Russ--thanks so much for sending this obit out to all of us. I highly
recommend the article by Tom Romano, "The Living Legacy of Donald Murray."
From the January 2000 English Journal, accessed through the latest NCTE
----- Original Message -----
From: "Russ Hunt" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Monday, January 01, 2007 2:50 PM
Subject: Don Murray
> I suspect a fair number of Inkshedders will remember Don -- who never
> got to an Inkshed conference, but who was awfully influential with
> many who did.
> -- Russ
> Columnist Donald Murray dies at 82
> Pulitzer winner penned Globe's 'Now and Then'
> By Bryan Marquard, Globe Staff | December 31, 2006
> Five days ago, in his last "Now and Then" column published in the
> Globe before he died, Donald Murray was as in love with writing as he
> had been as a teenager -- and just as anxious.
> "Each time I sit down to write I don't know if I can do it," he wrote.
> "The flow of writing is always a surprise and a challenge. Click the
> computer on and I am 17 again, wanting to write and not knowing if I
> He could, and did, for decades -- winning a Pulitzer Prize at 29 for
> editorials he wrote for the Boston Herald, teaching writing at the
> University of New Hampshire, publishing book after book, penning
> column after column.
> "He basically lived through his writing," said his daughter Anne. "In
> some ways that was more real to him than his real life. Everything had
> to be sifted through his writing -- the good and bad. His whole life
> was writing."
> Mr. Murray, who lived in Durham, N.H., was visiting a friend in
> Beverly yesterday when he died, apparently of heart failure. At 82, he
> was about to launch a website where aspiring writers could apprentice
> with the aging master, extending his career from the days of
> typewriter carbon copies to cyberspace.
> For two decades, Mr. Murray wrote the Globe's "Over 60" column, which
> was renamed "Now and Then" in 2001. Ostensibly aimed at the retired
> and the elderly, the column drew in readers of all ages.
> "You would think that his column would appeal almost exclusively to
> older readers, but I know so many younger readers who follow Don
> Murray and have to know what happened," said Steve Greenlee, Living
> editor at the Globe and formerly Mr. Murray's editor.
> Effortlessly turning the personal, the private, and sometimes the
> painful parts of his life into universal experiences, Mr. Murray
> crafted columns in which the passing of his years became a narrative
> embraced by legions of loyal readers.
> As his beloved wife, Minnie Mae, declined slowly from Parkinson's
> disease, readers were with him as he savored their remaining years.
> Silently watching from the vantage of newsprint, they sat with Mr.
> Murray beside her bed in their home and later in the assisted living
> facility where she died in February 2005.
> When he reflected on the changes wrought in his life after he suffered
> a heart attack in the mid-1980s, readers trembled at his fears and
> basked in his triumphs -- one of which was simply living to write
> again, and again.
> "I have achieved another generation," he wrote in March 2001 when his
> column's name changed. "I am no longer young-old, but at 76, old and
> looking forward to graduating to ancient in another 15 years. I had
> always thought the title of the column would be 'Over 60' until it
> could become 'Over 100,' but my editors suggest that I am so much over
> 60 that we should rename it.
> "It will be called 'Now and Then' (Minnie Mae's idea) and will allow
> me not only to report on the interior landscape of one who continues
> to ripen but also to comment on the external life with the perspective
> of an elder."
> Donald Morrison Murray was born in Boston and grew up in Quincy. He
> had no siblings and, characteristically frank, described his childhood
> as unhappy.
> "My parents and teachers got together and decided I was stupid," he
> wrote last year. "My response was to develop a private mantra: 'I'm
> stupid but I can come in early and stay late.' Surprise. It worked.
> Good work habits will beat talent every time."
> Mr. Murray was a paratrooper during World War II and married Ellen
> Pinkham in 1946. Their marriage ended in divorce and he graduated from
> the University of New Hampshire in 1948 with a bachelor's degree in
> English. He went to work as a copyboy at the Herald and became a staff
> reporter in 1949.
> Two years later he turned to editorial writing and married Minnie Mae
> Emmerich, who "was five years older than I was, an embarrassment her
> mother never accepted," he wrote this year.
> Mr. Murray was awarded a Pulitzer in 1954 for editorials "on the 'New
> Look' in National Defense which won wide attention for their analysis
> of changes in American military policy," according to the Pulitzer
> Turning down an offer to become an editor, Mr. Murray continued to
> write and started teaching college writing courses, then moved to New
> York City, where he worked briefly for Time magazine. He became a
> freelance writer in 1956, a tenuous existence for someone supporting a
> family. He began publishing books and joined the University of New
> Hampshire faculty in 1963, becoming professor emeritus in 1984.
> The university awarded him an honorary doctorate in 1990. Earlier, in
> 1981, he won the Yankee Quill Award, awarded by the New England
> Society of Newspaper Editors and the New England Chapter of the
> Society of Professional Journalists.
> As a writing coach, Mr. Murray was revered as he brought his
> plainspoken message to classrooms and newsrooms.
> "What Don did was take the mystique and myth out of writing for so
> many in newsrooms and elsewhere who thought you just had to wait for
> inspiration to come," said Chip Scanlan, who teaches writing at the
> Poynter Institute and was working for The Providence Journal when he
> met Mr. Murray. "He did this with a simple but powerful message: Good
> writing may be magical, but it's not magic. It's a process, a rational
> series of steps and decisions that all writers take."
> "He said those words and they galvanized me," Scanlan said. "I think I
> know what it's like to be an apostle, because I've been quoting and
> teaching Don Murray ever since that day."
> For Mr. Murray, each column, each sentence presented an opportunity to
> teach, and writing was never the only lesson. One of his many books,
> "The Lively Shadow," was about his middle daughter, Lee, who died at
> "We don't get over the death of those we love," he wrote in a 1999
> column. "Don't tell those who have suffered such a loss to get over
> it. Think how terrible it would be if we could forget."
> In addition to his daughter Anne, who lives in Weymouth, Mr. Murray
> leaves another daughter, Hannah Starobin of Mount Kisco, N.Y.; two
> grandsons; and a granddaughter.
> A funeral service will be announced.
> Russell Hunt
> Department of English
> St. Thomas University
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write to Russ Hunt at [log in to unmask]
For the list archives and information about the organization,
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