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On May 06, 2023, Leon Joseph Murphey (“Murph”), aged 82, of Ellicott City, MD, passed away peacefully and surrounded by love after a fearless battle against small cell lung cancer. Murph was born December 09, 1940, in St. Louis, MO, to John Joseph Murphey (“Jack”) and Alma Lorene Murphey (nee Rogers). Jack, who was blind and deaf, and Alma, who was blind, were significant, influential, and successful activists in advancing causes for the blind and deaf. Their forward-thinking nature and perseverance shaped each of their six (6) children and has been handed down for generations. Murph was the eldest of their children, being big brother to (in chronological but not necessarily his favorite order): Lloyd Vincent Murphey, Paul Robert Murphey, Ann Lorene Murphey (nee Murphey), Mary Christine Chambers (nee Murphey), and John Timothy Murphey.
As the Irish last name might suggest, Murph was a lifelong Catholic. He attended the St. Margaret of Scotland Grade School and the St. Louis Preparatory Seminary for High School. But ultimately (and very fortunately for some of us…) he ended up at St. Louis University. There, in calculus class, while still a teenager, he met his future wife of 57 years, Mary Ann Murphey (nee Reinhardt). From SLU, he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Engineering (E.E.) in 1962. Also there at SLU, perhaps under the tutelage of the Jesuits, Murph honed both his infectious, yet sometimes incredibly subtle, sense of humor, his disarming smile, and his practical, thoughtful, and rationale view of religion. Over the course of his lifetime, he belonged to many, many parishes all around the United States, but most recently, he was an active parishioner at St. Louis Catholic Church in Clarksville, MD.
Murph excelled in leadership and was always a man of exceedingly high integrity. He had a decades-long career, which started in the 1960s when he worked at a local St. Louis grocery store and participated in the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) while attending SLU. The February after he graduated, in 1963, he married Mary Ann and nine months later came their first precious daughter, Patricia Ann. During the young family’s early years, Murph, as a commissioned officer, worked at Patrick Air Force Base, in Cocoa Beach, FL, supporting Space Projects Mercury and Gemini. In part because of this special experience, but also because his love of Science Fiction novels, he always encouraged those around him to look up and beyond the heavens – and he always reminded us we are all the “stuff of stars”…
After a time in Florida, the young family relocated to Fort Collins, CO, where Murph attended Colorado State University, earning a Master’s in E.E. Years later, to his youngest, not yet then born daughter, he fondly described this period in his life as one of his favorites as his primary job was to attend classes and learn – learning being a passion that was with him until the end.
Next, the young Murphey trio headed to Warner Robins Air Force Base so Murph could acquire additional training before heading on to Hickam Air Force Base, HI. After a brief stay in HI, Murph left the Air Force with the rank of Captain. From there, the family spent a short time back in FL, followed by Rome, NY, before finally settling in Northern VA. There he became a Civilian Government Employee managing major submarine and electronic warfare Programs (both developmental and production) for the Department of the Navy, initially out of Crystal City/Arlington, VA.
In late 1970s, however, Murph turned to the dark side and became a Government Contractor. He worked as a Program Manager (PM) for the likes of Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) and General Telephone & Electronics Corporation’s (GTE’s) Government Systems organization (still managing Navy Programs, including some of the largest communications Programs ever awarded at the time). During this period in his career, his youngest daughter, Tiffany Ann (a lifelong Government Contractor), was born. While in VA, Murph and Mary Ann also became the best of friends with Dr. George Anthony Tralka and his wonderful wife, Judy, of Vienna, VA (both now deceased).
Ultimately, a terrific job opportunity to manage a very large and impactful Program found the Murphey family relocating from Oakton, VA to San Jose, CA, where Murph, Mary Ann, and Tiffany lived from 1984 to 1996, the family’s longest stint in one state – ever (until the relocation to MD in 1996). Not much can be publicly said of Murph’s career during these years except that he enjoyed “working for the phone company”….
The 1990s were still exciting in other ways, though. In 1990, Murph became a grandfather for the first time to Bailey Walton Butler (nee Walton) (Patricia’s eldest child). And eventually, he gained a step-grandson in Will Walton (Patricia’s stepson). And then, in 1999, his grandson, John Christopher Walton (“Jack”) was born.
Also in 1999, the Government Systems arm of GTE was acquired by General Dynamics (GD) – and it was from GD that Murph ultimately retired in 2008. During his time at GD, Murph worked his way up to Deputy Vice President and General Manager for the Advanced Information Systems (AIS) Business Unit; however, never one to be anything other than modest, when asked what he did for a living, Murph always responded with: “I’m a Program Manager”.
After retiring from GD, because he just truly loved the work he did so much, Murph helped to start MasterPeace Solutions, Ltd., a small business supporting the National Security/Intelligence community – a company he remained on the Board of Directors of until his death. He was also a member of various professional organizations like the Armed Forces Communications & Electronics Association (AFCEA) and the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA).
In 2020, weeks after the death of his beloved wife Mary Ann, his youngest granddaughter, Mary Katharine Tierney Moran (“Mary Kate”), was born (to Tiffany and her husband Mike Moran). Shortly thereafter, Murph relocated from Highland, MD (and from the home he had lived in since 1997) to the Enclave at Elliott Station, where he enjoyed being President of the Home Owner’s Association (HOA). In his free time, Murph loved to read, do puzzles, and watch sports – especially baseball, and especially the St. Louis Cardinals. He also loved to babysit Mary Kate (which almost always entailed long walks around the backyard, reading books, and Micky Mouse Clubhouse time). And he enjoyed going to dinner, the theater, and taking day trips with his girlfriend, Ann Horner, also of Ellicott City, MD.
All of the above is an attempt to paint a picture of Leon Murphey’s life, but the reality is, words cannot even begin to do him justice. At his core, he was an amazingly loyal and dedicated husband, a terrific friend, the absolute best Dad, a doting Grandpa, and a Great-Grandfather to little ones: Olive Francis, Kenneth William, and his step-great-greatgrandchildren, James Lee (“Jaime”) and Arthur Henry. Murph was the glue – and the heart and soul – of so many groups, teams, situations, people, etc. that it is nearly impossible to illustrate his impact with mere words.
Leon Murphey is survived by his daughters – Patricia Walton and Tiffany Murphey (and husband Mike Moran); his grandchildren – Bailey, Will, Jack and Mary Kate; and his great-grandchildren: Olive, Jaime, Kenneth, and Arthur; his sisters, Ann and Mary; as well as many nieces and nephews.
He is preceded in death by his wife, Mary Ann; his parents – Jack and Alma; and his brothers – Lloyd, Paul, and Timothy.
Visitation will be on Thursday, May 18, 2023 from 2:00pm – 4:00pm and 6:00pm – 8:00pm at the Donaldson Funeral Home of Clarksville, P.A. (Clarksville, MD 21029).
A Catholic Funeral Mass will be held at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, in Fulton, MD, on Friday, May 19, 2023 at 11:00am, with burial to follow at Quantico National Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, gifts in memory of Leon Murphey may be made directly to the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center to support research into finding a cure for Small Cell Lung Cancer. Please make checks payable to Johns Hopkins University, and mail them with a memo note indicating that this gift is in memory of Leon Murphey (send to the Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, P.O. Box 49143, Baltimore, MD 21297-9143; or, make a gift online at: https://secure.jhu.edu/form/Kimmel).