Sean Paul Murphy, Writer

Sean Paul Murphy, Writer
Sean Paul Murphy, Writer

Saturday, June 16, 2018

My Ancestors: A Festival of Fathers

To commemorate Father's Day, I want to honor my father, my grandfathers, great-grandfathers and so on -- at least the ones of whom I have pictures.  I think this blog will illustrate the disparate familial currents that lead to my own personality -- which is why I love genealogy and my ancestors!

What can someone say about their father? Well, let me tell you something I didn't know until recently.  My father was a computer genius. He spent his career at the Social Security Administration in Woodlawn, Maryland. He was incredibly well respected. Even today, people from Social Security practically genuflect when I say I am Doug Murphy's son.

Surprisingly, my father trained to be a lawyer. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Baltimore in 1966. What I didn't know until recently was that he didn't graduate from high school. He attended City College in Baltimore. When he arrived for his senior year, he acted like nothing was wrong. Like he belonged. But he didn't. He failed a number of classes the previous year and had not attended summer school. Some of the teachers from the previous year were curious about his status. They went to the office and checked the records. Somehow my father had pulled a Ferris Bueller and changed his grades over the summer. The teachers corrected the grades and he was expelled. His father Paul drove him home in silence until he finally turned to him and said, "You are an arch criminal." My father was later forced to get his GED the day before his graduation from the University of Baltimore.

I miss you, dad. You were gone too soon (like your father.)

Obituary from the Sunpapers, originally published March 17, 2003:

Douglas E. Murphy Sr., 61, Social Security analyst

     Douglas E. Murphy Sr., a retired systems analyst for the Social Security Administration, died Wednesday of complications from pancreatic cancer at Joseph Richey Hospice in Baltimore. The Hamilton resident was 61.
     Born in Scranton, Pa., Mr. Murphy moved with his family to Baltimore when he was 10.
     He graduated from City College in 1959 and started to work for the Social Security Administration.
     He also attended night school at the University of Baltimore School of Law, where he graduated magna cum laude in 1966, his family said. Mr. Murphy's arrival at the federal agency coincided with its early push to computerize. After passing an aptitude test, Mr. Murphy joined the automation effort, beginning a long career as a programmer and systems analyst.
     Although he enjoyed hobbies such as gardening, golf and skiing, Mr. Murphy's relatives say he spent most of his time at, or thinking about, his job at the SSA.
     "He should have been part of the cornerstone," said brother Brian Murphy of Baltimore. Mr. Murphy retired from the agency in 1999.
     Services were held Saturday.
     In addition to his brother, Mr. Murphy is survived by his wife of 43 years, the former Clara Protani; three sons, Douglas Murphy Jr., Sean Murphy and John Murphy, all of Baltimore; a daughter, Jeanne Coe of Baltimore; his mother, Margaret Murphy of Baltimore; three brothers, Paul Murphy Jr. of Hampton Roads, Va., Richard Murphy of Middle River and Kevin Murphy of Baltimore; two sisters, Sharon Sartor of Willingboro, N.J., and Carolyn Dabirsiaghi of Glen Arm; and three grandchildren.

Here's a little tribute film I had for him:

I would be remiss to mention my late father-in-law Donald Leroy Crum, Sr. He was a great guy who raised a great daughter. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to interview him before his death.

My father's father was Paul James Murphy, Sr. He was a great guy with a great laugh. He was a natural born salesman and always a pleasure to be around. Some of my favorite childhood memories involve swimming in the pool in his backyard during family cookouts! I feel sorry for my cousins who were born too late to really get to know him.

