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James R. (Jim) Murtha

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FORT WALTON BEACH, Fla. -- Col. James (Jim) R. Murtha, 69, Air Force (retired), died March 1, 2007, at his home in Fort Walton Beach, following a courageous battle with cancer.

Born July 1, 1937, in New York City to the late James E. and Mabel H. (Smith) Murtha, he moved to Bennington, Vt., as a young boy. He graduated from Bennington High School in 1955. A winter laboring on the St. Lawrence Sea Way inspired him to return to school and in 1960 he earned an economics degree from St. Michael’s College in Burlington, Vt., and an officer’s commission in the United States Air Force. During his 24-year military career, which included Viet Nam service, he traveled the world: Europe to Asia to Africa.

He was a command pilot flying sea planes and helicopters for Air Rescue. He was awarded Viet Nam combat decorations and many personal awards. Prior to retirement he served as chief, Resource Management Division, Directorate of Maintenance, Robins AFB, Ga. Though proud of his career, he was most proud of the opportunity to work with so many outstanding military professionals.

Jim continued his service in the local community as the sixth-to-eighth-grade math and history teacher at Saint Mary’s Catholic School. This 12-year period with the children of St. Mary’s was some of the most personally rewarding. He made his classes come alive and be pertinent to the children.

The memories of his booming voice, larger-than-life physical presence, infectious enthusiasm, sense of humor, as well as trips to battlefields, government offices and campgrounds, will live on with his students, dedicated teachers and staff, priests and parents at St. Mary’s.

A resident of Fort Walton Beach since 1970, he served as former mayor pro-tem of Ft. Walton Beach and a four-year member of the Ft. Walton Beach City Council. He was an ardent participant in many political and civic venues on numerous issues of local and national interest. He was an active member of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, the Knights of Columbus, American Legion, The Daedalians, and Military Officers Association.

Jim is survived by his loving wife of 44 years, Mary F. (Blount), and four children: James C. (Ann) of Milwaukee; Michael P. (Julie) of San Antonio; Christopher J. (Joli) of Atlanta; and Maria K. Murtha-Endris (Greg) of Seattle; his brother, Robert E. Murtha (Nancy) of Glens Falls, N.Y. Survivors also include seven grandchildren and many, many in-laws, nephews, nieces and dear friends, all of whom provided time, love, support and prayers. He was predeceased by his parents and his brother, Peter C, of Boston.

The family will receive friends at Emerald Coast Funeral Home, 113 Racetrack Rd. N. E., Fort Walton Beach, on Monday, March 5, from 5 to 7 p.m., with a recitation of the rosary at 5 p.m. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated in St. Mary Catholic Church, 110 SW Robinwood Dr, Ft Walton Beach, on Tuesday, March 6, at 10 a.m., with the Rev. Monsignor Michael A. Cherup officiating. Internment will be on Wednesday, March 7, at 10:15 a.m. in Barrancas National Cemetery, Pensacola Naval Base, Pensacola.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to St. Mary School, 110 SW Robinwood Dr, Ft Walton Beach, FL 32548 and Covenant Hospice, 101 Hart St., Niceville, FL 32578.

Family and friends may express memories and condolences at www.EmeraldCoastFuneralHome.com.
Published in Bennington Banner on Mar. 3, 2007
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