Her Story (Legacy)

Mary Elizabeth Murphy was born in Fordsville, KY on November 18, 1918. She grew up in Louisville with her two sisters, Alberta and Tillie. She and her sisters lived a humble life. During most of their childhood they lived on Collins Court in south Louisville with just their mom, Nannie Francis, to raise them.


Mary (nicknamed Mitzi as a kid) had a famous neighbor on Collins Court. She played pitch and catch with a boy who turned out to be a Hall of Fame baseball player—Pee Wee Reese.


Mary was quite an athlete herself. She played field hockey at UL and lots of softball. She had a great two-handed set shot in basketball. She and Nancy played on three sports teams together—softball, basketball and bowling. Mary was a huge NFL fan, watching NFL football games on Sundays until she was well into her 70's.


Mary was a graduate of Girls' High school at the current location of duPont Manual High School where her husband, Woodson, and all of her children attended high school. Mary received her Master's Degree from Spalding University and was just a few hours away from her Doctorate.


Mary met Woodson while they both attended Oakdale Methodist Church, near Churchill Downs. The Church was eventually converted into offices for the Kentucky Racing Authority. Interestingly, Woodson dated Mary's sister Berta before dating Mary. They hung out with friends from church. They also walked a lot along Southern Parkway and apparently loved to walk to the top of Iroquois Park for the scenic view of the city. They married on June 1, 1940, at Oakdale Church.


Mary had many, many jobs before she started teaching in about 1958. She worked at Woolworth's downtown, AB dick Printing near Southland Terrace Shopping Center, Brown-Forman Distillery, Parks Director, and many other jobs. One of her most interesting jobs was working on the assembly line at Curtiss-Wright during World War II making parts for the B-52 Bomber. She reportedly had 26 different jobs before settling down to be an elementary school teacher. (Click here to see her resume)


In the late 50's and early 60's, Mary was active in the Republican Party in Kentucky. She was a local precinct captain charged with the responsibility of putting up election signs and getting out the vote. Her interest may have come from her Mother who was conservative and very articulate in expressing her views. Mom's favorite Republicans were Abe Lincoln (of course) and Dwight Eisenhower. She was all about "I Like Ike" when he ran for and became President. She also liked John Sherman Cooper, Senator from KY who was known to be a "liberal" Republican. Mom was very conservative but had great respect for Senator Cooper.


One of Mary's legacies is demonstrating the importance of hard work. She set a tremendous example for her kids and always did the best she could at everything she did.


Another legacy characteristic was Mary's toughness. She could be very aggressive when needed and spoke her mind—sometimes when she shouldn't. This was especially true when her kids were involved. She had the philosophy of always defending her kids even if they were wrong. She "beat the snot" out of a neighbor on Earl Avenue who was helping her son in a fight with Mick. She yelled so loud at a referee, at one of Wood's basketball games, that his team got a technical foul.


Mary was also generous, almost to a fault if that is possible. Even with very modest means, she somehow managed to provide her kids with everything they needed and then some. The most important thing in the world to her was her kids. If the choice was her well-being or her kids, she always chose her kids'.


Mary also loved her Irish heritage. She collected all kinds of Irish trinkets and could often be seen wearing some kind of Irish sweatshirt or tee-shirt. St. Patrick's Day was one of her favorite days of the year. She also loved family get-togethers on Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter where she cooked enough food not only for her family but the whole neighborhood.


She loved watching her children play baseball, basketball, tennis and football. She loved playing games especially ROOK and Pinochle. One of her favorites was her dog Meathead. She treated him like a full-fledged member of the family. She also enjoyed playing the piano, square dancing, and bowling. She bowled over 200 actual score a number of times in several bowling leagues.


Mary never met a stranger. She had many, many friends but her favorites were members of the O-N-O Club (Our Night Out). This included Olice, Frankie, Kathleen, Alice, Ethel, Edna, Anita, and Hazel. They shared lots of fun together for over 40 years.


Mary refused to ever fly on an airplane, but she did travel a lot. She and Woodson eventually visited most every state. A big portion of this time was spent traveling with Florence and Lang Leichhardt. They always had a funny story to tell after every trip (mostly about something Lang did or said). When it came right down to it, she was the most happy just staying at home with family and friends—cooking great meals, playing games and entertaining her kids and grandkids.


During their 80's, Mary and Woodson's quality of life spiraled downhill. Woodson spent the last ten years of his life totally bedridden because of diabetes and several surgeries to help wounds heal. Mary was always there for him but her care-giving took its toll. Ultimately, it was two falls which led to her deterioration. In the first she broke her hip and shoulder. Her second fall led to another broken hip. That time she never fully recovered. She spent time at the Nazareth Nursing & Rehabilitation Home but this threw her off mentally. Her dementia started taking over.


As caring and competent as Nazareth was, Mary hated being there. She made her son, Mick, promise not to put her in a nursing home and to let her pass peacefully in her own home. During all this time she became very close with her and Woodson's primary care-giver, Regina. Regina was also supported by Theresa, Sue, Kelly, Beth, Tammy, and others over the years.


Maybe the best way to sum up Mom's life and legacy is to simply repeat what was said at the beginning. HER KIDS ALWAYS CAME FIRST. She loved having fun and making everyone around her have fun, but most of all she taught all of us to be relentless in the support of our own kids and grandkids. What a great principle and legacy for all of us to follow.