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Life Story / Obituary
Robert “Bob” Murphy was a man of great integrity. Known for his service and commitment to his family as well as the country he loved, he modeled a lifetime of selflessly giving so much of his time and resources to others over the years. Proud of his years serving his country, he often reflected fondly on his years as a Marine. A steadfast provider and a wealth of wisdom, his children were undoubtedly his greatest treasure. Although Bob will be deeply missed, he leaves behind a wonderful collection of memories to be lovingly cherished by all who knew and loved him.
With banks still closing as a result of the Great Depression, the promise of a new election year waiting, and during the midst of one of the greatest droughts in American history, Clifford Elwood and Fannie La Rue (Perry) Murphy welcomed home their newborn son, Robert on September 4, 1932. Born into a family of six children, his birth brought light into an era of hard times.
Growing up in La Plata, Missouri before landing in Grand Rapids, Michigan Bob spent nearly every waking hour outdoors as a kid. He especially loved visiting his grandparents who lived on Camp Lake where he learned how to fish. Many of his greatest childhood memories came from the time he spent with the two of them. His father worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad and his mother was a school teacher. Proud of his Irish heritage, their hard work ethic taught him to never take anything for granted and to value a hard day’s work from an early age. By the tender age of fifteen years, his participation with the ROTC at Grand Rapids Central High School led him to enlist with the United States military. Bob married his high school sweetheart, Donna Spaman, before he left for overseas duty in Japan and then the Korean War. Wasting no time, the happy couple joined in marriage at Comstock Park on August 21, 1950, officiated by the Justice of the Peace. During his five years of service, Bob fought in the Korean War, earning two purple hearts.
Bob and Donna held a strong desire to build a family of their own. He finished up his schooling at Grand Rapids Community College before landing a longtime career with the United States Post Office as a clerk where he was active as a union president for a large majority of his employment. Over the course of eighteen years, together they welcomed five children into their lives and their loving home. As a father, Bob was supportive as well as protective. Wanting nothing but the very best for each of his children, he was known to give advice and be their confidant in times of trouble. Family trips often included trips out west to California or Nevada or road trips to Union conventions. An especially favorite destination was visiting the Grand Sable Dunes of the Upper Peninsula. A special treasure was the family cabin, which Bob built from a shell, where Bob was known to spend time chopping wood, hunting, fishing, spending time with family and friends as well as cooking up his famous Mexican goulash! Seen as a loving presence, there wasn’t much of anything that Bob didn’t have the answer to from a small home repair to financial advice. They often leaned on his wisdom as he wanted nothing more than to share in their every success!
There was never a dull moment when Bob was around. Even in his retirement years he never really slowed down. He drove a semi-truck for many years which then led him to start driving a city bus. Volunteering as a CASA (court-appointed special advocate) allowed him the satisfaction that came from serving the community he loved. He also enjoyed spending time as an active member of the local DAV and American Legion. In addition to his love of driving and volunteering, he and Donna also traveled extensively throughout Europe. Together they toured France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, as well as Ireland, which he savored every part of as he had always wanted to see where his ancestors had lived so long ago. They also enjoyed several trips to Florida and loved to visit many of the beautiful national parks throughout the US. When it came for relaxation, he cheered for his favorite teams; the Detroit Lions and Notre Dame! He also spent countless hours enjoying the birds and his garden. An avid reader, he saved a spot on his bookshelf for his favorite books by Ernest Hemingway and Norman Maclean. Blues and Jazz were often his go to music genres when relaxing or entertaining. He made sure to enjoy living his life to the fullest and balanced hard work with simple pleasures.
Bob’s life was all the richer when he was blessed with the abundance of grandchildren. Aside from his Ford Ranchero, they were the light of his life! They were accustomed to getting his full attention and knew they could count on a serving of “Papa’s noodles” anytime they were up visiting the cabin. Teaching them how to hunt and to fish and sharing laughter with them will be their greatest memories of the time he spent with them. Although he could be stubborn, they brought out the soft side of him. Bob often loved to joke with them and they were fond of his unusual habits such as saving packets of mayonnaise and mustard which he would forget about in his pockets! His beautiful wit and humor remained with him right up until the end. May his loved ones hold these memories close to their hearts to draw upon in the moments when they miss him the most. Each time they gather together to share stories, spend time in nature, or attempt to replicate his delicious chicken soup recipe may their hearts smile at the wonderful moments that they shared with him.
Robert Ray Murphy “Bob,” age 86, of Grand Rapids, Michigan passed away while in the company of family and in the comfort of his home on Monday, May 20, 2019. He is survived by his beloved wife of 68 years, Donna L. [Spaman] and their children; Robert “Mike” (Becca) Murphy, Barbara (Derek) Tubbs, Mary (Robert) Koetsier, Maureen (Tim) Kohn and Patrick (Sara) Murphy as well as his 14 grandchildren and many great and great-great-grandchildren whom he cherished. Bob honorably served his country in the US Marines during the Korean War. He was a proud retiree from the U.S. Postal Service where he had worked for 30 years. A Memorial Mass with Military Honors will be held on Tuesday, May 28, at 11 AM at St. Alphonsus Catholic Church, (224 Carrier St. NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505) with visitation for one hour prior beginning at 10 AM. To sign his guest book and to leave your own memory of him, please visit his web page at www.lifestorynet.com