Friday, November 13, 2009

My Guy

April 23, 1935 – November 14, 2004
(Text of the Ramsey County Bar Association Memorial in Tom’s Honor)

We are here today to pay tribute to Thomas W. Murray - a beloved husband, a proud and loving father, a patriot, a consummate professional, and a kind and decent man.

Tom was born in North Dakota, although having lived 64 of his 69 years here in St. Paul, this wonderful city of ours truly was his home. While the circumstance of a North Dakota birth foreclosed him from native St. Paulite status, he approached it far more closely than those of us who claim residency for, say, a mere 30 years or so.

It was here in St. Paul that Tom grew up, attended school (all the way through law school at William Mitchell), returned from four years of service as an Air Force officer, raised his three sons, pursued his career, lived first with the mother of his sons and again with his soul mate and widow, Suzann.

It was here in St. Paul –

• that Tom diligently and lovingly cared for his aging mother;
• that he faithfully and successfully served employers that included two of this city’s great companies: Twin City Barge and First Trust Company of Saint Paul;
• that he concluded a dedicated and distinguished career, confident in his accomplishments, and with then good health and renewed vigor, embraced retirement from the work-a-day world as a long-awaited opportunity to pursue – with his beloved Suzann – new adventures and to resume postponed adventures (including his love of flying).

It also was here, however, that Tom’s dreams were interrupted by the fortuity of ill health – a stroke not many months after his retirement. It was that event – and how both Tom and Suzann responded to it – that told all of us as much about Tom as we had learned about him the many years of prior association.

Mind you, what we already knew about Tom was far from insignificant:
• he was smart and insightful – a fine judge of people who knew how to size up a challenging situation;
• he greatly enjoyed tennis and golf, but like most of us, was very fortunate to have a day job;
• he was a patient and empathetic teacher and mentor . . . someone who always had time to counsel and guide the Trust Company’s newer officers;
• he dressed well – conservative, understated, and proper – but with a certain elegant flair . . . the “right” dress shirt, even once in awhile with a gold collar bar;
• he was a man of great integrity and impeccable commitment to the highest ethics of the legal profession – he treated his colleagues and clients with dignity and respect;
• he was the first (and we believe only) officer of the Trust Company to drive a Porsche – and he loved that Porsche, at one time telling Suzann that he wanted to be buried in it – only to be reminded by Suzann that such an arrangement likely would not be viewed favorably by the authorities at Ft. Snelling;
• he deeply and unconditionally loved his sons, David, Paul, and Mark, and was immeasurably proud of their accomplishments;
• he genuinely liked people – to whom he naturally offered a smile and an encouraging word;
• he was social and reveled in friendships.

Tom was a longstanding member of the “Heart Association,” whose membership included such luminaries as the late, great Judge Edward J. Devitt. The active core of Heart Association was, and remains, lawyers from Briggs and Morgan and officers of the Trust Company. As family and careers have caused paths to diverge, Heart Association nonetheless has remained a significant common thread.

While many of us have drifted from the frequent meetings of younger days, an annual event of ongoing significance is the Christmas holiday gathering at the McNeely residence. It was a poignant event in 2004 – Tom was not in attendance. He was looking forward to it – which he specifically mentioned to Suzann just a couple of days prior to his fatal stroke. We all were looking forward to seeing both Tom and Suzann at McNeely’s again this year because it was at the last few of these events that we learned even more about our friend Tom Murray. It was here that we saw year over year the courage and commitment that both Tom and Suzann brought to his stroke recovery. It was here that we saw confirmation that adversity deepens love for those who accept one another unconditionally. It was here that we deepened our understanding that life is what it is – not merely to be accepted, but to be embraced.

Tom nearly achieved the allotted three score and ten years. During that span of life’s lessons learned – some painfully, most joyfully – the fundamental humanity and goodness of Tom Murray was established, and we all are better for Tom having shared his life with us. We find Tom's spirit - and solace for our loss - in this prayer of an aviator:

Eternal Lord, who makes the winds and clouds obey Your will and who protects the eagle in his flight and the dove seeking safety, uphold me as I soar into the sky and fly above land and sea. Pilot my ship safely through the air, and give me nerves which are steady and relaxed, a mind, calm and composed, as I sail on to my destination. Give me a successful take-off and at journey’s end a safe landing, that no harm come to me and those entrusted to my care.
Hold Your protecting hand over me as I pass through storm and clouds.
Above all, keep me in Your grace and favor . . . and let my last landing bring me safely into Your presence. Amen.

(Presented by John B)


  1. what an amazing man. Beautiful, powerful words. Hugs to you x

  2. Thank you for sharing this beautiful tribute to your beloved Tom. Knowing a little of him brings me closer to knowing you and knowing what you have lost.

    Gentle hugs this night of keeping vigil.

  3. A very fine and fitting tribute. I found many of the words very beautiful and have written them down in my notebook to refer to in the future ("It was here that we saw confirmation that adversity deepens love for those who accept one another unconditionally...").

    I would be so proud of a man who left the world a better place because of his having lived. A man who lived fully. If all of us could live lives like Tom's what a different world it would be.

  4. thank you, suzann, for sharing these very special words about Tom, for letting us peek into the extraordinary life of your amazing husband.

  5. Lovely tribute to Tom, your life together and the memories.....