Last summer, photographer Spenser Hasak and I went up to Tedesco on a Friday morning to talk with four nonagenarians who were awarded with honorary memberships at the prestigious country club on the Marblehead/Swampscott line.
One of the four was Swampscott’s Dick Murray, who died April 27, and whose life was celebrated Saturday at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Swampscott, with his sons Greg and John and nephew Bill Waterston eulogizing him. Of the four, he was the most animated and engaged. Afterward, Spenser and I agreed that neither of us had any idea how such an interview would go, but that Murray helped make sure it went very well. Longtime Tedesco member Chris Drucas can certainly understand that.
“He was just a very, very nice man,” said Drucas Sunday. “I caddied at Tedesco back in the early sixties, and he was a member. He was one of the nicest guys. Not the greatest golfer. We called him ‘one-iron Murray.'”
“But what a great guy,” Drucas said. “He had a great sense of humor. It kind of snuck up on you sometimes.”
Murray, 92, was the junior member of the nonagenarian foursome (the other three were Don Durkee, Ed Barry and Dr. Paul McNeil). A Swampscott High graduate, Murray led a varied and, in many ways, remarkable life. He was a World War II veteran of the Pacific Theater who interrupted his education at Wesleyan to serve before graduating in 1949. He was president for many years of the Wesleyan Club of Boston. And as a paperboard broker with Munro and Church, he supplied businesses such as Parker Brothers and Milton Bradley games, as well as various jigsaw puzzles. Despite a commute that took him to Brockton, he never left Swampscott, and actually lived in a house that bordered his beloved country club.
“He was dedicated to his family and his church,” said Drucas. “I also knew him as a man who did a lot of charity work.”
Murray and his late wife, Suzanne, were members of the board of the Lynn Home for the Elderly since the 1950s, and he was a past president and long-serving treasurer.
Murray was also involved in the town, having been a representative from Precinct Six to Town Meetings. Murray also served for years with the Neighborhood Association.
Drucas said that Murray took an active interest in the history of Tedesco, and of the North Shore in general.
“If you ever asked him a question about the old days, if something happened, he’d come in with a copy of a newspaper article with something that related to the topic,” said Drucas. “His house must have been a library of Tedesco. He had pictures going way back. Newspaper articles. Old membership books. Old bylaw books. I guess he must have been Tedesco’s librarian. If he thought you wanted some help, and if he had the inoration, it was yours.”
Newspapers played a big part in his life, Drucas said.
“For about the last 15 years or so, we had a morning reading group in the 19th hole (at Tedesco),” Drucas said. “Dick was a big part of that, He’d bring The Item. I’d bring the (Boston) Herald. Someone else would bring the Globe. We’d share the stories.”
Drucas, when he was golf chairman, said he always appreciated Murray’s level head when it came to issues.
“He had a good perspective,” Drucas said. “He always brought something positive to the table.”
Drucas said the last few years for Murray weren’t easy.
“For the last six months he hadn’t been around much because he was not doing well,” Drucas said. “He was missed. And he will be missed going forward. I can’t impress upon you enough how nice a man he was.”
One of Drucas’ fondest memories of Murray was his devotion to Suzanne, who died in 2016 after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
“He was devoted to her,” Drucas said. “They were childhood sweethearts. He took care of her. He wouldn’t let anyone else do it. She was a big part of his life — a big part of him. They did a lot of charity work together She was a very nice lady as well.”
During that interview last summer, Murray was the one who broached the subject when he said, “usually, if they’re honoring you, it means you’re dead or you’re about to die. I hope they’re not trying to tell me something.”
That was him, Drucas said. Great sense of humor. Great guy.