Matthew J. Murphy Jr., 75, a onetime tire salesman who became one of Niagara County's most popular political figures, died Wednesday (Oct. 17, 2001) in Erie County Medical Center, Buffalo, where he had been a patient for the last few days.
Murphy, a Democrat, served nine terms in the Assembly, becoming known as "Mr. Tourism," as Majority Leader Paul A. Tokasz, D-Cheektowaga, put it Wednesday.
"He actually created the 'I Love New York' program, created that section of the law," Tokasz said.
"He was always proud of the fact that Gov. (Hugh L.) Carey called him the father of 'I Love New York,' " recalled his son Matthew J. III of Lockport, the Niagara County district attorney.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, recalled that Murphy pushed for the creation of the Assembly Tourism Committee and was its first chairman.
"Matt was an early and enthusiastic promoter of tourism in New York State and devoted his considerable legislative talent and energy to realizing that industry's full potential in the Empire State," Silver said in a statement.
Assemblyman Robin L. Schimminger, D-Kenmore, said that he and Murphy obtained funding for docks for transient boaters on the Erie Canal in the 1980s.
"Matt Murphy's vision in the 1990s generated the broader state effort to redevelop the Erie Canal," he said.
But more than his legislative accomplishments, longtime associates recalled Murphy's loyalty, humor, devotion to family and what Lewiston attorney Timothy J. Toohey called his "bigheartedness."
Toohey said, "He was loyal, and he closed his eyes for the last time knowing no one ever questioned his honesty, integrity or loyalty."
"One thing that always stood out was his dedication to his family," said Lockport Mayor Thomas C. Sullivan, who ordered the flags at City Hall and Altro Park lowered to half-staff upon news of Murphy's death.
In the mid-1990s, when the state built a new Lake Avenue Bridge over the Erie Canal, the span was named "Matt Murphy Way."
On Sept. 11, 1999, Murphy suffered a stroke while riding in the Kiwanis Club Peach Festival Parade in Lewiston. He went into a coma for almost three weeks and suffered a heart attack, pneumonia and kidney failure. But he was released from the hospital after six weeks and returned home after a month in a nursing home.
Murphy was born in Lockport, graduated from Lockport High School and entered the Army in the closing months of World War II. With the field artillery of the 7th Infantry Division, he saw action in the invasion of Okinawa and served in the occupation force in formerly Japanese-held Korea.
He earned a bachelor's degree in social sciences from Niagara University in 1951 and also took a job with Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. He worked in sales, marketing and management for 10 years before opening his own store, Lockport Tire Co., in 1959.
Murphy stayed in the tire business until his election to the 139th District Assembly seat in 1974. He then sold his business to Reid Petroleum Co., which made him a vice president, a title he still held at his death.
In Albany, Murphy rose to become assistant speaker pro tempore, the fourth-highest post in the Assembly.
Murphy fostered the Seaway Trail concept and worked for historic-preservation programs. After he retired in 1992, he served on the Recreationway Commission of the state Canal Corp. and recently was honored by the state for his work for the canal system.
He was a former board president of Mount View Health Facility, served on the board of Artpark and helped establish the Lockport Community Soup Kitchen.
His wife of 38 years, Lucille Tumulty Murphy, died in 1987.
Surviving, in addition to his son Matthew, are three other sons, John of Orchard Park, Patrick of Pendleton and Paul of Buffalo; three daughters, Jean of Lockport, Barbara of Buffalo and Diane Revelas of Amherst; a brother, Thomas of Westport, Conn.; and 12 grandchildren.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 11 a.m. Saturday in St. Patrick's Catholic Church, 76 Church St., after prayers at 10:30 in Prudden & Kandt Funeral Home, 242 Genesee St. Burial will be in Cold Spring Cemetery.