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Martha Whelan Murphy 1920-2022

YOUNGSTOWN — After an epic and well-lived life, Martha Ann Whelan Murphy was peacefully called into eternity Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022, surrounded by the love of her family.

Martha was the youngest of four children of Raymond E. Whelan M.D. and surgical nurse, Margaret Gallagher Whelan, born in Youngstown, on Aug. 24, 1920, and raised at 620 Belmont Ave., (now the Dorothy Day House), just blocks from St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital, which Dr. Whelan helped to found and organize as the first chief of the medical staff. A true “convent-educated” Catholic, Martha graduated from the Ursuline Academy in 1933, Villa Maria High School in 1937, and Seton Hill College in 1941. The Ursulines, Humility of Mary Sisters and Sisters of Charity all left a deep impression on the young Martha Whelan, instilling values of faith and aspiring intellect which served her devoted heart and keen mind well throughout her long accomplished life of 101 years.

Martha married Attorney Robert M. Murphy of Youngstown on Oct. 4, 1947. Together the Murphys raised five children, four boys and one girl, on the North Side, first on New York Avenue and later on Selma Avenue. Martha’s husband, Bob, was a founding partner in 1959 of the prominent labor law firm, Green, Schiavoni, Murphy, Haines, Sgambati LLC. Mrs. Murphy pursued a number of community interests during her child-rearing years in the 1950s and 1960s, including her service as president of the Mahoning County Bar Auxiliary, president of the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women and, with her husband, as a counselor of engaged young people in pre-Cana.

Even before her marriage, Martha was making a difference in the lives of God’s poor as a Catholic social worker. She took graduate courses at The Ohio State University in the fall of 1941 before accepting a job with the Cleveland Catholic Service League in 1942. When the new Catholic Diocese of Youngstown was founded in May of 1943, at the age of 22, Martha became field director for Portage County, finding time to use her keyboard talents to play piano / organ for parish and school Masses.

After her first volunteer career concluded in 1969, with the younger Murphy children well along in their educations at St. Edward School and Ursuline High School, Martha returned to her roots in social work, beginning a three-year stint as assistant to the Director of Catholic Charities in the Chancery office in downtown Youngstown. Her thoughtful work with programming centered on the elderly for the Diocese caught the eye of Youngstown Mayor Jack C. Hunter in 1972, who asked Mrs. Murphy to establish a pilot program for senior citizens services for the city. Mrs. Murphy’s administrative abilities were well-recognized at the state level. When establishing the Ohio Area Agencies on Aging, with substantial program and personnel budget increases accompanying the new social services network, it was Martha Murphy who was chosen by state officials to build from the ground up the four-county District 11 Area Agency on Aging, Inc. Mrs. Murphy served as founding executive director of the agency from 1975 to 1991. She also served as elected Midwest region delegate to the National Board of Area Agencies on Aging and chaired the national convention in the early 1980s.

In her 60s, Martha returned to graduate school as a candidate for a master’s of Social Administration degree from the Mandel School at Case Western Reserve University. Something of a sensation on campus as a non-traditional student, Mrs. Murphy received her MSSA with distinction in 1985. Her agency, District 11, continued to flourish in the final years before her retirement in June 1991, creating model programs to allow elderly individuals to remain at home with supportive services, including at home meals, home aides, transportation and access to senior citizen centers for social engagement. Mrs. Murphy’s efforts on behalf of the elderly in Ohio earned her a place in the Ohio Senior Citizens Hall of Fame, where her picture was displayed at the state fairgrounds.

Other notable honors bestowed upon Martha for her life’s work included Seton Hill University’s Distinguished Alumni Leadership Award and the National Association of Social Workers Distinguished Service Award.

Upon her professional retirement, Mrs. Murphy turned her attention to an ever-growing family of grandchildren (14) and great-grandchildren (now 19 and counting). She became a master gardener for the Davis Education and Visitor Center at Mill Creek Park, acting for years as a volunteer horticultural resource at its library. She dedicated many hours even into her mid 90s as a ribbon bow maker for the fall / Christmas decorations on the grounds of Fellows Riverside Gardens and Lanterman’s Mill. She loved gardening and sharing ideas with other avid gardeners. She also organized (and dominated) her bridge groups at YCC, enjoying golf and travel.

Mrs. Murphy leaves five children, R. Terrance (Mickee) Murphy of Ravenna, Mary Eileen (Judge Patrick) Cunning of Campbell, the Rev. Richard Murphy, president of Ursuline High School and pastor of St. Mary Catholic Church, Mineral Ridge and St. Stephen Catholic Church, Niles; James B. (Christie) Murphy of Wyoming, Ohio; and Kevin M. (Theresa) Murphy of Cortland.

She was predeceased by her parents; her husband in 1994; her sisters, Dorothy Fannon and Margaret Mary Kirk; and her brother, Robert Whelan.

“Grammy,” “Aunt Martha” and, of course, “Mom” will forever occupy a huge place in the hearts of a clan which loved her dearly as she loved all of them.

Martha Murphy will be celebrated in faith with calling hours from 2 to 4:45 p.m. at her longtime parish, St. Edward in Youngstown, on Monday, Jan. 17, 2022.

Bishop David Bonnar will preside at the Mass of Christian Burial set for 5 p.m. Monday. A private family burial service will take place at Calvary Cemetery the following day.

The family and funeral home mandate that all people attending calling hours and / or the funeral must wear a mask or facial covering to enter the church and maintain social distancing in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are many appropriate charitable courses that would give due honor to Martha Murphy’s expansive values and visions. But two places for memorial donations, in lieu of flowers, are especially supportive of her wishes and those of her family: The Robert and Martha W. Murphy Scholarship c/o Ursuline High School Endowment Fund, Inc., 750 Wick Ave., Youngstown, OH 44505 and The Dr. Raymond E. Whelan Legacy Society, c/o Mercy Health Foundation Mahoning Valley, 250 DeBartolo Place, No. 2560, Youngstown, OH 44512.

The Murphy family expresses its deep gratitude for Martha’s quality medical care in these last months and days, particularly the late Dr. Gregory Zinni and his family practice group, Dr. Cynthia Kravec of Mercy Health, mom’s dedicated nurses, Diane, Kim, Millie, Caitlin and Theresa from within our family. You all are ever in our hearts. The final support provided by the team at Mercy Hospice House is also deeply appreciated. In all her years, Martha W. Murphy embodied the personal motto of her favorite St. Elizabeth Ann Seton: “Hazard yet forward.”

May we, who survive her and cherish her, do the same.

Thoughts and condolences may be sent to the funeral home website: www.mccauleyfuneral.com.

Arrangements by The McCauley Funeral Home. Privileged to serve the Valley since 1902.

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