Monday, July 28, 2008

Martha Alfreda (Armstrong) Goodmurphy (June 5 1924 - July 22 2008)

The obituary (as it appeared in the Sault Star and the North Shore Sentinel) (The picture of Martha and her oldest child Linda was taken in September 2007)

Goodmurphy (Armstrong) Martha Alfreda
Peacefully in her sleep at the Algoma Manor, Thessalon on Tuesday July 22, 2008. Martha Goodmurphy in her 85th. year, wife of the late Arthur Goodmurphy and dear friend of Merlin Trivers.

Dear mother of Linda Whitfield (Charles); Terry (June); Frank (Sally), Carol Morris (James), Dan (Kim), Joe (Diane), Theresa Seabrook (Jim), Arliss Bizier (Michel), Erin and Stephanie Kletke.

Dear sister of James (Murdena), Verna Goodmurphy (late Kenneth), Lee (Vi), John (Norma-Jean), Edna Beharriell (Les), Marjorie Barager(Carl), and the late Max, Marion Goodmurphy, and Donelda Ingram.

Also survived by 28 grandchildren and 19 great grandchildren, Predeceased by great grandchildren Magdalena Szalai-Goodmurphy and Stephen Urry.

At Martha’s request there will be no visitation and a private funeral. Interment in Maple Ridge Cemetery. Donations to Thessalon Hospital gratefully accepted.


Martha was born and raised in the Kynoch and Dayton areas. She was married in June 1943 to a young man who was about to be shipped overseas. She lived for 60 years on the small farm on North Livinston Road (near Thessalon) where she & Arthur moved around 1945 when Linda was a baby after he returned home from the war with an injured arm. They raised 10 children there. Arthur died in May 1995. In the fall of 2005, Martha gave up the house at her farm (now owned by her daughter Theresa) and moved into a rented house in Thessalon where she lived until she suffered a heart attack in February 2008.

The limitations imposed on her activities by severe congestive heart failure required her to move into the Algoma Manor (home for the aged) in Thessalon) in March 2008. Shortly after the move she was confined to a wheel chair and required assistance for most activities of daily living. This was a difficult transition for a woman who was fiercely independent and used to doing what she wanted when she wanted to. Martha never really accepted this situation.

The past 2 months:

After making an emergency trip back from Vancouver when her Mom was hospitalized again in mid-May, (see earlier posts) Linda spent (at least) 3 days each week living in our motorhome (which was parked in my sister-in-law’s driveway) so she could be near her mother to provide care and support. For Linda and her brothers and sisters, it was very difficult period as they watched their mother disappear into a sea of confusion, pain and anger. There were moments when the “real” Martha surfaced and we enjoyed her humor and her smile but often the pain, the medication and the frustration of her restrictions consumed her. She is at rest and it is a blessing.

The funeral:

Her funeral was a private event for “her family” (children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and their spouses /partners. Our son Christopher along with Tammye, Hunter and Camdyn came from Illinois. Melissa and Alexander came from Kingston. Kevin, Sarah & Will were unable to travel the long distance from Vancouver but they were connected – Sarah called us on the cell phone as we were driving to the cemetery—without knowing anything of the timing. I don’t have an exact count but there were well over 50 people present As Arliss said at the interment – “This is a pretty big crowd for a private family affair”

The funeral was followed by a lunch at Arliss’ house that included the “aunts & uncles” and some of the closest cousins.

Martha’s “church roots” were in the United Church and she had been attending their services during the period she lived in Thessalon. Unfortunately the minister that she had known for several years had retired and was unavailable. As a result the funeral was conducted by Charlie Martin the minister at the Thessalon Bible chapel who was known by several of the family.

The funeral was very much a family affair – Martha had picked 3 hymns. “I come to the garden alone”, “God will Take Care of You (Be Not Dismayed)” and “Jesus Savior Pilot me” These were sung (on tape) – The garden by Linda and Terry and other 2 solo by Linda.

The scripture readings were selected by Linda as reflective of her mother’s attitudes – Colossians 3 “Work as unto the Lord” and Romans 12:18 “In as much as it is within you live at peace with all men”

As the “ranking” son-in-law I wanted to do Martha’s eulogy and my offer to do so was accepted by her family. The text of the Eulogy follows and includes a poem written and read by Jamie –Theresa’s son. Jamie was raised in a trailer right beside his grandmother’s house and was very close to her.

