Light/Breezes

Light/Breezes
SUNRISE AT DEATH VALLEY-Photo by Tom Cochrun

Monday, March 18, 2013

THE DEPARTING IRISHMAN

HE WAS ONE OF A KIND
    Will Murphy, a former colleague and friend departed this life a day short of St. Patrick's Day.  Will Patrick Murphy probably would have gotten a kick out of his timing, but in the last few weeks his life had been ravaged by disease and for an independent eccentric such as Will, that was a horrible existence.
    Frequent readers may have noticed that Will, =w= as he signed off, was a frequent contributor to the comments to these posts.  In earlier days he would occasionally refer to himself as God's Will, ever the wit.  In those days he was one of the best journalists and storytellers working.  
   He was the State House Bureau Chief when I was hired by a large radio news operation.  Will did the work of at least a couple of people, though other staffers would be assigned through the day to assist with committee hearings or legislative debate and the like when he was already committed.  And man, did you need to gather the right sound, or ask the correct questions or Murph, God's Will, would let you know your shortcomings.
   He was a tenacious reporter, usually ahead of the pack on most stories of state government and politics.  He even rooted out political corruption in a couple of elected state offices.  He once so infuriated the Governor, he was ordered out of the State House.  Of course the Governor did not have that power and it was only an hour or so before the State Press Association and other legal sources pounded on the Governor soundly.  Will returned in a kind of triumphant humility.  You'd have to know Will to understand how that can work. 
    Will worked longer hours than any of his competition and to this young reporter, his work ethic was a gold standard.
    Once, many years after we had both left for other postings, Will showed up at our house with a couple of cookie tins full of Lebanese pastries.  He was fresh off a plane, after being the last US reporter to be evacuated from a section of Beirut, during a time when things were particularly bad.  Before he left, he'd rented a car and made a mad dash through a city imploding in warfare, to get the goodies. He loved drama.
   He never talked a lot about it, but he had been in a seminary preparing for the priesthood before he turned to journalism.  He had the most uncanny ability to get people to open up and talk.  He could always find a unique human touch to a story. He had a melodious deep voice, and was a world class talker and wit. People felt comfortable talking to him. 
   In his later years, after a career in broadcasting including award winning years in Kentucky television, he returned to Indianapolis where most of the television news directors, senior producers and main anchor talent would receive Will's critiques on language lapses or miss-use, or sloppy reporting.  He was a stickler and not at all reluctant to send a zing or a jab where needed.
    He was a great humanist, and had an eye for the so called little person or common man or woman.  His father, who ran an Irish bar in a working neighborhood, was murdered during a robbery.  Will understood life from the street up.  
    Will was a ham.  He loved to perform, but he also knew when to step back and simply listen.  I chuckled yesterday when I spoke with his sister Katie.  His body is being donated to medical science, so in a very real way, Will is 
going to continue to have an audience.  I think he'd like the way I reported that.
    Last October the eventuality was becoming apparent to Will and he wrote a note to a few of his friends.  I print it here, as it bespeaks the quality of a unique Irishman, who's wit, talent, kindness and eccentricity left a mark on any who met him.

WILL MURPHY in his own words.

I am a fairly emotional person. Apparently I display it only through my work. Now, that I think about it all of my feature reporting for TV and Radio has been based on what I feel must be right. Then I would find someone with those virtues and extol them.  These found me.
 Just the other day as I got out of my car a man (and his wife) came towards me from their position of waiting. I thought it might be for a bus, but they were not in the correct spot. Maybe he would ask. Then he told me they were waiting for a taxi to “go see the maples.” My first impression was that they were Japanese. He corrected me. “We are Korean, visiting from Chicago. We came by the big GreyHund last night. I have been here 35 years and no learn English.
 I convinced him his language was fine. I did not tell him he was miles away from the color of “the maples.”  Then the taxi came to take them back downtown. They could not get a hotel there last night since they had no credit card.  Somebody referred them five miles out of the center city for a fifty-dollar night. We met; I did not really help. I did not give directions miles away to the colorful trees. But he felt the need to talk about it. He came to me with her in tow. Then they were gone.
 At their elderly age they were ready to get up and go to see things. They had no plan. They just went. They had a purpose. And they just went. Happily.
 This was the same day I went… to hear the beginning of my prognosis for prostate cancer which has become very aggressive since we first took note in early December, last year.  Since then there has been a plan and a purpose but it did not seem obvious to me. Every three months I receive a hormone shot to maintain the speed of the cancer growth into the lymph system.  Happily, the PSA (prostate specific antigen) test shows a great reduction in numbers indicating cancer. But that is almost too late.
 A full-body bone scan early this year indicated the presence of lesions in my liver, possibly in my pelvis, and maybe more. A month ago it was determined with a new MRI that a major growth on my left femur just below the hip was the reason for a major complaint while attempting walking. That curtailed my part-time position as a tour-guide inside the Lucas Oil Stadium for a while.
Immediate surgery to “burn” the tumor off the bone with RFA (radio frequency ablation) proved it was the same cancer which had traveled from the prostate.
 Confirmation is one thing. Consternation is another. We are advised as older males to be constantly vigilant for the prostate problem.  It can arrive in young males too. It is the most prevalent cancer in males, after skin cancer. Prostate Cancer can start with no symptoms. Apparently mine started without me. It was immediately labeled aggressive and has been so. I have been told not all cancers are detected. I have one which slipped through.
 The doctors mentioned many months ago that there would be no cure, just maintenance. Maybe two to five years of maintenance. They mentioned it again this past week… along with the fact that several other methods could be used, including some new ones just on the market. Each month there will be a shot (Xgeva) to maintain the bone loss (which allowed the tumor outside the femur) plus another attempt to curtail the growth in the lymph system.
 Many friends constantly ask the regular question “what did the doctor say?” This, then, is an effort to compile the words he said along the way. Mostly it has been a wait and see procedure. Now, it will be a more aggressive approach to an aggressive cancer.
For now, there is no radiation or chemo planned but that may change.
 I am an emotional man who lives alone, but I am not lonely. I have many friends around the world. And I have my family here in Indianapolis, my hometown.  On the way home from the doctor I became suddenly aware of my future while listening to one of my favorite styles of music. It prompted many tears… of realization of how good I have it with my medical treatment.
 I have a plan. I am pleased, too, that I met that Korean couple just passing through Indianapolis to see “the maples.”  I will continue to follow this adventure of mine, as far as it goes.  –w- 10-11-12 -w-
Goodbye God's Will.  You made big memories.
See you down trail.

5 comments:

  1. As a young statehouse reporter I benefited from Will's mentoring, his wit and his generosity. He saved my bacon more than once on breaking stories and showed me how tenacious was his middle name. He cut a wide swath across journalism and politics in Indiana and elsewhere. I miss hearing his voice in person and on the air.
    -FBP

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  2. Will "graded" my column, word by word,every week for over 30 years. I almost always ignored his criticism and he knew it, but he felt obligated to point out my shortcomings. I actually loved the attention but I never told him. What I loved more were his visits to my home, almost always unexpected. He'd just show up with a bag of groceries and a couple bottles of wine from some etnic store. My wife and I simply tried to stay out of his way as he played chef in our kitchen but it was the best show in town. Ask either of us, "who is your most unique friend" and we'll tell you Will Murphy without blinking an eye. We loved him and he loved us. I don't know what we'll do without him. It's a different world now, with a huge void.

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