Her birthplace was Boston, but Barbara Murphy who passed away Dec 3 at the age of 61 after a long and valiant battle with cancer was "born" in Bellingham. A 23-year-old aspiring artist in 1975 she came west with her husband to be, Tom, who was starting a graduate program in creative writing at University of British Columbia in Vancouver. She got her first glimpse of Bellingham as they turned off I-5 on a sun-splashed fall day. "This is where I want to become me," she said as she came face to face with the century-old red brick buildings out of a Hopper painting. She first worked at the Greenhouse doing displays. Then following jobs that took them to New York and Miami she and Tom returned to Bellingham in 1993 with their 11-year-old daughter, Caitlin. Later Caitlin graduated from the University of Washington and now works as the Lifestyle/Fitness reporter for King 5's, New Day Northwest. Caitlin gave Barbara a ceramic tile for her birthday one year that hangs on the kitchen wall. "I have a superhero in my life," it says, "I call her Mom." Many others in Bellingham came to know Barb as a superhero as well - for her interior design expertise and the company she created, Barbara Murphy Interiors. Color was her specialty. She chose colors that changed hues as sunlight passed through a house during the arc of the day. "You have left a lasting legacy," Dr Meg Jacobson, Barbara's hospice doctor and a client, told her. "Your talent will live forever in our homes." Barbara's greatest pride was the home she designed for her family on Morey Ave. She angled the yellow hillside house to the west for a panoramic view of the San Juan Islands and Bellingham Bay's fiery sunsets. HOME Magazine featured the house on its cover in 1998 and one day as Barb and Tom changed planes at O'Hare, Tom spotted the magazine on display at Hudson News and snapped Barb's picture standing beside her cover. Her smile was the proudest of any ever snapped of her. Barbara was diagnosed with non-smoker's lung cancer in December, 2007. It came out of the blue and was discovered in a routine exam following a 15K road race where she set an age group record. A series of operations followed as she fought to stay ahead of the progression, but through it all she never complained. Never once did she utter "Why me?" A regular competitor in the NY and Boston Marathons, she continued to run, and when she couldn't run, she walked, striving to promote early detection of lung cancer among women. Her focus was always on showing the cancer that it could take hold of her body, but it could not control her soul. "I am my soul," she would tell everyone. "My body is only the vehicle it travels in. Our souls live forever with God." And so Meg Jacobson was right. Barbara's legacy will live forever in people's homes in the town where her talent first blossomed - but she will live forever on a broader level as well in the memories of all who loved her and were inspired by her. Barbara leaves her husband, Tom, who founded the "Edge4Vets.org" program at Fordham University in NY to help veterans transition successfully to civilian life, daughter, Caitlin, and son-in-law, Justin Reed. She leaves her mother, Mary Mullen, of Dennis, MA, three sisters, Marianne Kelly, Jayne Sampson and Johanne Connors, a brother, Barry, and her late father, Bob. A former Boston fireman her father painted the famous Eire Pub sign in Dorchester made famous by President Reagan's visit and was her inspiration as an artist. She leaves dozens of nieces and nephews and adoring in-laws along with legions of friends who stand in awe of her towering strength. A Mass and celebration of Barbara's life will be scheduled. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the charity established by Barbara's oncologist at Swedish Hospital, Dr. Howard West, for his national efforts to combat non smoker's lung cancer, at cancergrace.org.
Published in Bellingham Herald on Dec. 5, 2013