At the end Linda read a short letter “To my family” that her Mom had left in the lockbox -- It was 2 short notes - one written in 1995 after their father’s death and one written in 2002 just before her open heart surgery. It was poignant and expressed her desire for her family to remain close together after her passing.

Her granddaughter Kylie had arranged for a piper to do “Amazing Grace” that the graveside – It was a perfect summer day—a little cool with some clouds and the haunting music allowed us to say goodbye with gratitude for her gifts to us and with thankfulness that she was now at rest.

(The text of my eulogy and Jamie's poem were prepared independently and without knowledge of the letter. Charlie Martin who had only moved to Thessalon 3 or 4 years ago said in his remarks "hard-working, honest, tough" are what I heard about the Goodmurphy's when I moved here. I found it interesting that her letter contained the line "I may have seemed hard at times with my rules of life "Don't lie, don't steal, Don't hurt others" . It seems clear to me that her commitment to raising her family by those rules is reflected in Jamie's poem, in the eulogy and in Charlie Martin's comments)

The eulogy

Mom & Grandma – A good woman worth far more than diamonds
Prepared for the funeral of Martha Goodmurphy July 26 2008
by her son-in-law Charlie Whitfield

Our mother, grandmother and great grandmother Martha has passed from this world. She will be missed and the sense of loss will be with us for sometime. It is right and natural for each of us in her family to grieve - in our own way and our own time.

But for now, I want to look beyond our sorrow and remind us that “Mom – Grandma” is still here – she lives on in each of you who have had your lives shaped by who she was and that is a living legacy that will endure.

A little later I will be asking if any of you have something to say or if, during the talk you want to add something to a story, just speak up while it is fresh on your mind.

It is impossible to mention all the memories that we could use to paint a picture of “Mom-Grandma” as she lived through her 84 years. I will try to give a brief snapshot as I share some memories and a few stories that I collected as I’ve listened to your conversations over the past few days.

I first attached myself to this family some 47 years ago when I started dating Linda so I have been a part of the family longer than some of the younger children. Of course, I was only an (almost) daily fixture for about 2 years and then I moved away. A couple of years of close contact and many (short) visits can’t compare to living with Mom every day for 17 or 18 years while growing up. So it is really Linda, Terry, Frank, Carol, Dan, Joe, Theresa, Arliss, Erin and Stephanie who experienced the “full force” and full measure of their Mom’s personality.

I know she loved them deeply - she loved them with the fierce love of a mother bear for her cubs – prepared to go to the ends of the earth to be sure they were cared for, aggressively protecting them , and occasionally swatting them to keep them in line.

And I know they loved her in return – even in the midst of the frustration that they sometimes experienced when she insisted that they should do it her way. As they grew and as they learned, her values and her characteristics shaped their personalities and became a part of the fabric of their lives.

To the grandchildren (and great grandchildren) I’m not going to tell you the “facts” about Grandma. If needed, You can ask your parents. Rather I will share some stories about Grandma that describe who she was. As you listen to these stories I’m sure you will recognize some of her traits that live on in your parents (or grandparents) – as the saying goes “the acorn doesn’t fall that far from the tree”.

My personal memories are like a kaleidoscope - so many that it is hard to pick any one to talk about
But as I thought back , there are a couple of strong memories that I have of Martha from that period when I became a fixture around “Hungry Hollow”.

One thing I was impressed with was that there was almost always lots of food—it wasn’t fancy – just meat and potatoes, garden vegetables and homemade bread and when the crew came to the table it often seemed like a horde of locusts had attacked -- but most of the time Mom had made enough that there was something left for breakfast and for lunches.

Another thing that I remember about “Mom” was her passion for the farm – her cows and the way she knew it was time to go to the barn at 2 in the morning to help birth a calf.

But the most enduring memory for me – formed over the many years and it is one that is often mentioned by others in the family --was her impish mischievous nature that to me is best captured in a picture of the Armstrong family where a young Martha is instantly recognizable with her “silly little crooked grin” and the upside down guitar. At times she clearly was marching to a different drummer.

