the ability to make you feel like a writer, he made you feel like one of his colleagues, a Pulitzer-Prize winner," said Tom Osenton, a former student.
Tom Romano, who met Murray while studying at UNH, described the moment he was first saw Murray. He recognized Murray by his bobbing white-haired head and, after an introduction, was told to give him a call any time he wanted to come over for dinner.
"A few days later I came home to my room in Babcock Hall to find a sheet of Don's stationery taped to my door," recalled Romano with a chuckle. "Don had drawn a map from Babcock to 39 Millpond Road, indicated that I was seven tenths of a mile away and instructed me to come in through the garage."
"Most of us here, at least in part are here because of his guidance" said Andrew Merton, another former student and journalism professor at UNH.
In recognition of Murray's love of classical music, the service included performances by Michael, Josh and Sam Starobin, Murray's grandchildren, who played a number of instruments, including piano, saxophone, trumpet and guitar.
Born in Quincy, Mass., Murray's childhood was described as difficult. He dropped out of high school at 17 and later enlisted in the Army during World War II, serving as a paratrooper during the Battle of the Bulge. After the war, he returned to school, graduating from UNH in 1948.
He went on to a career in journalism, starting out as a staff writer for the Boston Herald, and later moving on to freelance for several publications.
Murray eventually returned to UNH in the 1960s as a journalism professor, creating much of the journalism program students know today, and continued to teach writing in some form up until his death.
In Murray's honor, the College of Liberal Arts at UNH has created the Don Murray Endowed Journalism Fund, dedicated to supporting the school's journalism program. Donations are being accepted at the UNH Foundation, or online at www.unh.edu.
© Copyright 2007 Seacoast Newspapers
By Chris Outcalt (UNH '06)
Portsmouth Herald, 1/2/07
PORTSMOUTH -- Pulitzer Prize winner Kevin Sullivan figures he'd still be mowing lawns in Maine if it weren't for Donald Murray.
"He's the only reason I'm in the business," said Sullivan, a staff writer for the Washington Post who won the prize in 2003.
Sullivan vividly remembers his first journalism class at the University of New Hampshire, which Murray taught. He took the course based on a recommendation from a friend, who raved about Murray.
"He was so excited about the professor I had to take the class," said Sullivan. "I looked at him and thought, 'If this is what journalists are like, I want a piece of it.'"
Murray died on Saturday while visiting a friend in Beverly, Mass., according to his daughter, Anne Murray. He was 82. Murray was always making friends and was still planning to travel, said Anne Murray.
"He was living life to the fullest up to the last minute," she said.
Murray won a Pulitzer Prize in 1954 for editorials he wrote for the Boston Herald. In addition to his column, "Now and Then," which appeared in the Boston Globe on Tuesdays, he published numerous memoirs and books on writing and founded the journalism program at the University of New Hampshire, where he taught for 19 years.
Lisa Miller, a journalism professor at UNH, still uses many of the teaching methods that Murray stressed while he was there.
"He set the tone for everything," said Miller. "The way we concentrate on good writing and use conferences and stress revision is all because of him."
As grand as his contribution was to the world of journalism, the impressions he left on those he met were just as strong.
"I think that's one of the most amazing things about Don," said Miller. "He touched so many people and so deeply. He was always generous with his time and his advice."
"He was just a good human being and a good man," said Sullivan. "He inspired me by the way he laughed and how much he loved life and how much fun he had doing what he did."
"He affected a lot of people's lives, and we're happy for that," said Anne Murray.
Murray was born in Boston and grew up in Quincy, Mass. He was a paratrooper during World War II and graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a degree in English in 1948. His journalism career started as a copyboy at the Boston Herald, where he became a staff reporter in 1949.
Murray's first marriage ended in divorce. In 1951, he married Minnie Mae Emmerich, whose death from Parkinson's disease in 2005 was among the personal and sometimes painful parts of life that Murray chronicled in his column.
By Monday afternoon, a Boston Globe message board dedicated to Murray was flooded with notes from fans of his column and past and present colleagues.
Michael Keating, former features editor for the Portsmouth Herald, wrote about how he worked with Murray to organize a yearlong series of monthly meetings during which Murray coached writers at the paper.
"The beauty of Don's advice and coaching style was that he would always start by telling the writer what was good in his or her piece," Keating wrote on the Globe Web site. "No matter how bad it might truly be, he'd zero in on some nugget for praise. Then he'd work his magic by making the writer do the hard work of determining where the weaknesses lied."
In his last column for the Boston Globe, Murray wrote, "Each time I sit down to write, I don't know if I can do it. The flow of writing is always a surprise and a challenge. Click the computer on, and I am 17 again, wanting to write and not knowing if I can."
But he continued to write. That was his mantra: Never a day without a line.
In addition to his daughter, Anne Murray of Weymouth, Mass., Murray leaves another daughter, Hannah Starobin of Mount Kisco, N.Y.; two grandsons; and a granddaughter.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
© Copyright 2006 Seacoast Newspapers
Portsmouth Herald editorial, 1/27/07
Don Murray, a Pulitzer Prize winning writer and teacher, died Dec. 30 at the age of 82. He lived a good, full life and was still busy making plans and friends when the end finally came.
A memorial service will be held for him today at 2 p.m. at the University of New Hampshire's Johnson Theater. Friends and colleagues from across the nation will join Murray's family to remember with respect and fondness this great soul of the Seacoast.
In the days since his death, many have told stories about Murray that are the stuff of legend. We know the legend, but at the Herald what we will miss most is the honest man and good friend who worked hard each day to write well and whose teaching always reminded us why we got into this business: to tell stories and make a difference.
Despite his accomplishments, his knowledge and his enormous body of work, Don Murray approached each writer and each person he met with a sense of eagerness and wonder. You could feel him probing to find the piece of you that was special, slowly coaxing it into print.
When it came to writing, no one was more humble. Murray still was surprised each time he sat down to write and found that he could. He reminded young reporters that the craft is not in the writing but in the re-writing.
Murray fought in the Battle of the Bulge, won a Pulitzer Prize at the tender age of 29 and went on to start the UNH journalism program, inspiring some of the biggest names in journalism today. But in the end his truths were simple.
"And what have I learned?" he asked in his last Boston Globe column, filed the day before his death. "To pass the friendship on. To speak out, to touch, to be there when others need me." Don Murray was there for us and so many others, and we will miss him dearly.
© Copyright 2007 Seacoast Newspapers