Story from "What's Happening," a Baltimore Life Insurance newsletter:


     Paul J. Murphy has contributed much to the growth and success of The Baltimore Life Insurance Company over the past 37 years, and we wish him well on his retirement.
      Paul joined the Scranton District in 1941, became Field Manager in 1945, and was appointed Home Office Supervisor in 1950. He became the Manager of the Baltimore District in 1952.
     "Back in 1941," Paul reminisced, "the Home Office was located at Charles and Saratoga Streets. Now the new building at Mt. Royal Plaza has an addition. The original plans called for construction of a tower in the grassy area near the addition."
      Paul has held many NALU and GAMA leadership positions on the local, state and national levels.  His special interest lies in insurance law: He still receives requests to work with the Insurance Department.
      With a production record that includes winning the President's Award and being runner-up three times, Paul has qualified for many conventions and received the George Robertson and the Harry L. Meyer Awards.
      His civic activities include the Optimists (he was governor of Maryland), the Hamilton Outdoors Club, and the Har-Bel Community Organization.
     "It's been a life of fun," he reflected.
     Paul and Margaret have seven children, the youngest was graduated from college this year. They live near, and their many grandchildren visit.
     "There are more children here now than when my kids were young," Paul laughed. "They'll keep the pool in the back yard full this summer."

Obituary from The Baltimore Sunpaper (photo included):


     Paul James Murphy, Sr., who worked for the Baltimore Life Insurance Company for 38 years and was active in the Optimist Club, died Saturday, in his Hamilton residence after an illness of a year. He was 61.
     A mass for Christian burial will be offered for Mr. Murphy at 9am Wednesday morning at St. Dominic's Church, Harford Road and Gibbons Avenue.
     Mr. Murphy worked as an insurance agent and field manager and in field training. From 1951 until his retirement a year ago, he was the Baltimore district manager of the firm. He joined the company in 1941 at its Scranton (PA) office and was appointed staff superintendent three years later. After serving in the Army in 1945 and 1946, he returned to his job and was appointed home office supervisor. He was transferred to the Baltimore office in 1951 and appointed district manager.
      Mr. Murphy was active in the National, Maryland and Baltimore Associations of Life Underwriters. He held numerous posts in the associations, serving as vice president and president of the Baltimore Association and national committeemen and president of the Maryland Association. He was also vice chairman of the membership committee, and served on the committee of Affairs of Veterans and Servicemen of the national association.
     In addition, he was a member of the board and president of the Baltimore Chapter and national director of the General Agents and Managers Conference of the national association. Well versed in the relationship between life insurance and the law, he was appointed vice chairman of the national association's Committee on State Law and Legislation as well as chairman of the Rules and Regulations Committee of the General Agents and Managers Conference.
     As an active member of the Optimist Club, a service club whose motto is "friend of youth," Mr. Murphy served on numerous committees, using his skills as an organizer to develop sports programs for young people. He served three times as chairman of the Maryland district convention of the club and was the Maryland boy's work director in 1960. He held numerous offices in the organization, serving at one time as President of the Hamilton Optimist Club and lieutenant governor and governor of the Maryland District of Optimist International. In addition to his work with youth in the Optimist Club, he helped to get a YMCA built in Northeast Baltimore by serving as vice chairman of fundraising.
     Mr. Murphy is survived by his wife, the former Margaret Robertson; 2 daughters, Carol Dabirisiaghi, of Baltimore, and Sgt. Sharon Sartor, of Plattsburgh, NY; 5 sons, Paul J. Murphy, Jr., Douglas E. Murphy, Richard T. Murphy, Kevin Murphy, all of Baltimore, and Brian Murphy, of Germany; a sister, Eileen J. LeStrange; and a brother, Francis J. Murphy, of Indian Head, and 15 grandchildren.
Kenny is my mother's father. I never met him. After he divorced my grandmother Rita, he essentially dropped off the face of the earth. He cut off all contact with my mother and her brother, as well as his parents and his siblings. He had two daughters and a son with his second wife. I made contact with them after I started compiling the family tree. He was apparently a thoughtful father and grandfather to his second family. I wish I had the chance to meet him.

Bob was my grandmother Rita's second husband. Since I never met Kenny, I grew up assuming Bob was my natural grandfather (despite the fact that my mother always called him Bob.  Interestingly, she always called Paul Murphy "Father.") He was a great guy. He always took my brother Doug and me to get haircuts when we were kids. Always wiffles, even in the age of hippies. He always advised me never to buy a used car.  He said, "you'll be buying someone else's headache."