In time I came to recognize that the “crooked smirky grin” meant one of 2 things

EITHER she had just thought up some grand scheme that she was about to make happen and she likely expected you dive in and help her – no matter how impossible or “weird” you thought it was.

OR you had said something that she didn’t like and you would might soon experience a “Martha “ retribution that would leave your ears (and maybe other parts of you) stinging .

As I was thinking about what could be said today to describe “Mom-Grandma” I was reminded of a reading from Proverbs 31 that begins with

A good woman is hard to find, and worth far more than diamonds.

If you want to read the entire passage it is found in Proverbs 31 verses 10 to 31.

This reading describes many of “Mom’s” great qualities and I will illustrate them with stories that I have gathered as I have sat and listened to the family talk over the past few days. I hope these stories show her as she was – not some idealized perfect woman but the real picture of our Mom and Grandma that each of us carries in our hearts, one which reveals not only the good qualities but also shows a few of the rough edges. I hope listening will fill our hearts with laughter and maybe some tears.
Proverbs says

She shops around for the best yarns and cottons, and enjoys knitting and sewing.
She doesn't worry about her family when it snows; their winter clothes are all mended and ready to wear. She makes her own clothing, and dresses in colorful linens and silks.

Linda often mentioned how her Mom would spend time at the sewing machine putting together clothes for the kids and one of Linda’s earliest memories is of her Mom working at the sewing machine while listening to the news about the succession of the young Princess Elizabeth to the throne (which happened in 1952 when Linda would have been 7 years old)
It says that this good woman shops for the “best yarns and cottons” but, as Terry and Frank said, “Mom was a woman who was a product of the “dirty thirties” – she had a distrust of banking and always wanted to pay cash for everything she bought”. Because she had very little money in the early years the “best yarns and cottons” were often replaced by the material she got by tearing apart hand-me-down clothes. Linda says that she often thinks of her Mom when she hears Dolly Parton’s song “Coat of many colors”

But as time progressed and Mom exercised her uncanny ability to accumulate cash, she spent less time at the sewing machine and spent more on “store-bought” clothes. “Mom” became somewhat impetuous in her buying – she would see something she wanted and she would get it and it had to be the best – She had done without for too long and so when she could have something she wanted the best.

She's like a trading ship that sails to faraway places and brings back exotic surprises.

I’m not sure what this may bring to mind for each of you but I included it because of a story that Linda told me as we were reminiscing about her Mom”.
She told about a time her Mom & Dad were at Maple Ridge store and discovered a group was gathering to board a Sunshine tour bus – likely on their way to a farm tour somewhere. “Mom” decided they should go so they asked the group to wait – drove home- threw some clothes in a suitcase, left some money on the table for the kids and headed off. This may have been the first of several such tours including one to Europe.

Now I’m sure they brought back things to give to the kids but, for me, the exotic surprises were “Mom’s” stories about the trip. She had (shall we say) an active and vivid imagination. She would observe something – maybe a couple of kids walking along alone crying and she would turn it into a story of intrigue and mystery that could amaze you – and she would be adamant that she had seen the whole thing.

She traveled to Florida with our family one Christmas in a motorhome we rented and came back with a repertoire of tales about that excursion – It may have been that trip that planted the motorhome bug in her mind, so we shouldn’t have been surprised (although I probably was) when she went out a few years later and bought her little “home on wheels” – I think Terry still has it parked at his place.

Anyhow, I overheard Kylie talking – with less than full enthusiasm - about the whirlwind trip to Alaska that Mom made with Theresa’s family in the confines of the “little tin can”. One of the stories from that trip speaks volumes about the way “Mom” approached problems. Apparently Theresa heard some squabbling in the back between her mother and the 2 young teens – Jamie and Kylie. Theresa said (I’m sure using her most calm and sweetest voice!) “What’s going on?” Well “Grandma” was squabbling with Jamie because he had opened a window trying to relieve the stifling heat. She was sure it would give her an earache. A little later, Theresa looked back and seeing a whirlwind of stuff blowing all over the place, she asked “What ‘s going on now?” Grandma replied “ I opened the other window – If I’m going to have an earache, I might as well have one in both ears!!

She looks over a field and buys it, with money she's put aside, plants a garden.

