William F. Murray, 85, a veteran newspaperman who pioneered wine writing in The Buffalo News, died Sunday (June 17, 2001) in Buffalo General Hospital after a brief illness.
Murray retired from The News in 1980 but continued to write his column, Wine Almanac, for several years thereafter.
Born on Valentine's Day, 1916, in Waterford, Murray earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from Ohio State University, where he met Jean Bushnell, a fellow student, whom he married -- twice -- in 1939.
"We eloped in April," his wife said, "but I stayed at my mother's house in Ohio while Bill took a newspaper job in Troy. My mother suspected something was up, and my parents contacted Bill's parents. We were married again in church that fall."
Murray took a job on a Mansfield, Ohio, newspaper and, when World War II broke out, volunteered for the Marine Corps. He spent the war in Washington, D.C., editing the Leatherneck, an official Marine newspaper. Murray, a sergeant, often drew the ire of officers -- who were paid by the word -- by trimming their articles to fit.
After military service, the Murrays moved to Cincinnati, where Bill Murray worked on the Cincinnati Post, and then to Cleveland, where he worked on numerous dailies and weeklies owned by his newspaper chain. He often was sent to troubled small-town publications to rejuvenate them. It was then he began winemaking.
"Dad was very interested in home winemaking," recalled his daughter Susan, of Toronto. "For a while, he claimed to be the only non-ethnic winemaker in the Cleveland area."
After joining the staff of the Rochester Times-Union, Murray visited a friend working at The News and accepted a job here in 1967.
Murray was known as an unflappable editor who could handle any assignment and a patient coach to rookies. News Managing Editor Edward L. Cuddihy called Murray "one of that generation of journalists who revered the written word and what it meant to newspapers. I probably worked most closely with Bill when a bunch of us made wine together each fall in his garage. Some years, it wasn't very good, but it always was a pleasure to make."
Murray began his wine column for The News in 1970 and earned a reputation as a fair and honest critic, who, as one News colleague and fellow winemaker said, "never met a wine he didn't like." In fact, Murray the critic often damned with faint praise, saying: "It is an acceptable wine of its type."
He served as a wine judge at the New York State Fair for 10 years, judged the Eastern United States Wine Fair twice and was named a Compagnon de Bordeaux by the Grand Conseil l'Academie du Vin in France. In addition, he was invited to VinItaly three times and Vin Expo in Bordeaux twice.
Besides writing about wine and serving as host for local wine tastings for Les Amis du Vin, Murray was an accomplished home winemaker who perfected an exceptionally drinkable champagne.
He also enjoyed reading, golfing, and listening to jazz and to the radio, and was a world traveler.
Murray continued to make small batches of wine into his early 80s. "His last small batch was pressed three years ago and is still racked in his cellar," son-in-law John Butler said.
Surviving in addition to his wife and daughter Susan are another daughter, Ellen of Toronto, and a brother, Matthew of Colonial Heights, Va.
Prayers will be said at 9:15 a.m. Wednesday in Brown Funeral Home, 6575 E. Quaker Road, Orchard Park. A Mass of Christian Burial will follow at 10 in St. George Catholic Church, 74 Old Glenwood Road, West Falls.