The following are some pictures and memorabilia of Thomas Joseph Murray, along with some history I remember from his stories.  Much of this material below was in an WWII vintage soldier’s footlocker. It was under the house for years at the South Peardale Drive house in Lafayette, then at Robinhood Drive in San Francisco until he died.    I found this in storage a couple of weeks ago, where it sat for about 12 years. 

Kevin, June 24 2010

Tom was the sixth of eight children born into an Irish Catholic family, on March 13, 1911.   He had two older brothers and three older sisters, along with one younger sister and one younger brother.   His father, John Cullen Murray Jr., was an engineer who worked for Standard Oil Company in Oil City Pennsylvania.  Both his parents were born in New York City, but all of his grandparents were born in Ireland.

When Tom was eight years old, on Easter morning 1918, his father did not wake up, having died in his sleep at 41 years old.   This was before social security and without life insurance, so the whole family had to pull together to keep from poverty.   All the older children took jobs, and Margaret Murray’s younger sister Katherine Stanton moved in to help support the family and raise the children.  She was known as Aunt Kad; Tom was devoted to her all her life.

Tom worked as a child and adolescent delivering newspapers, working in his uncle John Stanton’s grocery, and selling shoes.    He was also very involved in the church including as an alter boy.  The Parrish Priest mentored Tom along the way, and helped to pay for his college education at Notre Dame.

Two of Tom’s brothers died young.  The eldest, Francis, died at 24 in Florida, and the next brother, Edward, died at 41 in Oil City.  His oldest sister Kathryn lived into her early seventies, while Margaret, Mary and Mildred all died in their early sixties.  Tom’s younger brother, Richard, saw heavy action during WWII in Operation Market Garden, the failed invasion of Holland in 1944.   He never fully recovered his direction in life.   The two brothers lost touch for many years and it was not until shortly before both of their deaths that they were briefly reunited in 1990.   Tom survived all of his siblings, living to be 86 years old.  He died in 1997.

June 1928 – Likely between junior & senior year (17 or 18) – Oil City.  

1930 – 31 UND Card signed by Knute Kenneth (KK) Rockne.  This was Rockne’s last season, as he died in a plane crash March 31, 1931.

Tom lived in several dormitories including Sorin Hall (below) when he attended Notre Dame.  Sorin was the first dormitory at Notre Dame, but remains open and active today.  He worked on campus to cover his living expenses including doing laundry for other students.  He was also a manager for the football team.  I lived in Sorin Hall for several months in the summer while working on my masters degree.   I visited Dad’s old room, which was in the basement — this was a very popular room that was warm in the winter and cool in the summer.  It was one of the large corner room under the turret, on the front right side of the picture below.

He also lived in Alumni Hall for a while (below).  He said that was prestigious at the time, because it was brand new (built in 1931).

Notre Dame 1933 Commencement Program  – Thomas Joseph Murray * Oil City Pennsylvania (* denotes Cum Lade)

He graduated in 1933 and as accepted to Harvard Law School.  However, his mentor, the Parish Priest back in Oil City died thus no more money for tuition.  Tom had to put-off law school and go to work.  This was now several years into the Great Depression, when good jobs were hard to find.  Tom worked many jobs including railroad construction and door-to-door sales to make a living and save money for Law School.


Georgetown – MCMXL (1940) Commencement.  Bachelors of Law.  Somewhere around 1938 he entered Georgetown Law School in Washington DC.   He was very proud that he passed the bar exam for the US Supreme Court before graduation.

During the next couple of years he worked for the Federal Government as an attorney, including projects such as acquiring land and/or rights for the Rural Electrification Administration, which I believe was a part of or coordinated with the TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority).


In December 1941 the US went to war with Japan, Germany and Italy, after the Pearl Harbor attack.   Tom was in his early 30s, when he tried to enlist in the Navy as an officer; however, he was rejected as unfit for sea duty because of a nasal problem.    Sometime later in 1942 he was drafted into the army as a private.  He worked his way up through the ranks including spending time in the army intelligence service, known as G2.    Mostly he investigated people’s background for security clearance.

Prior to being shipped to Europe for the war, Tom advanced to an officer rank by attending officers’ candidate school.   He went to England as a lieutenant. After the Normandy invasion in June of 1944, he went to France as a Captain in the Transportation Corp, and took command of a town and railway station as the Military Governor.



The card was postmarked September 18, 1944 and sent to him in London.   It finishes, “Don’t work too hard, and keep dodging the Doodles.”  Doodle was a slang for the German V1 flying bombs that were attacking England at the time.

WWII France or post war Germany???

Skating in Switzerland 1946 after the war – Captain Murray on left unknown Lieutenant on right.

Skiing likely the same trip.


Dad went over to Europe on the RMS Queen Elizabeth in 1944 (left) and returned on the SS Claymont Victory in 1946 (right).    When he arrived in the US, he was sent to Washington state for discharge.   He decided to head down the coast to San Francisco; he never left.

