The Obit For Mike Murphy

Michael R. Murphy

Published in Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on October 2, 2011


Murphy, Michael R. 91, Oconto Falls, formerly of Milwaukee, died Friday morning, September 30, 2011 at Sharpe Care, Ltd. He was born October 19, 1919 in Sioux City, Iowa to Martin "Marty" and Mary (Brienzo) Murphy. He grew up in Sioux City where he attended Trinity High School, an all-boys Catholic institution, and he became a star running back on the Crusaders football team.

Following his very successful senior year, Mike received an invitation to visit the University of Notre Dame from Coach Elmer Layden, one of the Four Horseman, who played for the great Knute Rockne. In Mike's own words, he was taken a back by the invitation and as he put it, "couldn't believe the size of his fellow recruits and could not picture himself living through the pre-season workouts." Mike later accepted an offer from Iowa State University before eventually transferring to Morningside College in Sioux City to be closer to home.

Mike next entered the Officers Candidate School with the US Army Air Force and was based in Homestead, FL when WWII began. His roommate during basic training was none other than the popular movie star and Academy Award winner, Mr. Clark Gable. While serving in the Air Force, Mike attained the rank of Captain and was assigned as a Special Services Officer in the South Pacific where he organized sports and recreational activities as well as R&R for the troops in Hawaii and the Pacific Theatre. As a result of this experience, he was able to meet many professional athletes and executives, and because of his photographic memory Mike remained in contact with many of them following the war.

Upon his honorable discharge from the military in 1946, Mike returned to Sioux City and formed a group of investors to bring back organized baseball to the city. Due to his leadership and efforts, the Western League was re-established and through his negotiations with Mr. Horace Stoneham, owner of the New York Giants, Sioux City became the Giant's Class A affiliate. Other cities that he recruited to enter the Western League were: Omaha (St. Louis Cardinals); Lincoln (Philadelphia Athletics); Denver (New York Yankees)' Pueblo (Brooklyn Dodgers) and Des Moines (Chicago Cubs).

Through Mike's leadership and the talent he assembled for the 1947 team, "The Sioux's" won the Western League pennant. Through the next ten plus seasons, Sioux City along with Omaha and Denver were the league leaders in attendance. Sioux City alone sent more than 50 future stars to the major leagues during that time span. The league's success created expansion and promotion as Denver evolved into the Colorado Rockies and Omaha became a triple A affiliate along with Des Moines, Wichita and Colorado Springs.

His influence and broad spectrum of contacts were duly demonstrated when his alma mater, Morningside College, contacted him for assistance in finding a head football coach. Through Mike's recommendation and persuasion Morningside hired the future Hall of Fame coach, George Allen, giving him the opportunity to begin what turned out to be a great coaching career.

Mike's great organizational talent was recognized by the Giants and they enticed him to become the general manager of their triple A affiliate in Montreal; however, he returned to Sioux City after a year to put together a very lucrative Miller High Life distributorship through the strong relationship he formed with Mr. Fred Miller of Miller Brewery in Milwaukee.

When the "flood of the century" destroyed his business, Mike moved to Milwaukee where he became the nationwide representative for Container Corporation of America. This eventually led to the development of his own container company, The Shamrock Corp., which supplied containers for all the major breweries.

On August 12, 1967 he married Dana Smith in Door County. The couple lived in Milwaukee before establishing a residence on Islamorada in the Florida Keys. It was there that Mike and his best fishing partner Ted Williams (the great Hall of Famer of the Boston Red Sox) established a charity for needy kids by holding an annual Florida Keys Celebrity Bonefish Tournament. It was so successful that President George Bush Sr. had his calendar reserved just for this annual event.

Mike and Dana went on to become world class fishermen, setting records in several categories. Dana landed a 105 lb. Tarpon on 12 lb. test line and Mike caught an 880 lb. Marlin near the Island of Bimini. Prior to 1989, the couple spent every summer on a small island at the entrance to Astron Bay on the Lake of the Woods, Ontario. They entertained many family members and friends there and it was a very special place to many.

Mike's generosity and graciousness are legendary as many of his friends can attest. Their love of nature motivated them to move to the Kelly Lake area in northern Wisconsin in the late 1980's where they built a beautiful estate and game preserve that they eventually retired to.

Mike was an avid Packer's fan and season ticket holder since the 1950's and treasured the friendships he made with many of the players.

He and Dana were very instrumental in quietly establishing numerous endeavors which aided many deserving people. Their mutual love of Ireland was shared on a lovely summer's stay and now may they share eternal happiness and the unending joy of everlasting life.

Survivors include one daughter and son-in-law, Holly and husband, Curtis Casteel, Longwood, FL; three grandchildren, Preston, Morgan and Zachary; one sister, Alice Landry, Washington, IL; nieces and nephews which include, Paule (Bob) Anderson; Maryann (Jim) Huemann; Alice Reilly; Ashley Granger; David (Ruth) Granger and Dennis (Wanda) Landry; his second family, Joyce and Gary Frank, Gillett; their children and grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his parents, wife, Dana in 1994, one son, Shane, one sister, Mary Mutschinsky-Granger and a brother-in-law, Raymond Landry.

Visitation will be held after 9 am Friday, October 7, 2011 at St. Anthony Catholic Church in Oconto Falls until the time of service. Mass of Christian Burial will be held 11 am Friday at the church with the Rev. Fr. Joel Sember officiating.

Burial with military honors will follow in Pine Hill Cemetery in the Town of Spruce.

Jones Funeral Service in Oconto Falls (920-848-2222 Or visit: www.jonesfuneral.com) is serving the Murphy family.