GORDON LESLIE MURPHY, 86, formerly of Washington Street, Newport, RI passed away peacefully on July 25, 2018 in Tiverton, RI. He was predeceased by his beloved wife, Katherine “Kay” Alice Murphy, née Murphy.
Born in Bass Harbor, Tremont, Maine on February 26, 1932, Gordon was the last living and youngest son of the nine children of Ernest Albion and Helen (Lawson) Murphy.
Gordon grew up on Mount Desert Island, Maine and later on Sconticut Neck in Fairhaven, MA. In the 50’s and 60’s, he resided with his family, first in New Bedford and then in North Dartmouth, MA. Since the early 70’s, he has made his home in Newport, RI.
Gordon, known by most as “Murphy,” was a family man above all. He was devoted to Kay and his girls, Donna and Robbie. There was nothing he enjoyed more than being with the people he loved. To his girls, he was their absolute hero. He found ways to involve his girls when he was a Boy Scout Leader in Dartmouth; when his girls became involved in the American Field Service, he became president of the Greater New Bedford AFS Chapter. He raised them to believe they could do anything, if they worked hard at it. Losing his father at the age of two, he did not complete high school due to frequent moves. Murphy wanted to ensure his girls knew the value of education; he enrolled in New Bedford Evening School and graduated with honors. He then took courses at Southeastern Massachusetts University.
In 1960, he established Murphy Marine on Commercial Wharf, and later on Goat Island, in Newport, RI, where he became known as the primo marine mechanic in Newport Harbor. He was not only a hero to his family but also hailed as a savior on the Newport waterfront. Stories abound of the boats he and his crew of mechanics saved after fire or water damage (such as “Inverness” and “Zivio”). Many an anticipated cruise was enabled to go on due to Murphy’s ability to diagnose and repair an engine or other marine mechanical problem.
We have found numerous letters from customers, including many past NYYC and ILYC commodores, thanking him for his assistance in solving mechanical problems on their yachts. During the heady years when the America’s Cup Races were held in Newport, Murphy ensured that the 12-meters’ tenders were all in working order. In a letter of commendation from the King’s Point 12-meter effort, the following was just a sample of the appreciation that was often expressed by those he helped: “Without the on-the-spot attention which you and your staff provided to DECLARATION, TRAGEN, and the other Syndicate member’s boats which were berthed at our docks, we would have been one large moth-balled fleet. Not only did your support help us to hone COURAGEOUS and INDEPENDENCE throughout the past two years to the Nth degree, but also such efforts helped COURAGEOUS to go onto a successful defense of yachting’s grandest prize in four straight races.”
As Murphy Marine expanded to include fuel and dockage, Murphy’s daughters worked for him and he employed dock girls who often referred to him as “Dad;” he taught his trade to young mechanics who towed the mark for a stern (understatement) father figure who demanded excellence. Murphy had an Irish temper that was well known on the waterfront. He expected people to follow the rules; after all, he did. He considered himself a lucky man: he loved his work. He could fix, overhaul, and build anything, and he loved coming to the rescue. He was a member of the Goat Island Yacht Club, and later in life was honored to be the Grand Marshall of the Newport Light Parade.
Murphy enjoyed boats (sail or power), car rides, dancing with Kay, great meals, and good times with friends and family. He was devoted to Kay and cared for her during the decade of her early onset Alzheimer’s Disease until her death in 1996. Later, he was the strength for his girlfriend, Maureen Cannon, before she died of breast cancer. He was a genuinely good man who could always be depended upon. For the past three years, Gordon resided at Brookdale Sakonnet Bay, Tiverton, RI, in independent living. After a lifetime of taking care of others, he appreciated the many kindnesses of the staff there. He will particularly miss his breakfast bunch and his girls who took care of him there.
Gordon is survived by his daughters, Robbie Benjamin of Portsmouth, RI and Donna Dimery and her husband, Robert F. Dimery of New Bedford, MA. He will be missed by his grandchildren (and great grandchildren:) Kaytie and Adrian Matthews; Heather Dimery (Brianna, Christian, and Alexandria); and Robert W. and Michelle Dimery (Charlie, Dax and Otto). We are sure he will be greeted at the gates of heaven by the love of his life - his wife, Kay, and his eight siblings who preceded him there: Leonard, Carl, Bertha (Spencer/Miller), Ernest, Harvey, Edward, Elizabeth (Willy), and Lynn.
A Memorial Service to celebrate his life will be held on Friday, October 12, 2018 at 3:00 p.m. at the Ida Lewis Yacht Club, 170 Wellington Avenue, Newport, RI. Burial will be private. Memorial Donations may be made to Seamen’s Church Institute, Re: Gordon Murphy, 18 Market Square, Newport, RI 02840.
Seamans Church Institute
18 Market Square, Newport RI