Fred Arthur "Fritz" Murphy, a legend at Williamsville South High School, where he taught history for 30 years, died Monday (Aug. 30, 1999) in his Orchard Park home after a brief illness. He was 76.
Although he retired from Williamsville South in 1985, he never stopped teaching and until this summer was a member of the faculty of the Consortium of the Niagara Frontier, which provides college-level courses to inmates of Western New York correctional facilities.
Known for the rapport he had with virtually all his students, Murphy taught with a dramatic flair, imparting history by anecdote and with attention to the character as well as the achievements of historical figures. He taught the Great Depression through personal experience.
"I'm live and in color," he said in explaining his teaching style to Buffalo News reporter Gene Warner on his last day at Williamsville South. "I'm in show business. I've got to keep my audience. If I play to an empty house, the students may be here but they're not with me."
Thomas J. Ahern, then-principal of Williamsville South, praised Murphy and his "remarkable career."
"He's the franchise; he's the Gil Perreault of this high school," Ahern said at the time. "We have a tendency to hang our (championship) banners in the gym. Somebody should hang one for him."
Born in Buffalo, Murphy was a graduate of Holy Family School and South Park High School. He held bachelor's and master's degrees in history from Canisius College. He also did postgraduate work at the University at Buffalo.
He was a U.S. Army Air Forces veteran and served stateside during World War II.
He and his wife, the former Marjorie "Midge" Donnelly, had 10 children.
They lived in South Buffalo before moving to Orchard Park 32 years ago. They also spent the past 39 summers in Crystal Beach, Ont.
Murphy, who enjoyed tennis and skiing, was a member of the Williamsville Retired Teachers and Administrators Association.
He attended Nativity of Our Lord Catholic Church in Orchard Park and St. George's Catholic Church in Crystal Beach.
Survivors, besides his wife of 49 years, include six daughters, Marjorie A., M. Laurie of Los Angeles, M. Marta of Waitsfield, Vt., Sally A. Campbell and M. Amelia, both of New Canaan, Conn., and Patricia A. "Trisha" of Concord, N.H.; four sons, Robert E., Fred A. "Dino" of New York City, Neal A. of San Antonio, Texas, and Brendan J. of Luanda, Angola, Africa; four brothers, Donald J. of Dunedin, Fla., Monsignor Robert E. of Lackawanna, David L. of Lockport and Francis X.; a sister, Patricia Ruh of Orchard Park; and 22 grandchildren.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 11:30 a.m. Saturday in Nativity of Our Lord Church, South Buffalo Street and Thorn Avenue, Orchard Park.