Monday, January 22, 2007

Knitting a bit

While I was in California, I made Molly a sweater from a pattern she chose from White Lies Designs. Unbelievable yarn from Adrienne Vitadinni (sp?) - soft, soft wool & silk. Finished it so fast because all I had to do at my mother's was knit!

To read the rest go here: Knitting a bit

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Frank J. Murray, 1904-2007

My grandfather died on January 4th, 2007. Just got back from California where he is now buried. The family threw an amazing wake...he would have been proud. He was 102 and still living on his own. He still had his driver's license and would still get in the car to drive to see Grandma if his ride was late. His mind was still sharper than most of us less than half his age. He could still tell one hell of a story. He walked into the hospital on his own right before New Year's and after a scare, was planning on going home. Instead, he went quietly. His life and death are a lesson in the way it should be done, the way we all want to live and die. He will be so missed.

This picture was taken when family from everywhere reunited in California in 2004 for his 100th birthday. He is here with my 3 girls, 2 nieces, 2 nephews, and a young cousin... 8 of his 20 great-grandchildren. Regardless of a couple of strange facial expressions in the pic, they adored him and bragged they had a grandpa that was 100 and still told the best stories. For my girls, their great-grandfather had outlived both of their grandfathers. Amazing.

This is the obituary my Aunt Margie Murray wrote. It reads as a bit of a story...just the way he would have liked.

FRANK J. MURRAY, 1904-2007

Surrounded by his children, Frank J. Murray, aged 102, was called from this life on January 4, 2007 at Kaiser Hospital, Hayward. Children Ann, Patricia, Frank, John, Marjorie, and Jim talked to him, prayed over him, and held his hand as he slipped away into well-deserved eternal rest.

Family, religion, work, and friends were Frank's lifelong commitments. He was devoted to Helen, the love of his life for 69 years, now in a nursing home. With his workingman's hands, Frank fixed her lunch every day: a miniature sandwich, Jello, two cookies and coffee. He arranged lunch and utensils carefully in a plastic box and took it to her, 11:30 sharp. On the days he was too tired to go, he had one of the children deliver it with orders to report back on how she was feeling.

He was not a buddy or a pal to his children but an exacting 19th century Father. Lawgiver, teacher, and disciplinarian, he set the standard for behavior both inside and outside the home. Though strict, his lessons were meant to hone skills for surviving in a harsh world.

He was born at home on July 8, 1904 on a farm in County Down, Ireland. A walking history book, he remembered the building of the Titanic in Belfast in 1912. He could describe the end of World War I as well as the great flu epidemic of 1918, because it claimed his own father. The division of Ireland into North and South in 1922 was a sharp memory: that was the year that his Mother, Maryanne Rogan, sent teenager Frank and his younger sister, Anne, to Liverpool to make the voyage to Canada in order to escape the Irish Troubles.

Traveling the world, he did every kind of job: miner, Greyhound bus driver, laying tracks for the Canadian railroad, harvesting on a sugar beet farm, washing dishes for food during the Depression, and merchant mariner. The family still has his Gladstone bag full of sepia photos from India and Ceylon, the macrame he did on board ship, and the buttons he collected around the world.

But Frank's real passion was for machinery. He came to California about 1932 to make cars at the old Fisher Body plant in Oakland on 73rd Avenue. With his co-workers he faced down strikebreakers and cops trying to bust up their campaign to unionize the plant.

He was the longtime owner of Washington Avenue Garage and of Murray's Auto Clinic on San Leandro Blvd. He fixed the cars of thousands of people throughout Alameda County. He was reputed throughout the county as a mechanic who could fix any kind of automobile and for a fair price. Customers, especially working men with families who couldn't pay right away, could still drive the car out of his garage after a promise and a handshake to pay him back when they could.

Religion was the cornerstone of Frank's life. Missing Sunday Mass was unthinkable. He said the rosary twice a day on the Irish horn beads given him by his Mother. They were in easy reach on the table next to his living room recliner. He insisted on Grace before every meal. He was a longtime member of St. Leander's Young Men's Institute and an usher at Sunday Mass before moving to Hayward in 1975. All six children graduated from St. Mary's (later St. Leander's) School and from Bishop O'Dowd High School.

The one regret of his life was that he didn't get more education, although that didn't stop him from learning until the day he entered the hospital. The books he was reading are still on the table next to his rosary. He followed current events closely and was jubilant on November 9th, the day after the Democrats took back Congress. "Bush got his wings clipped pretty good," said Frank, who couldn't put up with people, who acted "a little too big for their britches."

Physically fit all his life, he was a boxer in his youth and, even into his eighties, an agile dancer. He bragged that he got his driver's license renewed again last July and would show it to anyone who asked. With a little help from his son Jim, he could still fix the water pump in the family Buick out in the garage. But it was discouraging to him to lose his hearing, his stamina, and, finally, his legs that could no longer take him down the long corridors of the nursing home to see his sweetheart.

Frank is survived by his wife Helen Margie, by his children Ann (Tom, now deceased), Patricia (married to Pat); Frank (married to [Hui]); John, Marjorie (married to Larry), and Jim and sister-in-law Hazel Soares. He is also survived by 24 grandchildren, 20 great-grandchildren and dozens of nieces and nephews, including Patsy Murray of Ireland.

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