Kathleen M. Murphy, a fifth-generation Californian active for half a century in a variety of civic and religious affairs from the county to the national level, died of pneumonia on September 24, 2008. She was 85.
She was one of the founders of STEAC, a Davis volunteer organization that has served the needy in the area since 1968, and served as its president three times in addition to serving 26 years as treasurer. She was twice president of University Farm Circle and twice president of the International Friendship Committee, a founding member of the Davis Human Relations Council, and president of the Yolo County Health Council. She was a member of the founding board of the Pence Gallery. The 1974 Samuel Brinley Award for civic activity was presented to her by then-Mayor Joan Poulos on behalf of the Davis community.
Lists of activities like this could go on and on, but the key point in Kathleens life was service to others. She often ended up in positions of leadership because she saw what needed to be done and strove to get others to work together with her to reach a common goal. She was never afraid to put in hard work behind the scenes. This got her important but little-noticed appointments like membership on the Personnel Board of the Yolo County Welfare Department, and a Davis City Council appointment to the Davis Community Services Commission.
Her work with the Roman Catholic Church was a life-long commitment. Coming to St. James Parish in Davis in 1965, because of her prior experience in Palo Alto and Princeton, New Jersey, she was immediately appointed director of the CCD program, a religious education curriculum for young people; she served five years in that position. She was elected to the first parish council, where she served for five years. For twenty years she served as chair of the Parish Liturgy Committee, charged with organizing worship services for the parish. She was also a parish Lector and Eucharistic Minister for many years. When she was selected as parish Woman of the Year in 1999, parish council chair Mary Ellen Dolcini remarked that Kathleen has provided leadership in every aspect of parish operations since she came.
Active for many years in the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women, she was successively elected as president of the Sacramento Council, then Province Director and national Church Commissions Chairman. When she was offered other opportunities at the national level she decided instead to focus her efforts on the Sacramento Council.
In 1979 Pope John Paul XXII awarded her the papal medal, Pro ecclesia for her work in a wide range of diocesan activities.
Her family and education had much to do with her life track. She was born in Santa Cruz to a family that traced its lineage back to settlers who came to California before the Gold Rush. In Santa Cruz she lived for a time with her paternal grandfather, Robert Tait, city fire chief, who instilled in her a high sense of duty and responsibility to others. She attended Holy Cross High School in Santa Cruz, then graduated from the College of Notre Dame in Belmont, California, before moving to San Francisco. She retained a lifelong connection to the Sisters of Notre Dame after her college experience. By the early 40s she had achieved a leadership position remarkable for a woman in those days executive assistant to the president of Franklin Hospital.
In October of 1945 she met James J. Jerry Murphy, so recently out of the U.S. Army Air Corps that he was still wearing his uniform for lack of ration coupons to buy civilian clothes. They were married in 1948, and have travelled extensively in Europe 23 countries with a special affinity for Oxford, England.
They have two children, Sheila Murphy (Sal) Bonito of Jackson, California and Brian Robert Murphy of Fairfield., California, and two grandchildren, Meryl and Jessie Bonito. She is also survived by her brother, Jack Woods of Shingletown, California.
A Mass in celebration of her life will be offered at 11:00.M. Tuesday, September 30 at St. James Church, Fourteenth and B Streets, Davis. A reception will follow in the pastoral center behind the church. Monday night, September 29, a rosary will be recited at 7:00 P.M. at Wiscombes Davis Funeral Chapel, 116 D Street, Davis.