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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