Robert "Bob" Murray passed away in Wasilla, on Jan. 24, 2020, at the age of 94. He was born on March 16, 1925, and is survived by Jean, his wife of 56 years; his children, Jenny and Bill; his daughter-in-law, Jennifer; and granddaughter, Isabella. He passed away peacefully with his wife and children at his bedside.
He grew up during the Depression and perfected his gift for conversation in his parents' general store. He struggled in school, only learning to read in the fourth grade thanks to a special teacher, but compensated by becoming an extraordinary listener.
He loved the outdoors and nature, and by becoming an Eagle Scout he developed his naturalist skills. He often (only half-jokingly) said he wanted to be reincarnated as a squirrel, although in his later years, he said he preferred to be a porcupine. He considered both of these animals to be very kind to others (within reason).
He was a gifted athlete, excelling in football, baseball and swimming throughout his teenage years.
After graduating from high school in 1943, he joined the Army Air Corps and served as an armorer in a P-38 fighter plane squadron in Italy during World War II. His time serving in the European Theater was one of the most formative experiences of his life.
After the war, he took advantage of the GI Bill, earning a degree in Social Science from the University of New Mexico in 1950, played both varsity football and baseball while there and later received a Master's Degree in Education from Ball State University in Indiana.
Despite, or perhaps because of his early learning struggles, Bob had a natural gift for understanding kids which prompted him to work with young people. After four years teaching history and coaching football and basketball in Ohio and Indiana, he became program director of South West Social Center in Indianapolis, and then the Executive Director of Happy Hollow Children's Camp in Brown County, Indiana, which served Indianapolis' inner-city children.
With a spirit of adventure (or, alternatively, a "mid-life crisis"), he and Jean to moved to Nome in 1966 where he took a position as the first dorm and recreation director at William Beltz Boarding School.
After three years in Nome, the family moved to Fairbanks where he taught physical education at Ryan Junior High. There was no gymnasium at Ryan the first year he was there, so he found ways to teach physical education to up to 60 kids at a time, sometimes at 40 below zero outside. He did this in part by teaching the kids college fight songs, military songs and group cheers as a way to build camaraderie.
In 1971, he moved to Anderson where he became its first full-time principal and established the high school. He replicated the use of songs among his Anderson students, and introduced the "15 Rahs" cheer, which was used to express enthusiasm and school spirit. The school gym was named after him when he retired in 1989 after 18 years. Throughout the 30 years of his retirement, when his former Anderson students gathered, they cheered the "15 Rahs" as a sign of affection for Bob.
Bob and Jean continued living in Anderson until 2016, wintering in Arizona for 25 years and staying active by traveling to almost every continent, hiking the Chilkoot Trail and the Grand Canyon.
Always the athlete, Bob was still playing flag football with Anderson teenagers into his 80s. At age 80, he pulled a hamstring muscle and was shocked that he'd been injured.
Bob harbored a deep love for Alaska years before he moved to the state. This love was probably first shaped when his father, Bill, subscribed to the Alaska Sportsman Magazine (later to become Alaska Magazine) in 1935, when it was first published. His teenage friends went so far as to nickname him "Alaska Bob," so constant was his chatter about the great U.S. territory at the edge of the continent.
A gregarious person, he had boundless curiosity and interest in people, and learned to play the ukulele in group sing-alongs during his retirement. He was a gifted storyteller and had a way about him that could quickly disarm and charm total strangers. He freely gave endearing nick-names and often would add "ski" to anyone's last name. He enjoyed making friends, and he, in turn, was a loyal and trusted friend to many.
Bob was a wonderful husband and father and he loved his family and friends, but most of all, Bob loved living. May he rest in peace knowing he made the world a better place for being in it.
There will be a celebration of life for Bob starting at 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 11 at the Alaska Aviation Museum, 4721 Aircraft Drive, Anchorage, Alaska. Those able to attend are asked to kindly RSVP by Friday, April 3 to firstname.lastname@example.org