Death notice from The Sunpapers:

On December 7, 1989 ROBERT B., beloved husband of Rita C. (nee Rosenberger), devoted father of Mary Jones, Robert Pollock, Rita Bernstein, Anthony Protani, Clara Murphy. Beloved brother of Arthur and Charles Pollock. Also survived by 17 grand-children and 13 great-grandchildren.
     A Christian Wake Service will be held at the Leonard J. Ruck Funeral Home, Inc., 5305 Harford Road (at Echodale) on Sunday 3:30 P.M. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at St. Dominic's Church on Monday at 9:30 A.M. Interment in Gardens of Faith Cemetery. Friends may call on Friday 7 to 9 P.M. and Saturday and Sunday 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 P.M.

Here's the home movie of Bob marrying Rita:

Frank John Murphy, Sr.,  my great-grandfather, was the father of Paul James Murphy, Sr. He was the fire chief of Dunmore, Pennsylvania, a community right outside Scranton, Pennsylvania. I recently completed a blog about his mysterious origins called My Ancestors: The Mystery of Frank John Murphy. I covered many of the details of his life in that blog. However, I can add something new here. Frank, who grew up in a Italian neighborhood, ended the existing prejudice against hiring Italians for municipal jobs. How about that!

Article from The Scranton Republican, January 23, 1939 (photo included):


Native Of Borough Headed Department For Quarter Of

Century -- Funeral Wednesday Morning.
     Frank J. Murphy, fifty-five, chief of the Dunmore fire department since 1914, died at 8 o'clock yesterday morning in his home, 1119 Irving avenue, Dunmore, after a six weeks' illness of heart disease. Notice of his death was quickly circulated throughout the borough and came as a distinct shock to his legion of friends. Although in poor health for some time, Fire Chief Murphy was able to supervise the workings of the department until six weeks ago when he was confined to his home.
     Chief Murphy was a native of Dunmore and was elected first as chief of the department in February, 1914. He held the post continuously until his death and during his years as head of the department, he made many changes, including the establishment of the platoon system.
     Before becoming fire chief, he was head electrician for the Johnson Coal Company, of Dunmore, and had the distinction of operating the first electric motor used in a mine in this region. When he was named fire chief, the department consisted of one truck, three teams and two hand-drawn pieces of equipment. Under his supervision, the department today consists of four modern motor trucks equipped with the latest fire fighting devices. He was also credited with keeping the borough's electric fire alarm system working with perfection through his electrical knowledge.
     In 1915, he was the organizer of a camp at Moosic Lake for the underprivileged youngsters of the Dundell section of the borough. He was affiliated with nearly all firemen's organizations in the region and held the office of president of the Firemen's Relief Association of Dunmore. He was also an officer of the Lackawanna County Federation of Volunteer Firemen, a member of the law committee of the Six-County Firemen's Association, the Keystone Fire Chiefs' Association of Pennsylvania and the State Firemen's Association of Pennsylvania. In 1921 and 1928 he was instrumental in bringing the Six-County Firemen's Convention of Dunmore.
     He was organizer of the O.F. Johnson Hose Company, later the T.F. Quinn Hose Company. He also organized the Father McManus T.A.B. Society and was the manager of the baseball team representing the Dundell section of Dunmore.
     Fire Chief Murphy was a member of the St. Mary's Church and its Holy Name Society. In 1915, he married the former Loretta McLane who died Jan. 29, 1935. He is survived by two sons, Francis and Paul, and a daughter, Eileen, of Dunmore.
     The funeral will be Wednesday morning with a requiem mass in St. Mary's Church at 9:30 o'clock. Burial will be made in St. Catherine's Cemetery, Moscow.

Arch Robertson, my great-grandfather, was the father of my grandmother Margaret Angie Robertson Murphy. He had little formal education, but he could read and write. By the time he was six-years-old, he was already working as a slate picker at a mine. He didn't like working in the mines so he became a machinist instead. He was a mild-mannered man, who loathed arguments. He was also a skilled violinist. He died of black lung, but his death certificate says cardiac failure.

