Advertisement
  1. News

Polly Murray anchored St. Lawrence church for half a century

Published May 4, 2012

TAMPA — Every church has one — a quiet force that gets ideas on the drawing board, pledges lined up and projects completed. At St. Lawrence Catholic Church for half a century, that force was Polly Murray.

As the lay administrator to Monsignor Laurence Higgins, Mrs. Murray saw the church through significant changes. She played key roles in establishing a provisional sanctuary and school, and served as unofficial project manager when the permanent church building was dedicated 20 years later. Mrs. Murray also helped design the multipurpose Higgins Hall that opened in 1994.

Mrs. Murray, who worked in tandem with Higgins to run a church serving 3,000 families and the St. Lawrence Catholic School, died Sunday. She was 79 and suffered from a variety of health problems, including pancreatic cancer.

"She could learn anything; I don't know anybody cleverer," said Higgins, 83, now a pastor emeritus at St. Lawrence.

The two worked together for 50 years. Both retired in 2007.

She was more laser knife than bulldozer, a slight woman who wore little jewelry and avoided the spotlight. But because of her, things got done.

"In the way a corporation works, I would say she was the chief operating officer," said former Gov. Bob Martinez, a friend.

Audrey Boston, a St. Lawrence worker hired by Mrs. Murray 25 years ago, saw her old boss staying on top of construction projects from the design phase on, including the eventual church offices in Higgins Hall.

"She understood the questions to ask," said Boston, 55. "She met with all the people who needed to be met with and knew what needed to get done."

Mrs. Murray and Higgins intersected in the late 1950s, not long after she moved with her family from Minnesota. He lived across the street.

"He was Father Higgins at the time," said Tim Murray, 57, her son. "She said she wanted us to go to a Catholic school."

Higgins, who had just been assigned to the Tampa area to open a new parish, hired Mrs. Murray as his administrator.

Higgins and Mrs. Murray were a team by 1959, when the St. Lawrence parish opened. A provisional church building was finished in 1961, the same year a parish school building was completed for 162 students.

Her efforts helped get the St. Lawrence Catholic School to its current capacity of more than 600 students. After launching the pre-kindergarten program in a former orphanage, the church in 1998 renamed the building the Polly Murray Early Childhood Center.

Polly DeVinny was born in North St. Paul, Minn. She got a full scholarship offer to the University of Minnesota, but instead married John Murray, an airline agent, and started a family. Though raised as a Methodist, she converted to Catholicism.

John Murray died in 1971 in an accidental drowning, leaving his wife a widowed mother of six boys. Mrs. Murray responded as she always had: She managed.

Her sons are remembering those qualities as they cope with her loss. "She was the strongest person I ever knew," Tim Murray said.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. A sign seen on the front door of Pom Pom’s Teahouse and Sandwicheria in March, after owner Tom Woodard stopped serving drinks with plastic straws. The St. Petersburg City Council voted 5-2 on Thursday night to ban single-use plastic straws. [CHRIS URSO  |  Times]
    The City Council tweaked its own ordinance banning single-use plastic straws, which is set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2020.
  2. Student activists with the March For Our Lives group, founded after the Feb. 2018 Parkland shooting, hold a banner that promotes their new "peace plan" to prevent gun violence, while demonstrating in the rotunda of the state capitol building in Tallahassee. Emily L. Mahoney | Times
    The 18-year-old student director of March for Our Lives Florida said school shootings are so common they are “not shocking” anymore.
  3. Steven Currall prepares to deliver an address during his investiture as the University of South Florida's seventh president Thursday at the Yuengling Center in Tampa. MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE  |  Times
    Though he started the job in July, Steve Currall is officially installed as president on his 137th day in office.
  4. Apollo Global Management has offered $130 per share for Tech Data's stock in an acquisition worth $5.4 billion. If regulators shareholders approve, the home-grown company will remain based in Pinellas County, where it employs 2,000 of its 14,000 workers. DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Private equity firms like Apollo create wealth for pension funds, financial institutions and individual investors by buying assets that typically are sold later at a profit.
  5. Some of Tampa Bay's largest companies are being sold or are up for sale. Times files and Bloomin' Brands
    Tech Data is just the latest in a growing list of public companies bought up by out-of-state firms.
  6. Gov. Ron DeSantis greets local officials at Dunedin High School on Oct. 7, 2019, part of a swing around the state to announce his plan to boost starting teacher pay in Florida to $47,500. He revealed a related teacher bonus plan on Nov. 14 in Vero Beach. MEGAN REEVES  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The new plan would replace the controversial Best and Brightest model that DeSantis had called confusing.
  7. The "#9pmroutine" is a core social media feature for the Pasco County Sheriff's Office. Now, the agency has a copyright on it. Facebook
    Copyrighting a key part of the agency’s social media presence isn’t meant to limit its reach, the office said, but rather to stop bad actors.
  8. USF student Gabriela Young is the owner of Earth and Ivory, an online jewelry business with items made out of clay.  [Special to the Times | Sarah Foster] SARAH FOSTER  |  Special to the Times | @sarahtheartiste
    Gabriela Young went from selling bracelets to friends to making clay wares for customers with her business, Earth and Ivory.
  9. Chief Veterinarian Mallory Offner examines a female rescue puppy at the Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center in Tampa. MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE  |  Times
    With 250 of the pooches ready for adoption, each potential puppy parent has a 1-in-4 shot at getting picked in today’s drawing.
  10. Eight vehicles were involved in a fiery and fatal crash late Wednesday that left two people dead and shut down northbound Interstate 75 bridging Hillsborough and Pasco counties, authorities said. The driver of the white van pictured above, George Pagan of Tampa, said he saw the semi-trailer truck, left, sliding sideways toward him in his rearview mirror before impact. Pasco Fire Rescue
    The chain-reaction crash that closed the northbound lanes near the Pasco-Hillsborough line started when a semi-trailer truck driver didn’t stop for traffic, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement