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John D. Murray Jr., guided YMCA expansion

John Murray obit

Nov. 8, 1946 – Feb. 20, 2014

John D. Murray Jr., who guided the expansion of the YMCA Buffalo Niagara during his 25 years as the agency’s president and CEO, died Thursday in Mercy Hospital. He was 67.

Mr. Murray, of Orchard Park, oversaw the opening of two YMCA branches, a merger between the Buffalo and Niagara Falls organizations and the growth of the Turkey Trot fundraiser.

Born in Binghamton, he worked for YMCA organizations in Buffalo, Rochester and Niagara Falls for nearly 40 years before retiring in April. Under his leadership, the YMCA of Greater Buffalo merged with the YMCA of Niagara Falls to become YMCA Buffalo Niagara.

In 2003, Mr. Murray helped open a newly constructed Southtowns Family Branch YMCA in Orchard Park. Before his retirement, he oversaw the opening of the 94,000-square-foot Independent Health Family Branch in Amherst in January 2013.

“When he first got here, the Y, financially, had been on hard times,” said Olin B. “Buddy” Campbell Jr., who succeeded Mr. Murray as the organization’s CEO. “Through growth and better quality business practices and focusing on the mission, John was really able to grow the organization immensely.”

Mr. Murray’s collaboration with area schools enabled the YMCA to offer more than 26 day camp sites and 40 school-age child care and preschool sites.

The agency had only one school-age child care site when he took over its operations in 1988.

During that time, the YMCA’s annual Turkey Trot run on Thanksgiving morning grew from 1,100 runners to 14,000 participants.

Mr. Murray also had a longtime partnership with the YMCA in Thessaloniki, Greece, where he traveled several times as an adviser. He also helped establish new YMCAs in Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia and Bosnia.

He was honored last year with the YMCA Buffalo Niagara’s Gold Key Award for his career.

Mr. Murray earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Niagara University. He served in the U.S. Navy on active duty from 1966 to 1968 and in the reserves from 1968 to 1974.

He was a past board member of the Irish Classical Theatre in Buffalo and the Shasta Club, a private fishing group he joined after learning to fly fish in 2005.

Survivors include his wife, Mary; a daughter, Caitlin Virtue; a son, Sean; his mother, Louise; three brothers, Michael, Thomas and Robert; a sister, Patricia Dunham; and a granddaughter.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Friday in Nativity of Our Lord Catholic Church, 26 Thorn Ave., Orchard Park.

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