Saturday, April 21, 2018
News Roundup

Philanthropist Ray Murray, who gave millions to Tampa Bay causes, dies at 85

When Ray Murray and his wife walked into an arts event in Tampa Bay — or any event, really — he smiled and called everyone by name, hugging and kissing his way through the room.

His warm personality, moral compass and professional connections made Mr. Murray one of the most prolific benefactors to the Tampa Bay community. The former chairman of the Florida Orchestra died Sunday after a battle with cancer, according to his colleagues. He was 85.

In philanthropy that spanned decades, Murray and his wife, Nancy, donated millions to groups including Ruth Eckerd Hall, the Pinellas Youth Symphony, the Tampa Bay Research Institute, the Florida Holocaust Museum and the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, plus more causes for students, abused women and people with substance abuse problems.

His name adorns the Murray Studio Theater at Ruth Eckerd Hall, a small performance space currently getting a major renovation. He was involved with the project until the end, said Ruth Eckerd Hall CEO Zev Buffman, never relaxing attention to details.

"It was never the case of writing a check because he had agreed to help," Buffman said. "He was involved. He wanted to see actual plans, color samples, He wanted to see details as if he owned that building. But he never had any illusions about owning it."

Mr. Murray grew up in Tampa before moving to Clearwater with his wife. He had a knack for mechanics and founded Murray Boat Trailers in 1951. After selling that, he went on to buy and sell a wide array of businesses, building his fortune.

"I never bought a company that was in good shape," he told the Times in 1998. "I always bought one that was in trouble and got in there and switched people around. It always boils down to people, and I'm a people person."

Mr. Murray was board chairman of the Florida Orchestra from 1998 to 2001 and was still considered a vital influence. He and Mrs. Murray first attended a concert in the early 1990s, a time when the orchestra needed help crawling out of debt.

"I think what caught my eye was the volunteer work," he told the Times. "This intrigued me that here were these people working and really giving their hearts as volunteers. Then one night my wife sat me down on the sofa and said, 'Honey, you fix companies. Why don't you help fix the orchestra?' "

In his first year as chairman, the orchestra raised $3 million and began healing. Mr. Murray helped draw in more modest annual donors, which he felt were equally important as million dollar saviors.

"Ray was a person who transformed this organization, and he did so by consistently following the highest of ideals," said Michael Pastreich, president and CEO of the Florida Orchestra.

Mr. Murray and his wife still attended orchestra concerts, Pastreich said, feeling fortunate to have lived to see the turnaround.

For as well-known as he was, he also operated quietly.

When he and his wife read about cuts to a Wimauma after-school bus route, they gave $30,000 to help buy a new bus. He helped get people with drug addictions into rehab. And every year, he and Mrs. Murray played Secret Santa to the orchestra's musicians — though it wasn't much of a secret.

"We got a bunch of envelopes from 'Santa and his lady,' " Pastreich said. "He wanted to help the musicians out around the holidays."

Mr. Murray had several religions in life, he once told the Times, but described himself as a "child of God." Buffman had known Mr. Murray for three years, but their relationship intensified recently. They talked often about spiritual matters, and Mr. Murray tried to help Buffman believe as strongly as he did.

"He is very comfortable where he is right now," Buffman said. "He was a lesson to me personally about faith, about God and about believing."

Mr. Murray liked to hand out a picture of Jesus his mother had drawn in 1940. Buffman stared at the picture Monday. He flipped it over and read from the back. Mr. Murray wrote about accepting Jesus into his heart. He included Bible verses and a message:

If you don't believe that Jesus Christ is who he said he was, you'd better be right. Your friend, Ray Murray.

Contact Stephanie Hayes at [email protected] or (727) 893-8716. Follow @stephhayes.

Comments
Clearwater Central Catholic tops Dunedin Spring Tournament host in extra innings

Clearwater Central Catholic tops Dunedin Spring Tournament host in extra innings

DUNEDIN — After losing a four-run lead thanks to a bad sixth inning, it would have been easy for Clearwater Central Catholic to fold against Dunedin in the final of the 49th annual Dunedin Spring Tournament. But quality relief pitching from Gar...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Span, Rays top Twins in 10 innings

Span, Rays top Twins in 10 innings

ST. PETERSBURG — Roughly four hours before taking the field against his former team Friday, Rays outfielder Denard Span spoke admirably about the Minnesota Twins, their organization in general, even hometown icon Joe Mauer.But business is busin...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Lightning feels Ryan McDonagh’s impact

Lightning feels Ryan McDonagh’s impact

BRANDON — Ryan McDonagh blocks shots. He competes for pucks in the corners and wins those battles. He moves the puck up the ice well. He can join the rush. He can shoot from the blue line. He kills penalties."It was a great pickup by (Lightning...
Updated: 5 hours ago

High school scoreboard for April 20

Friday’s scoreboardSoftballSpringstead 15, Central 0
Updated: 6 hours ago
St. Pete says discharge never reached the bay. Its own report says otherwise.

St. Pete says discharge never reached the bay. Its own report says otherwise.

ST. PETERSBURG — The city said not one of the 266,000 gallons of reclaimed water released on Jan. 18 reached Tampa Bay.There was no mention of the waste released from the Northeast Water Reclamation Facility ever reaching the bay in the city’s notice...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Tampa Bay students voice opinions on gun laws during school walkouts

Tampa Bay students voice opinions on gun laws during school walkouts

Nicole Leary and Taylor Redington stood outside St. Petersburg High School on Friday morning with parents and protesters who had gathered with bullhorns and signs. In a few minutes they would lead about 70 students on a walk to City Hall, joining oth...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Deputies: Woman in road rage incident targeted ... a school bus?

Deputies: Woman in road rage incident targeted ... a school bus?

TAMPA — Deputies are searching for a woman accused of blocking a special needs school bus with her car, getting out and banging and kicking on the bus door until she broke the glass.And there were four children inside, deputies said, as she shouted a...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Sami Vatanen a big loss for Devils if he doesn’t play in Game 5

Sami Vatanen a big loss for Devils if he doesn’t play in Game 5

BRANDON – Devils top defenseman Sami Vatanen had not traveled to Tampa as of Friday afternoon, according to coach John Hynes, and his availability for Game 5 Saturday against the Lightning is in doubt.Hynes, however, did not rule out Vatan...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Plan to entice developers to help pay for Rays ballpark hits speed bump

Plan to entice developers to help pay for Rays ballpark hits speed bump

TAMPA — Private developers would bear much of the cost of a new Rays stadium in Ybor City under a plan Hillsborough County officials are putting together.Developers would benefit by cashing in on commercial, retail and other construction around a ne...
Updated: 8 hours ago
St. Pete police search for missing 20-year-old woman

St. Pete police search for missing 20-year-old woman

ST. PETERSBURG — Officers are searching for a 20-year-old woman who they believe to be missing and who could be in danger.Kayla Brandi Boone was last seen at about 11 p.m. Thursday in the 2700 block of Fourth Street S, according to St. Petersburg pol...
Updated: 8 hours ago