Living an extraordinary life is something most of us set out to accomplish. Although he would say his life was nothing more than ordinary, Harry H. Murray has surpassed this goal by simply being himself. A soldier, a leader, a master gardener, a deacon and a father, Murray has always found a way to share his most valuable gift—time. At 95, he isn’t sure how many years he has left, but he has proven he knows how to use time wisely. “Eat the ice cream and enjoy every minute,” he says.
Murray is one of York Electric Cooperative’s first members in the Rock Hill area. He remembers a time when he mailed his monthly meter reading on a postcard to pay for his electric service. His service with the cooperative still runs to the same house he built for his wife and three children 66 years ago. The cypress walls of the home were built to last, cultivating a close-knit family full of love, support, laughter and learning. They also served as a haven from memories of harder times like the Great Depression and World War II.
Murray is one of the last surviving World War II Veterans in our area. Although there are many things he would like to forget about war, his valor during his years of service does not go unnoticed by his community or his family. Murray served in the Army’s 7th Infantry Division. He’s been across the world and back, but still is proud to call Rock Hill his home.
His life wasn’t always as easy as eating a bowl of his favorite Turkey Hill vanilla bean ice cream. He was a teenager during the Depression and learned at an early age that hard work is part of life. Skipping two grades because of his ability and work ethic afforded him the opportunity to graduate early and attend Berry College in Rome, Georgia for one year before being drafted to serve his country.
Beginning his service in July 1944 at Camp Robinson in Arkansas, Murray finished basic training then was sent to Fort Ord in California before being shipped to Hawaii. From April until June 1945, Private Murray fought in the battle of Okinawa. He recalls the haunting sound of constant gunfire and the memories of friends lost during the battle. He feels blessed to have survived, thanking God for keeping him safe, even through an appendectomy while in the field. His outstanding service in Okinawa earned him the Combat Infantryman’s Badge and Good Conduct Medal. He spent the last year of his service in Korea with his company as occupation troops until the war ended. Like the scar from his field surgery, war left a lasting mark on Murray.
Murray recalls he only took one day at home to “kiss his momma” before returning to school. He went back to Berry College to continue his education in agriculture. The college became a cornerstone of his life. Founded to provide an opportunity for higher education for mountain girls and boys by Martha Berry, students earned their room and board by working 16 hours per week on the campus, making the college self-sustaining. Not only did the school develop his skills by teaching him about growing his own food and providing hands-on experience during his work on the campus farm, but the college is also where he met and proposed to his wife of more than 71 years.
Murray built a life in Rock Hill with his family and a legacy in his community of leadership, wisdom, kindness and going the extra mile. In 1951, he began his 37-year career at Celanese as a development specialist. Murray worked swing shifts for many years, but always managed to find the time he needed to spend with his family. Murray’s son, daughter and her twin brother remember their parents always having time for fun because they worked as a team. Whether it was growing vegetables, flowers, children or others, the Murrays knew the value of teamwork to make the hard work easier.
Through his adult life, his career knowledge was sought after by other coworkers and new plant hires. He was happy to take folks under his wing to train, share his wisdom, and test new products and chemicals. A problem solver, Murray always took the time to find an answer. His determination and fortitude is just as evident in the hobbies he enjoys now, including his love of nature, gardening, bird watching and furniture restoration. He also spent his time serving his community, working with the youth at his church, Oakland Baptist. There are many good and bad threads of a densely woven life, but together they create a beautiful pattern if you learn to look at the big picture. Murray was quick to answer, “patience,” when asked to share his secret for keeping perspective. He says his life has been like everyone else’s life, but he focuses on what really matters. Loving each other, taking the time to know each other and helping others are all opportunities in everyone’s life if they look hard enough and, as Murray says, take the time to enjoy the ice cream.
By Porter W. Gable