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Dedicated vets’ volunteer killed in Clearwater crash

CLEARWATER — Gordon “Bud” Murphy never gave up.

That’s how friends and fellow veterans remember the 82-year-old Safety Harbor resident. He served as the local VFW’s chaplain for the last decade, and returned to work from hernia surgery in recent weeks just in time to help organize a tribute to fellow World War II veterans.

He was a cabbage cook on St. Patrick’s Day, helped organize events on Mother’s Day, and was never far, friends say, when they could use a prayer.

Murphy died Tuesday afternoon after his 1986 Oldsmobile veered off the road and struck a pole near State Road 580 and Countryside Boulevard in Clearwater, authorities said.

No other vehicles were involved and there were no other injuries, police said. Neither the power pole nor the vehicle sustained significant damage. The cause of the crash is under investigation and an autopsy will be performed to determine the cause of death.

All three lanes of westbound traffic on SR 580 were closed at Landmark Drive for about two hours.

Murphy was driving to the store to buy goodies for fellow veterans at Bay Pines VA Medical Center.

One Wednesday each month, he called bingo for veterans there, said his daughter, Linda Spencer, 58, of Clearwater.

“He was very patriotic,” she said.

Spencer’s sister, Pamela Marang, said Murphy loved his work at the VFW. He recently considered stepping down as chaplain, she said, until fellow members persuaded him to stay.

Married and the father of three girls, he worked in Illinois as a construction superintendent until 1974, when the family moved to Pinellas County. Until 1990, he worked locally as a roof cleaning and painting contractor.

He and his wife, Patricia, celebrated their 50th anniversary in December 1999. She died in November 2002.

He will be buried next to his wife at the Bay Pines National Cemetery, his daughters said.

His death Tuesday came as a shock for friends.

“I’m just floored by this,” said Bill Hinders, fellow VFW Post 10093 member. The two knew each other for more than eight years, Hinders said, and often worked together to organize VFW events.

At the veterans’ tribute Saturday, Murphy led the room in prayer.

Three days later, after receiving word of his death, some friends gathered at the VFW in downtown Safety Harbor. They sipped beer and swapped stories of their friendship with him.

“He was a very diligent man,” said David Mentzer, a VFW member who had known Murphy since 1985. Many of Murphy’s close friends were already dead.

“That’s the problem,” Mentzer said. “Everybody here is sick.”

Times researcher Shirl Kennedy contributed to this report. Brian Spegele can be reached at bspegele@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4154.

Dedicated vets’ volunteer killed in Clearwater crash 05/19/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 19, 2009 9:13pm]

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