Dr Mary A. Murphy, 1918–2016

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 58 , No. 2 , March 2016 , Pages 98 Obituaries

portrait of the late Dr. Murphy
Dr Murphy was born in Calgary and grew up in Vancouver. After she received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of British Columbia, the dean asked her, “Mary, what will you do now? Get a PhD and teach, or go to medical school?” She hadn’t considered a career in medicine before she was asked that question, but it led her to apply and be accepted to the University of Western Ontario. Dr Murphy was one of three women in her class. The anatomy professor scowled at the three of them and said, “You will be getting no favors from me.” So I wonder how he felt when, in 1948, she graduated at the top of her class.

After medical school Dr Murphy moved back to Vancouver and met her husband, Edwin Markowski, while interning at Vancouver General Hospital. They began their practice together in Hedley, BC. The Nickel Plate mine was still in operation at the time, and Mary occasionally made the harrowing trip up the mountain in an ore car to tend to a worker. She sometimes received payment in moose meat or fish. 

After a short time in Seattle, Washington, she and Edwin settled in Cloverdale, BC, where they set up a joint family practice. Dr Murphy practised medicine for 50 years, finally retiring in 1998 at the age of 80. During that time she tended to her patients’ needs with empathy and diligence. She probably delivered close to 1000 babies and developed a sixth sense about it, waking up in the wee hours just before the phone rang.

Dr Murphy had three children as well as many other interests. She played the bagpipes at her daughter’s wedding and danced the Highland fling during her 25th wedding anniversary. She loved to travel and visited many parts of the world; she even went trekking in Nepal with her two sons, where she fell off a donkey. Two Sherpas had to carry her to the nearest airstrip 2 days away so she could be flown to Kathmandu for treatment. Her other love was flower gardening—digging holes in the dirt, planting bulbs, and collecting seeds from wherever she was, just to see if they would grow, and many of them did.

Dr Murphy was predeceased by her husband, Edwin, and her son, David. But at the end of her days she left many legacies—flower gardens filled with simple beauty, and lives that she had nurtured, encouraged, and healed throughout her long and rich life. She is survived by her son, Stephen; daughter, Christine; and numerous grandchildren.

Life is a great big canvas, and you should throw all the paint on it you can. –Danny Kaye

—Christine Arpita 
Salt Spring Island

Christine Arpita,. Dr Mary A. Murphy, 1918–2016. BCMJ, Vol. 58, No. 2, March, 2016, Page(s) 98 - Obituaries.



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