I’m sure this one fits. As a young bride she saw an opportunity and purchased the small farm on North Livingston Road that came to be known as “Hungry Hollow”. Later she bought a house and had it moved to the farm to replace the ramshackle old house that was originally there
As her family grew up and moved out on their own she “pushed” Dan into buying the adjacent property where Joe & Dan built their houses. Finally, she fulfilled her dream of her family owning land all the way out to the highway – when she bought the farm where Erin now lives.

And as for gardens, I’ve already mentioned, the Goodmurphy’s were famous for the gardens they grew – and the children remember the sore backs and aching knees that came from hours of planting, weeding and picking. I know I spent more than a few hours helping Linda with those chores.

Sometimes she was impetuous in her buying decisions. Terry told me that they had for a time gotten out of farming and had no cows but one time she saw these two jersey cows. She had to have them so soon they were back in the milking business.

Grandpa Arthur wasn’t known for his patience and fine carpentry skills (although he could do more with a chainsaw and sledge hammer than some I have known who used typical tools). According to Arliss and Theresa when “Mom” decided she wanted some changes in the house such as adding the patio doors, she made the necessary purchases, called the boys (mostly Joe, Dan& Erin) to do the work. She would then haul “Dad” out of the house on some pretense. Once he came back, saw the patio doors and said “Those weren’t there before were they??”

First thing in the morning, she dresses for work, rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started, she senses the worth of her work, (and) is in no hurry to call it quits for the day. She's skilled in the crafts of home and hearth, diligent in homemaking. She keeps an eye on everyone in her household, and keeps them all busy and productive.

I’ not sure “Mom” was eager about rising early –I seem to remember her voicing a few complaints -- but she was up early and she did work hard long days keeping the family going. Of course, she expected (even demanded) that her kids kick in and help. I know you all worked hard at “home and hearth” under your mother’s watchful eye – guided by her (sometimes shouted) instructions and the occasional swat on the back of the head if her directions weren’t getting the results she wanted fast enough. Reportedly, Erin, when he was thinking of getting married, told his mother that he couldn’t find the right ring. When she asked “Why?” – he said “Well it has to match the dent in the back of my head made by your ring!!
Dan told this story that illustrates her diligence in keeping an eye on her children. When he was young his mother always told the kids – “Don’t go past the gully – there are caves back there filled with bears and they’ll get you” When Dan became brave enough to explore past the gully, he came back and told his mother “I don’t know what you’re talking about – there’s no caves and no bears there that I could see.” “Well”, she says “I had to do something to keep you in my sight!!”

Arliss and Theresa told a story about how “Mom” deciding to move the piano from the living room to the basement. So She, Erin, Arliss and Theresa hauled it out the back door, down the steps, wheeled it around the house, in the front door and started down the basement stairs. It got stuck! Several trips in through a basement window to apply soap and a little more elbow grease got the job done!!

“Mom” being a good homemaker was always looking out for the health of her children. This past Wednesday night Kylie , Theresa and Arliss were laughing about a time when Dan came in and his Mom offered him a slice of a real nice looking chocolate cake . As soon as he bit into it, Dan sputtered “What on earth is in this anyhow?” –it turned out that “Mom had read that cayenne pepper was good for you so she had added a healthy dose of cayenne pepper to the cake .

I think Chris and Melissa (and Kevin if he were here) will recognize this trait because I know Linda “inherited” it. Carol said that the thing that she most remembered was her Mom’s ability to know when one of the kids did something wrong, or was in trouble or maybe just needed her to reach out and touch them. She said that when she was at home she couldn’t put anything over on her Mom and when she moved away she would be thinking “I should call Mom” and the phone would ring. The first words would be “What’s the matter?” or even more strange she would be trying to call and get a busy signal—hang-up and the phone would ring and it was her Mom. Yes “Mom’s” sense of premonition or sense that something was wrong was very strong.

She's quick to assist anyone in need, reaches out to help the poor.