Obituary from The Scranton Republican:


Arch Robertson, 65, 18 Arnold Ave., East Mountain, formerly of Dunmore, died yesterday in West Side Hospital after a brief illness.
      He was employed as a breaker foreman for the Ace Coal Company and was previously employed by the Pennsylvania Coal Company.
      Surviving are his wife, the former Caroline Stark, a son, Ernest Robertson, Port Carbon, Pa; a daughter, Mrs. Paul Murphy; four sisters, Mrs. Flora Snell and Mrs. Anna Delaney, Scranton; Mrs. Margaret Rigby, Jessup, and Mrs. Jane King, Iowa; a brother, William Robertson, Plains, and three grandchildren.
      The funeral will be held Friday at 2 p.m. Interment, Dunmore Cemetery. Arrangements, Mrs. G. A. Miller.

Vincenzo Protani, my great-grandfather, was the father of Kenneth Joseph Protani.  He was born in the Italian town of Arnara in the province of Frosinone. He came to America in 1903, but the family in the Italy still tell tales about his toughness. One of my cousins told me how Vincenzo entered the village square one Saturday morning and saw a man he had quarreled with. Vincenzo walked up to him and spat in the man's face and told him not to wipe it away until he left. The man stood there with the spittle on his face until Vincenzo finished his shopping and left the square. Then he wiped it away.

Trust me, that man in the old country got off easy if the other stories I heard about Vincenzo in America are true! But that will be the subject of a later blog!

Death notice from The News Post:

PROTANI-- On March 1, 1961, VINCINZO, of 29 North Montford avenue, beloved husband of Sadie Protani (nee Mastracci) and devoted father of Mrs. Rose Taresco, Mrs. Carmella Rinaldi, Mrs. Mary McCubbin, Mrs. Josephine Navarria, Miss Angela Protani, Frank, Dominic, Leroy, Vincent Jr., and Kenneth Protani, and also survived by twenty-eight grandchildren and thirty-two great-grandchildren.
     Funeral services at the JOHN A. MORAN FUNERAL HOME, 3000 East Baltimore street (corner of Potomac street), on Monday, March 6 at 8:30 A.M. Requiem High Mass at St. Elizabeth's Church at 9 A.M. Interment in Holy Redeemer Cemetery. Friends may call daily from 2 P.M. until 10 P.M.

John George Rosenberger, my great-grandfather, was the father of my grandmother Rita Rosenberger Protani Pollock. George was one of my two great-grandparents that I remember meeting. I remember him being a nice, down-to-earth guy. He definitely did not seem like the kind of guy who would go to New York City in his youth and make a living as a dancer on Broadway but he was! He hung with the likes of Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor. (He liked Jolson, didn't care for Cantor.)

I remember when he died. About a week later, I was spending the night at my grandparents house and my grandmother wanted me to sleep in the room where he died. I told her I was afraid. She asked why. I said "What if his ghost comes to me?" She replied, "Why would that matter? He loved you. He would never hurt you." That was a very good point, and I could sleep easy.

Obituary from The Morning Sun, April 9, 1966:


     A requiem mass for George J. Rosenberger, a cabinet-maker in Baltimore for more than 53 years, will be offered at 10 A.M. Monday at St. Dominic's Catholic Church, Harford road and Gibbons avenue.
     Mr. Rosenberger, 75, died yesterday at his home, 3204 Evergreen avenue. Death was due to coronary thrombosis.
      He was a native of Baltimore and attended St. James parish school in his youth. A cabinet-maker for more than half a century, he had been in the employ of the Fairmount Mill and Lumber Company for the last fifteen years, and the League Lumber Company for the ten years prior to that.
Survivors include two daughters, Mrs. Rita Pollock and Mrs. Helen Ernst; two sons, Norbert J. and Anthony Rosenberger; five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Now my family tree gets sketchy, photo-wise. I do not have photographs of my grandfather Paul Murphy's grandfathers or great-grandfathers. Nor have I identified photographs of my grandmother Margaret's grandfathers (though I probably have them.) I have a little more luck on my maternal line.

John Rosenberger, my 2nd great-grandfather, was the father of George Rosenberger. He was born in Krombach, Bavaria. He was redheaded and very strong but also very short (a common Rosenberger trait.) He and his wife, Maria Anna Fleckenstein, and their four children, Adam, Barbara, Michel, Ottilia Rosa, and his mother, Ottilia Seitz Rosenberger arrived in Baltimore, MD, on October 21, 1880. John worked as a farmer in Germany but worked mainly as a carpenter in the United States. He also owned an oxen cart and used to transport tobacco from place to place.

