Eve Mary Epting Murphy lived the life of a Loretta Lynn country song but for one thing: Neil Diamond would have to sing it. He was Murphy’s favorite singer.
To capture Murphy’s life in a pop tune, Diamond’s composition would have to exude the joy of “Sweet Caroline” but carry some of the bittersweet lilt of “Song Sung Blue.”
Murphy, like the parents in Lynn’s “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” raised a large family — 12 in all.
“The first birth was dangerous and she was warned not to have any more children. They were Catholic, so, 12 kids later...” said daughter Elizabeth Murphy. “She used to tell me she had no problem loving so many kids, because your ability to love keeps growing and you always have enough to share. She loved being a mother and a grandmother and to the extent she knew about her great-grandchildren, she would love them too.”
Murphy died Feb. 24 at 87 from Alzheimer’s in Wellington. She was the first lady of Coral Gables when her husband Joseph Murphy Sr. served as mayor in 1964-65. An avid gardener, she beautified not only the Gables but the nation. The Murphys had a contract to populate America with flowering schefflera trees, her daughter said.
My mom and I took a week long road trip through Florida, Georgia, the Blue Ridge Parkway and Virginia. She insisted we blare Neil Diamond the entire time. I even gave my daughter Caroline as a middle name because my mom and I love his songs so much.
“The government would pay them $500 a year for the seeds from our large trees. These were the days when the roots weren’t considered invasive. In Key Largo, she always had fresh key limes growing in the yard for her famous key lime pies,” she said of weekend visits. “In the summers in North Carolina, she would send the children out to pick blueberries in the yard for fresh pancakes. And she grew corn. I used to love shucking the corn with her because it was private time with her.”
In high school I asked her if she had expectations about what I would become. She said all she and Pop wanted for each of us is to be happy in our work.
Attorney Elizabeth Murphy on her mother, Eve.
Murphy was born in Flint, Michigan, and settled in Coral Gables where she graduated from then-Ponce de Leon High School. She met Joseph Murphy on a blind double date. After he died of a heart attack at 59 in 1984, she earned her real estate broker’s license and gardener’s certification.
Not long after attending one of Diamond’s concerts in Sunrise in the early 2000s, Murphy began to show signs of dementia, followed by Alzheimer’s. Her daughter played his songs for her mother because she had read that music can sometimes trigger recognition in Alzheimer’s patients.
I only prayed that there was a long and entertaining movie of her life going through her semi conscious state, because in her Wellington Alzheimer’s facility, where she spent her last five years, she was comfortable and loved, but in her very own world.
Elizabeth Murphy, on her mother, Eve.
“I hope she enjoyed it, but she did not seem to recognize it because she was too far along,” Elizabeth Murphy said, reflecting on a gift she learned from her mother.
“It takes a lot to be a mom. I do not know where this mom found her strength or resilience but she had it in spades.”
Murphy is also survived by her children Kathleen Gerding, Eve Parente, Michael Murphy, Janice Ellison, Mary Ann Lawrence, Judy Weber, Patricia Propheter, Jeffrey Murphy, Maureen Lackey and Lisa Shields; 16 grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and her brother James Epting. She was predeceased by son Joseph Jr. A Mass will be held at 10 a.m. March 25 at St. Rita Catholic Church, 13645 Paddock Dr., Wellington. Donations can be sent to Alzheimer’s Association.