Dwight L. 'Doc' Murphy
May 10, 1928 – March 29, 2012
Georgetown, South Carolina
Dwight Louis 'Doc' Murphy, age 83, a great, beloved presence in this world, passed away March 29th from complications involving COPD, a chronic pulmonary disease.
‘Doc’, as friends and family knew him, was born in Fulton New York to Dwight Louis and Margaret Howe Murphy, into a musical family of a grandmother church organist, tenor father, and soprano mother. He and Nancy (wife of 54 years) had two children, Mark Edmond (LouAnne Kirkwood) and Martha Ann (Jeff Earl). Grandchildren Molly and Sally Murphy, and Jacob and Samuel Earl also mourn the loss of their ‘larger than life’, Grandpa Doc. The immediate family and extended families of the Murphy, Hinkhouse, Lorente, Metzger, Purcell, Howe and Bidwell clans will all miss the amazing sing-a-long evenings filled with favorite songs and tunes collected and memorized over a lifetime. Doc was an avid sailor his whole life long and after building his first boat his father remarked,” My God! My son’s built a bureau drawer!” Doc taught sailing at the Fair Haven Yacht Club and built both Prams and Thistles. Dwight was especially proud of being the captain of his beloved, handcrafted ship, the ’Mrs. Murphy’. He took great pride in being able to take as many friends and family out on the water for sailing adventures of all sorts. Doc taught us all how to enjoy time spent in each other’s company, providing an atmosphere of love and appreciation for each other’s unique gifts and talents. Whether sailing, teaching or playing music he was always quick to respond with appreciation, encouragement and praise for family and students alike.
Dwight received a BA in music from Potsdam’s Crane School of Music and a master’s degree in music from the Manhattan School of Music in NYC. From 1952-1954 he taught at the army band training school at Fort Dix, New Jersey, and played in the orchestra for the USO. He also played the trombone and double bass with many ‘big bands’ from the era.
After marrying Nancy (Nanny) Louise Purcell on July 13, 1957 Dwight taught music in Munnsville, NY for several years before moving to Lake Placid, NY where he taught band and orchestra in the local school and played with the Lake Placid Club Band. In the early 1960’s the family relocated to Altamont New York where Doc taught music in the Colonie school district for 28 years and played double bass in the Albany Symphony Orchestra. Upon retirement from public school teaching, he started on a lifelong dream project of building a 38’ cruising sailboat made of Ferro cement. Sometimes enlisting the help of family and friends, he hand built the ‘Mrs. Murphy” himself at the local VFW post in Altamont NY. He would occasionally stop work to engage in a few games of horseshoes at the pits adjacent to his boatbuilding shed. Doc was always willing to give the curious visitor a boat tour and the inevitable explanation of why a boat made of cement could actually float. Upon completion he and first mate Nancy Murphy sailed on Lake Ontario, finding safe harbor in Fairhaven Bay where he grew up as a youngster sailing with his family. Sailing to the Maritime Provinces also fulfilled a lifelong dream.
Upon turning 50, Doc decided to take up the ‘old time banjo’. He built his first from a kit and learned the claw hammer style. Always interested in music, learning and teaching, Doc picked up his fiddle again, focusing on the old time fiddle tunes. As a teacher and student of music himself, in 1993 Doc began documenting, collecting and notating old tunes for younger classical students not versed in learning by ear. Doc was dedicated to this collection, believing in the importance of preserving the genre’s cultural roots and its musically historical significance. His collection grew to over 600 tunes lovingly collated into a series of books that is used by family and by small groups playing near North Myrtle Beach and the Georgetown area. Dwight instructed both adults and children at the Music School in Georgetown for several years, encouraging, guiding and always entertaining his students with endless musical ditties.
At well over six feet tall, Doc made an impression wherever he went. He always brought his unique perspective and huge sense of humor with him. Doc loved meeting and appreciated eclectic personalities his whole life. His stories of childhood memories included colorful characters with names such as ‘Squirrely Goodseull’ and ‘Fud Foster’. He was a frequent visitor and a connoisseur of local hardware stores and copy shops where he often made life long, like-minded friends. The last few years Doc spent hours drawing plans to re-furbish a Raven class sailboat and for an invention involving collecting and storing electrical current on tidal creeks and rivers. His most recent plan was to build a bosons chair rig that would lower him down from the second floor porch in order to have access to his workspace, fondly known as ‘the tinkertorium’. Dwight was also working on transferring home movie films from the 30’s and beyond onto DVD’s, having fun and frustration navigating the vagaries of computers, modems and routers. Doc was a builder, inventor, tinkerer, teacher, best friend, loving husband, father and grandfather. Following his dreams and many artistic passions, Doc shared his life with others bringing music, humor, love and a deep appreciation for the joys that large and small events in life can bring. From epic sailing journeys to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a beer in a chilled glass for lunch.
He leaves Nancy Purcell Murphy (Georgetown, South Carolina), daughter Martha Murphy (Reno, Nevada), son Mark Edmond Murphy (Shohola Pa.), two granddaughters, Molly and Sally Murphy, two grandsons, Samuel and (Airman) Jacob Earl, sister Sheila Bidwell, (Naples Florida), brother Mark H. Murphy (Englewood, New Jersey) and brother Kevin Murphy (Salinas, California), Sister–in-Law, Patricia Purcell (Roslindale, Mass.), and a host of cherished nieces, nephews, cousins, and students. Dwight Doc Murphy will be greatly missed by us all.
Donations in Doc’s memory can be made to the Old Time Herald or Old Time Music Group, PO Box 61679 Durham, NC 27715.