John spoke little English. Whenever he grew ill, he drank a bottle of ketchup. He considered it a miracle cure all. He treated his grandchildren very kindly, but marital disputes within his home were sometimes settled in a harsh, old-fashioned manner. While in his late-70s, John was arrested for beating his wife. He was taken to the police station, but the magistrate said, "What are we supposed to do with a seventy-year-old man," and promptly sent him home again.

Don't worry. His wife had the ultimate revenge. She outlived him.

Death notice from The Sunpapers (November 17. 1932):

ROSENBERGER -- On November 16, 1932, JOHN, beloved husband of Mary Anna Rosenberger (nee Fleckenstein).
     Funeral from his late residence, 1920 East Preston street, on Saturday at 8:30 A.M. Requiem High Mass at St. James' Church at 9 o'clock. Interment in Holy Redeemer Cemetery.

Jan was born in Bernadice, Bohemia. He arrived in Baltimore with his wife Kristina on August 19, 1891 aboard the SS Stuttgart. Upon arrival in the United States, he listed his occupation as a glazier. Jan later worked as a master brewer, which didn't prove to be a lucrative occupation for a honest man during Prohibition. He worked as a laborer during that period. Between June and September, he and his family would take the train from Baltimore to then-rural Westminster, Maryland, to pick beans and other crops. He was a kind man, but his family treated him with respect bordering on fear.  He died of malaria after working in a swamp.

Death notice from The Baltimore American, July 23, 1924:

KOSTOHRYZ--On July 22, 1924, JOHN, beloved husband of Christina Kostohryz.
Funeral will take place from his late residence, 905 North Duncan street, Saturday morning at 8:30 o'clock. Solemn high mass at St. Wenceslaus' Church at 9 o'clock. Interment Holy Redeemer Cemetery.

Michele was the father of my great-grandmother Assunta Mastracci Protani. He lived and died in the little Italian village of Arnara. Apparently, his father died when he was young and his siblings were dispersed to live with other families. Three of his children immigrated to the United States and settled in Baltimore. My great-grandmother Assunta did so without his permission. Her husband Vincenzo apparently kidnapped her and spirited her away on horseback. I went to his house when I visited Arnara. The current residents were very nice. (I wasn't sure if they were related.)

I believe the man seated in this photograph is my 3rd great-grandfather Joseph Farber, the great-grandfather of my grandmother Margaret Robertson Murphy. He was born in Allenbach, Prussia and emigrated to the United States on March 13, 1846. The family lived briefly in New York before settling in the Scranton, Pennsylvania, area. He was a tough guy. Despite still having a number of minor children living at home, he enlisted into Company c, 197th Pennsylvania Volunteers on January 24, 1862. Unfortunately, he fell sick and spent May and June in a Washington hospital. He was discharged from the service for disability by order of General Wadsworth on July 7, 1862. Still, it was a gutsy move to volunteer to fight at his age. Bravo, grandpa!

You can read about his illustrious son here: My Ancestors: The Honorable George Farber.

Obituary from the Scranton Republican, Feb 24, 1886:


Joseph Farber, an old resident of the Tenth Ward of this city, father of Hon. George Farber, died yesterday. Mr. Farber has been a resident of this city for over forty years and has contributed considerable to its growth. He was also a soldier of the late war, a member of Co. C 107th Pa. Volunteers and was a member of the Soldiers' Veterans' organization of this city at the time of his death. His funeral will take place on Thursday, from the residence of his son-in-law, Jacob Stark, Petersburg, at 2 o'clock p.m. Interment in the Petersburg cemetery.

Here's a little song I wrote, and sang with my wife Deborah, to honor our family that went before us

That will have to be the end of line for now, but I want to thank all of these men for making me the man I am today! If you're interested in how the influences of these men, both visible and invisible, played out in my life, be sure to read my memoir published by TouchPoint Press:

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