Thomas Lawrence Murphy, age 77, formerly of Henderson, died on Sept 3, 2019 at New Perspective Senior Living in Mankato due to complications of dementia.
Tom was known as 'Murph' to those who knew him best. Friends came to first meet the proud Irishman through his dedication to education, toy collecting or music. If Tom saw someone he thought he knew a typical greeting would be, “do you know who I am?”
He was born to Victor and Margaret Murphy in Fairmont, MN on August 18, 1942. He attended Blue Earth Schools and graduated in 1960. He attended Worthington Community College for one year where he competed in track & field and was proud of the double 880s he ran within an hour of one another at their conference track meet. While running for WCC he discovered his knack for coaching as he was often responsible for putting workouts together for his coach and team.
After his year at WCC he enrolled at Mankato State College (now MSU-Mankato) and in 1964 received a degree in education. Later on, he would also receive his Masters degree from Mankato State in 1971.
While at Mankato Murph met fellow student Dorothy Jean Miller. Without a doubt his greatest accomplishment was marrying Dorothy on August 14, 1965 in Blue Earth. They were married for 32 years until Dorothy passed away from cancer complications in the spring of 1997. Over the last months of Dorothy’s life Tom took great pride in the added roles he took on while caring for her and their remaining teenage sons.
Murph’s first teaching job was a short stint at Saint Peter and Paul’s Catholic School in Blue Earth before moving on to an elementary teaching position at Saint Clair. While at Saint Clair he started what would become a 42-year coaching career when he became boys’ track and field in 1967.
Murph and his family would eventually place their roots in Henderson, MN when he became Principal at Hilltop Elementary in 1972. In Henderson he and Dorothy built a home across the street from the school that would remain his home until 2011. Murph coached many sports at Henderson but it was his creation of the Henderson Tigers track program in 1975 where he made his mark. On the cinder track outside the elementary school he guided the small but mighty Tigers team. One of his proudest coaching accomplishments was winning the Valley Conference boys and girls team championships at the same meet and becoming the first school to do so.
After the Le Sueur and Henderson schools formed the LS-H school district for the 1990-91 school year he continued coaching as an assistant with the LS-H girls and boys track teams and eventually took over the girls program in 1994. Upon retiring from teaching in 1997 Murph continued to serve as a volunteer track coach for 13 more years, even adding on cross country assistant in 2006.
Fiercely competitive and never one to give an inch, Murph loved the challenge of creating a meet lineup. He was blessed to coach some outstanding athletes, including multiple state champions, but he was equally motivated by seeing effort and improvement from everyone on the team. His long coaching career allowed Murph’s fun and youthful spirit to connect with thousands of athletes and those lifelong connections were relationships he valued his entire life. Following his athletes as they competed in college was a great pleasure of his.
Besides coaching he most enjoyed collecting model trains and playing his guitar while singing songs to entertain his friends and family. And it wasn’t beyond him to combine his passions, which often included him singing songs like Whitney Houston’s “One Moment In Time” to his teams before a big meet. Having grown up on a farm he could never shake his love for the farm life, leading to his restoration of his dad’s 1937 Model A John Deere tractor and the nickname John Deere Putt-Putt from a few of his students.
Outside of coaching he was an active member of the Henderson and Le Sueur communities. He served for many years on the Henderson Lions Club, displayed trains as part of Miniature Land at the Le Sueur County Pioneer Power show, was a member of the Train Collectors of America (Minnesota Lakes and Pines Division), and Saint Joseph’s Catholic Church of Henderson and Sibley County Toys For Tots.
Health complications eventually forced Tom to relocate to Mankato and the New Perspective Senior center in 2011. This was a tough adjustment for Murph and he certainly missed his LS-H community. Music continued to be part of his life as he organized concerts with his family to perform for his fellow residents and he became a member of the center’s Ivory Keys Choir. The family would like to say a special thanks to the staff at New Perspective for their patience and care over these years.
Together Tom and Dorothy raised 5 children between their time in St Clair and Henderson. One of Murph’s proudest achievements was keeping the promise he made to Dorothy and having all 5 graduate from college. He was blessed with 9 grandchildren and he loved watching their sports, dance and theater performances. If there’s one characteristic of the Thomas L Murphy family it’s showing up and supporting one another at important events and in moments of need.
He is survived by his children, Michele (Pat) Barrett of Fridley, Tom (Jodi) of Nicollet, Vic (Liz) of St Paul, Colin of Minneapolis, and Dan (Melissa) of Minnetonka; 9 grandchildren, Sean (Katie), Travis, Katie, Shea, Hannah, Ellen, Fitzgerald, Audrey, and Dorothy; sisters, Mary Ann Hassing of Alpha and Margaret Murphy of Blue Earth; brother-in-law, Carleton (Cynthia) Miller of Chippewa Falls; and 3 nephews and 1 niece.
He is preceded in death by his wife, Dorothy; parents, Victor and Margaret; and brother-in-law, Robert.
Visitation will be held on Sunday, Sept 8, 2019 from 3:00pm – 6:00pm at St. Josesph’s Catholic Church in Henderson, MN.
A funeral service will be held at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Henderson, on Monday, Sept 9, 2019 at 10:30am. Visitation will continue one hour prior to the Mass at church.
Burial will be in the church cemetery following the Mass. Lunch will follow burial in church social hall.
To send flowers to Thomas' family, please visit our floral section.