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Robert E. Murphy
September 19, 1931-March 17, 2023
Robert E. Murphy, “Bob”, beloved husband to Judith Pauline Murphy, father to 6, and grandfather to 12, great grandfather to 5 passed away at 91 years old on St. Patrick’s Day, Friday, March 17th after a four-year battle with complications brought on by a stroke. Bob had a seismic impact on his family, friends, and the national commercial printing industry where he built a 54-year career.
Bob was born on September 19th, 1931, to Edward and Irene Murphy in Frederic, Wisconsin. The first of 3 children, he grew up on his family’s modest dairy farm in Georgetown. The original home had no electricity, running water, or indoor bathrooms. Bob would wake up before the crack of dawn to milk cows and –during frigid Wisconsin winters– would often open his eyes to discover snow had blown onto his blankets through the small home’s warped wooden slats.
Ed and Irene had high expectations for their energetic first son. They donated the corner of their farm to help erect a one-teacher, two-room schoolhouse for the community called the Blake School– where Bob went before matriculating into Milltown High School in 1946. Bob dreamed of becoming an architect. But tragically cancer took his father’s life in 1948 when he was just 45 years old, and everything suddenly changed for the then 16-year-old. After graduating top in his class from high school, Bob dutifully set his dreams aside and took over the family farm to provide for his mother and help send his two siblings–Alan Murphy and Mary Ann Murphy– to college.
But staying on the farm had one big advantage: it put him on a path to meet Judy Beddor–a witty, blue-eyed city girl whose family vacationed on nearby Bone Lake.
Bob married Judy on June 7, 1958, at St Thomas the Apostle Church in Minneapolis, MN. The couple lived on the farm and had 4 children. Bob began finding fulfillment in meticulously managing his herd and experimenting with new farming techniques–like becoming the first farmer in his township to grow alfalfa hay. As he aggressively expanded his operation, he also got involved in local politics. Serving on Georgetown Town Board he helped clear the way for local roads to be paved. He also became chair of the local Democratic Party.
His political activism culminated in efforts to help elect John F. Kennedy as President. During Kennedy’s first campaign, Bob and Judy hosted Bobby Kennedy at their farm home and Paradise Supper Club to help drum up support. Bob was credited with helping get Kennedy elected in the critical state of Wisconsin.
Soon, a life-changing opportunity presented itself. Judy’s father, Frank Beddor, offered Bob a job at the printing company he ran with his two sons: Japs-Olson. In 1965, Bob started in Japs-Olson’s Production Department. He worked his way up with various posts in the pressroom, administrative, and sales positions and by 1977 he became President of the company. By 1990 he was named Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. During his 50+ years of leadership, Japs-Olson became an industry leader in direct mail production and commercial printing. The company now has over 600 employees. Bob Murphy also served as president of the industry’s then-chief trade association, the Printing Industries of America.
A passionate reader of World War 2 books and history, and an admirer of General Patton he led in business with discipline, integrity, strength, perseverance, and self-sacrifice successfully leading the company through many economic ups and downs always recovering and soaring to new heights.
But it wasn’t all about work for Bob. He deeply valued and adored his large family.
His Irish eyes were always smiling -especially when one of his six children or 12 grandchildren or 5 great-grandchildren was around.
Bob spent virtually every waking moment outside of work with his wife, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren at the Bone Lake home he and Judy built near the farm Bob grew up on. He experienced great joy from seeing the kids in his family have fun. He made sure the lake house not only had boats, jet skis, inner tubes, water skis, and wakeboards but also plenty of gators and ATVs for people to drive –not to mention the family’s infamous row of lakeside trampolines.
They were a family that celebrated life and each other. Whenever his wife Judy would dream up an idea for a family event or gathering, he would make it a reality –no matter how outrageous. Convert the family’s pontoon into a replica of Noah’s Arc for the yearly boat parade. No problem. Clear an ice rink on a frozen lake with 3 feet of hard-packed snow? He’d enlist an army of grandchildren and have a regulation-sized hockey rink ready the next day. Coordinate the logistics of a 40-person 4th of July bike ride with 2 support vans stocked with snacks and supplies. He did it every year.
Bob also loved teaching those around him life skills –like how to use basic tools, change a car’s oil, and chainsaw down a tree. He famously wore Dickey's work uniforms around his own property, grabbing anyone from grandkids to random in-laws or unsuspecting visitors to help him finish some pending item on his handyman to-do list. Afterward, he’d always treat the group to a burger at his favorite local greasy spoon, The Blacksmith Shop.
Life went on like this for decades as Bob touched countless lives every day with his charm, radiant smile, and hard-charging work ethic.
Bob Murphy was also a man of deep, quiet steadfast faith. A devout Catholic. Without pushing it on others, he set an example for people to access their own relationship with God. From that faith, he took away the values of perseverance, humility, integrity, and gratitude. He was an avid supporter of numerous local parishes, including the church across the road from his family farm and St Olaf in Downtown Minneapolis. He thanked God every day for his many blessings.
At 91 years of age as he slowly lost ground physically, he had a quiet dignity that inspired and touched the hearts of all those around him. And up until his last day on earth, which was St Patrick’s Day, his Irish eyes were smiling.
Robert is preceded in death by his parents, Edward and Irene Murphy, brother Alan C. Murphy and sister Mary Ann Murphy. He is survived by his wife of 64 years Judith Pauline Murphy; 6 Children: Patrick R. Murphy (Roberta), Kathleen Murphy Davis, Marjorie Blevins (Timothy), Monica Murphy, Bridget, Mary Murphy, and Michael R. Murphy (Amy); 12 grandchildren: Matthew P. Murphy (Lisa),
Nicholas Murphy (Adeline), Daniel Murphy, Andrew Murphy Davis, Edward R. Blevins (Wang Lin), Louis Blevins (Laura Bayless), Grace Blevins (Adam Shealy), Catherine Carlquist, Benjamin Cohen, Madeline Murphy, Eleanor Murphy, Abigail Murphy; 5 Great Grandchildren:
Russell Murphy, Genevieve Murphy, Leland Murphy, Irene Murphy, Wesley Blevins.
Special thanks to caretaker: Sarah Hamel.
Mass of Christian Burial 10:00 am, Thursday, March 23, 2023 with visitation beginning at 9:00 am at St. Olaf Catholic Church, 8th St. & 2nd Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN. Please park across the street at The Minneapolis Club.
A reception to follow the mass at The Minneapolis Club, 729 2nd Ave S, Minneapolis, MN.
Interment at 3:30 pm at Holy Rosary Cemetery, Balsam Lake, Wisconsin.
The service can be live streamed at: http://www.youtube.com/user/SaintOlafChurch/live
Washburn-McReavy Davies Chapel and the Kolstad Family Funeral Home of Centuria, Wisconsin have been entrusted with arrangements.
Memorials are requested from St. Olaf Catholic Church https://www.saintolaf.org/give or an organization of the donor’s choice.