“Mom” was like a mother hen – her wings opened to protect whatever walked through the door whether a stray cat or one of the many nephews and nieces that lived nearby or a friend that one of the kids brought home – if they needed mothering, she mothered, if they needed food, she fed them and if they needed a “kick in the rear” to straighten them out she’d give that too. But there were limits – if you lied to her or broke her trust, she would not hesitate to say (using words that were a little bit stronger) “There’s the door don’t let it hit you on the behind on your way out”.
“Her children respect and bless her;

A story Martha often told about Joe illustrates this point. When he was a youngster he scrimped and saved his money. Really too young to do this alone, he took off one day and walked to the store to buy his Mom a vase that he had seen her admire. Even though there were times that she frustrated and infuriated – she was always loved and respected by each of her children.

(At this point I asked if anyone had anything to add but there was no response although several times during the presentation someone added something to a particular story)

Jamie read his poem he had written (accompanied by Kylie for support)
Friendly neighbor, loving soul
We all bathe in your afterglow,
I can’t say where your journey leads
But the path you chose was true indeed
You loved us all and spoke the truth
Shared the memories of your youth
I always liked to hear you laugh
Rest assured we’ll all miss that
You always stressed love and respect
A greater teacher I’ve never met
Oh Grandma how you loved to talk
And sometimes left us all in shock
We never knew what you might say
But we always knew we’d love the way
Your heart would melt around young kids
And yours raised theirs the way you did
With undying love and sacrifice
Wisdom, pride and sound advice
I can’t express what you meant to us
Because words could never say enough
I know we all must say Goodbye
But you’re the first to make me cry.

(This poem was written by Jamie and is on the cover of a CD of family pictures scanned from the original prints by Theresa)

As I said at the beginning, it would take hours to cover all the stories that I know could be told but I hope that what we have shared today have described who Mom-Grandma really was and that we will leave here with memories that will keep her alive in our hearts for a lifetime to come.
I will finish by reminding us of Martha’s hopes for her family. Many of her children have said that their Mom was known for doctoring her kids and her cows and anyone or anything else that needed doctoring – sometimes the remedies were harsh mustard plasters or horrible tasting concoctions but she almost always had something to try.

When she was growing up in a dirt poor family it wasn’t even thinkable for a young woman to do anything more than get married and raise a family but if “Mom” could have waved a magic wand and gone on in school she likely would have become a Doctor. Her substitute dream was to raise 10 children. The results of her fulfilling that dream are in this room today.

She often told her children to “stop and smell the roses” and she also wanted each of them and each of her grandchildren and great grandchildren to dream and to work hard to pursue their dreams.

So to all here who are the living heritage of this complex many faceted woman – remember her ability to dream and pursue her dreams . Dream as she did, work hard at accomplishing them - when you are disappointed, learn from your experience, avoid looking back in anger or bitterness – Dream new dreams and keep looking forward in hope.

Each time you get together as part of this family, I want you to see her there, sitting in her rocking chair, leaning forward listening to the chatter, smiling contentedly and whispering the words inscribed below the picture of her family on the headstone in Maple Ridge Cemetery where she will soon be laid to rest “

“My life, my pride, my happiness”

Proverbs 31:10-31 (The Message)

A good woman is hard to find, and worth far more than diamonds. Her husband trusts her without reserve, and never has reason to regret it. Never spiteful, she treats him generously all her life long.She shops around for the best yarns and cottons, and enjoys knitting and sewing. She's like a trading ship that sails to faraway places and brings back exotic surprises. She's up before dawn, preparing breakfast for her family and organizing her day. She looks over a field and buys it, then, with money she's put aside, plants a garden. First thing in the morning, she dresses for work, rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started.She senses the worth of her work, is in no hurry to call it quits for the day. She's skilled in the crafts of home and hearth, diligent in homemaking.She's quick to assist anyone in need, reaches out to help the poor. She doesn't worry about her family when it snows; their winter clothes are all mended and ready to wear. She makes her own clothing, and dresses in colorful linens and silks. Her husband is greatly respected when he deliberates with the city fathers. She designs gowns and sells them, brings the sweaters she knits to the dress shops.Her clothes are well-made and elegant, and she always faces tomorrow with a smile. When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say, and she always says it kindly. She keeps an eye on everyone in her household, and keeps them all busy and productive. Her children respect and bless her; her husband joins in with words of praise:"Many women have done wonderful things, but you've outclassed them all!" Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades. The woman to be admired and praised is the woman who lives in the Fear-of-God.Give her everything she deserves! Festoon her life with praises!