Thursday, June 27, 2002

Living a life of laughter and love

Published in the Current

Leland P. “Jimmy” Murray, volunteer, businessman and fireworks enthusiast, brought peals of laughter to his family, friends and community before his death June 19 after a long illness.

Sometimes called “the heart of the town,” Murray, 60, was eulogized by his lifelong friend Everett Jardine as having left legacies of “love, laughter and
joy.” Jardine told what he said were “only a few” of the stories about Jimmy’s fun-filled life, including his love for cars and speed.

Jimmy had a daredevil streak that led him to—among other stunts—drive his car between a guy wire and a telephone pole on Two Lights Road, Jardine said.

In the early 1970s, Jimmy joined the town rescue squad. He had a business in town, which made it easier for him to respond to calls. That business, L.P. Murray and Sons, a construction company, was founded by his father.

At the time of his death, Jimmy had retired as president of the company, ceding control to his son, Skip.

Within a few years of joining the rescue squad, Jimmy had become captain, a post he held for 15 years, said Fire Chief Phil McGouldrick. Jimmy also volunteered with the fire department and became deputy chief in the mid-1980s.

It was a typical Jimmy endeavor, in which he gave generously of his time and energy, but remained modest about his work and his impact. But others saw, and they knew.

“He was always giving, always trying to help everybody out. You could always depend on him,” McGouldrick said.

Eleven years ago, Jimmy began an effort to revive Cape’s Memorial Day celebrations. He served as Grand Marshal and master of ceremonies for this year’s event.

He was praised by Town Manager Mike McGovern and the assembled crowd for his work.

And though not himself a veteran, Jimmy made a special point to honor not only veterans in uniform who marched in the parade, but also those who simply attended the ceremony.

While many of those he helped honor were strangers to him, Jimmy also took good care of the people he knew.

Fire Lt. Jason Allen’s father died several years ago, and Allen remembered Jimmy was “the first guy that called. He was incredibly caring.”

Help wasn’t all Jimmy had to offer. “He was just a character, ” McGouldrick said.

“That’s what I’m going to miss is the loud voice and the comments,” Skip Murray said.

Jimmy and his wife, Carol, opened their home on Fowler Road to anyone passing by, and there was always coffee and doughnuts inside, ready to accompany conversation. Police officers, firefighters and other members of the community stopped every time they drove down Fowler Road, McGouldrick said.

Doughnuts and other sweets were a particular Jimmy weakness. “Dunkin’ Donuts was his second home for many years,” McGouldrick said. “He bought ‘em by the dozen and he ate ‘em by the dozen.”

And at busy fire scenes, firefighters knew they could always find a snack – a candy bar or piece of chocolate – under the seat of Jimmy’s truck. He also often had a box of his favorite doughnut – the Dunkin’, “the one with the handle”–there, too, Skip said.

When hunting at his camp in Baldwin—another of his passions—Jimmy was known for bringing along a pile of goodies. In stops at a market in Standish, Skip said, “he would fill a cart with junk food, and we were only going for the weekend.”

Generations of Cape kids learned to shoot at that camp, including Jimmy’s cousin Gerry, who was also a former fire captain, and Gerry’s kids.

But that was where the fun had limits. Jimmy made sure all the kids knew how to handle guns safely, and even when he handed out fireworks for kids to set off, Jimmy kept a close eye on them, making sure nobody got hurt.

“He played it by the rules,” Gerry said. And he knew them all, going so far as to keep a handbook of federal worker safety guidelines in his truck for reference during inspections at his company’s construction site.

When fighting fires out in rural Cape, McGouldrick and all the firefighters relied on Jimmy’s memory for locations of water and sewer lines throughout the town.

“He was a common-sense fire chief,” McGouldrick said. Jimmy was always eager to learn more, too, and McGouldrick remembered taking him to a big fire in Portland to teach Jimmy more about how fire behaves in big buildings.

Always wary of being too serious, Jimmy knew how to keep everyone amused. “There wasn’t anybody that could make you laugh the way that Jimmy could,” Lt. Allen said. He recalled Jimmy’s habitual late arrivals at fire company meetings. He would always walk in and slam the door to announce his arrival, Allen said.

“He had an unbelievable presence about him,” Allen said. Some of the bang in his personality might have been gunpowder, left over from his fireworks shows, known throughout the region as literally “good bang for the buck.”

Jimmy made little if any profit off his shows, which included shows at Portland Sea Dogs games and the Yarmouth Clambake, as well as Family Fun Days in Cape.

Skip said he’s not sure he’ll keep that business going, though he and Carol will finish out this summer’s obligations. They set up the show for Family Fun Days, using what Skip said were some fireworks from Jimmy’s “secret stash,” unique shells found only at fireworks conventions. The show was rained out, and Skip joked that the downpour could have been one of Jimmy’s last stunts.

But Jimmy wouldn’t have wanted to deprive the community of a really great show. Skip said he wanted Jimmy to see those shells, which he never used because they were “too good to shoot.”

Patrolman Vaughn Dyer met Jimmy 27 years ago, when Dyer first joined the Cape Police Department. “I wish it was longer,” Dyer said. “He was one of those people that you meet and instantly become friends with.”

“Jimmy is going to be very sadly missed,” said Dyer, who served in the honor guard for Jimmy’s casket. “This town doesn’t realize what it’s lost.”

In response to his service and efforts, the community came together to honor his life, filling pews and extra chairs in St. Bartholomew’s Church, and parading down Ocean House Road from the church to Seaside Cemetery.

Murray was escorted to his grave by an honor guard of six public safety officers, including members of the Cape police and fire departments and the state fire marshal’s office. His memorial service and burial were attended by over 50 uniformed firefighters, rescue squad members and police officers, from as far away as Bangor.

At the request of the family, it was not a formal firefighter’s funeral, with a parade of fire trucks and other honors. “It was informal, just like Jimmy,” Dyer said.