Coming back from Europe in 1946 on the SS Claymont Victory

Dad’s little sister Mildred — Aunt Mid and Uncle Judd.  Probably married in the early 1950s

St Mary’s – trainees marching during war and demolishing temporary structures in 1948

After leaving the Army in 1946, he worked for the Navy as a lawyer.  Ironically, the Navy had rejected him in 1941, but now offered him a commission as a Lt. Commander (one step above his former Army rank of Captain); however, he declined and worked for them as a civilian.  Among his projects was coordinating the transfer of improvements that the Navy had made to St Mary’s College during WWII, when St. Mary’s was taken over by the Navy as a pilot training facility.  The campus population had swollen from about 300 civilian students to around 2,000 pilot trainees, including Gerald Ford.   The Navy invested a great deal of money, including building the world’s largest indoor swimming pool, but sold all of the improvements back to the School of $1.   

He also worked on the transfer of Camp Parks, Camp Shoemaker, and Naval Hospital Shoemaker in Pleasanton to Alameda County for their use as Santa Rita Prison.  

This looks like a termination form, indicating he left  Navy employment in mid-year 1953.  the $8,040 per year would equal about $65,000 in 2010, as adjusted by CPI, but it would have bought 4 new 1953 Chevrolets and probably 1/2 the Peardale home in Lafayette. Cars were relatively less expensive then and East Bay Area property was not in as high of demand as today. 

1953 photographed as Jr. Vice Commander (third man) – he was State Commander in 1955, and these seem to be one year positions.

Tom became very active in the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars), an organization dedicated to the rights and needs of returning soldiers.   I believe that at one point he was a paid for his service and that this was a full-time job.  However, his relationships and contacts helped to launch his law practice.

Far away war was raging on the Korean Peninsula.  In September of 1951 a young pilot was shot from the air while attacking ground positions in his Douglass B26 Invader.   Missing but presumed dead, he left a young bride in California, far from her home and family in Pennsylvania.   There was strong but not conclusive evidence that Fredrick Koontz had died in the crash, but the military bureaucrats closed ranks to delay awarding his widow any benefits or assistance.    In 1953 Tom became her attorney to wade through the red-tape and solve the dilemma.  In the end Nellie (Shoff) Koontz succeeded in the case and Tom swept her off her feet.

Side bar to letterhead shows him as Jr. Vice Commander, in what may be his first correspondence with Nellie.  This appears to precede the following letter where he is acting as her advisor.


VFW 1954.  

September 1955 He claimed to have been forced into the photo op. Actually I think they were discussing a recent Duke – Notre Dame game.

As State Commander of VFW 1955

As State Commander of VFW 1955

1955 Buick Super Special.  He bought it from the VFW in 1956 and kept it until 1967.

Circa 1956.   Three generations of Murray women: Margaret Murray, Katherine (Murray) Courtney, and Mary (Courtney) McDonald (left to right).   Katherine was Tom’s oldest sister.  She was crowned Miss Pennzoil of 1923, in Oil City.  After WWII she moved west to San Francisco with her daughter Mary.  She was an independent business woman and single mom.   She was a devout catholic who went to church every day.   By later standards, she was a strong “liberated” and independent woman far ahead of history.  Katherine was significantly older than Tom, and she had been active in his parenting.   For most intents and purposes she was our grandmother as we grew up.

Who wouldn’t drink at those prices.

December 1955 food drive


Despite Tom’s dedication to slaying the dragons of bureaucracy and championing the rights of wronged veterans, Nellie had pulled out the heavy artillery by 1956. Armed with gambs of Krupp steel and sporting a mid-century tube-top, he didn’t have a chance.   This Teutonic vamp was going to get her Hibernian alter boy.

Lori is clearly smitten, and quite the dish.   Luckily Nellie had Tom firmly hooked and by this April encounter I was on the way.


Grandma Murray, Mother’s Day 1958.  Does she look more like Kaylyn or Terra?

Actually I think the girls got more Shoff than Murray.

Probably 1958 with Kevin.  Paving the way for Sarah Palin as an early Tea Party advocate.

VFW Mass Installation program April, 1959.  


Campaign card 1960




53 Chevy Bel Air – sold to Al & Mary McDonald in 1955, when Dad got a “company car” from the VFW.  I believe this is the car in which he travelled across country with his mother and Aunt Cad, possible to bring them out for Mary’s wedding.   This car was still with the McDonalds when they moved to Lafayette on Carol Lane.   Even next to the Buick Super, this car seemed massive.

55 Buick Super Special – suspension damaged 1967 at Nielsen’s Nursery, dropping Sean off – time for new car.

1961 Buick Electra 225 – Bought in Ohio in 1961 – drove across country and traded for a dark blue 4 door “family version”   The Electra became Mom’s car until we got the Draggin Wagon in 1970.

1967 Buick GS – Bought in San Francisco in 1967  – drove until 1974, then Kevin’s car for 6 months until rearended and totaled.

1970 Chrysler Town & Country.  Possibly the best car we ever had.   It was incredibly quick and agile for a car that size.  It became known as the Draggin Wagon, since it was faster than most hot-rods in town.  We actually took it to the Fremont Drag Strip one night and won.


1973 Buick Estate Wagon – a sad chapter in Detroit and Murray history.  This pathetic junker forever soured Dad on US autos.

His last car was a 1983 Mercedes 450 SEL that he had imported from Germany.   He really enjoyed this car.