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The end of an era: Dee Murphy dead at 82

In this 2017 file photo, Dee Murphy and his wife Bette are shown at Sport Newfoundland and Labrador’s 2016 awards ceremony and Hall of Fame inductions. Murphy, who was a member of the Sport NL Hall and many other sports-related Halls of Fame, died Thursday in St. John’s. He was 82.
In this 2017 file photo, Dee Murphy and his wife Bette are shown at Sport Newfoundland and Labrador’s 2016 awards ceremony and Hall of Fame inductions. Murphy, who was a member of the Sport NL Hall and many other sports-related Halls of Fame, died Thursday in St. John’s. He was 82. — File photo

St. John’s and Newfoundland sporting icon was a member of 11 Halls of Fame

Eight days after his younger brother, Tom, passed away, and just two weeks following the passing of his good friend, Duey Fitzgerald, St. John’s and Newfoundland and Labrador sporting legend Denis “Dee” Murphy has died.

Dee Murphy passed away early Thursday morning at St. Clare’s Hospital in St. John’s. He was 82.
Tom Murphy, the former Liberal MHA and a fine athlete in his own right, died last week at age 81. And Fitzgerald, Dee Murphy’s life-long friend, passed away Aug. 22 at the age of 84.
The deaths of Fitzgerald, and now Dee Murphy, mark the end of an era in St. John’s sports particularly.
Murphy, incredibly, was a member of 11 Halls of Fame, including the Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Hall of Fame and Softball Canada Hall of Fame.
At the time of his death, Murphy was the only living honorary life member of Softball Canada, a distinction that was bestowed to only seven individuals.
In addition to those two Halls of Fame, Murphy was a member of the provincial softball, soccer, hockey, bowling and track and field Halls of Fame, the St. John’s softball and soccer Halls, the Royal St. John’s Regatta Hall of Fame and the Bell Island Sports Hall.
Murphy was also on the Media Wall of Fame in the Mile One Centre press box.
While Murphy was known as a former St. John’s media personality — he wrote for The Evening Telegram, Daily News, and appeared on the airwaves with CJON and later NTV, along with Cable Atlantic — and a  tireless volunteer and coach, he is most recognized for his work in softball.
A founding member and the first president of Softball Newfoundland in 1963 — the initial meeting was held at the old PC Club on Military Rd., next to Bannerman Park — Murphy was instrumental in the formation of Softball Canada.
It was 1965 and the Western Major Fastpitch Association represented Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. Ontario had its own organization, and was aligned with the three Maritime provinces.
Two years into his presidency of Softball Newfoundland, Murphy traveled to Winnipeg for the Western Major Fastpitch Association's AGM on the May 24th weekend, 1965.
“I never had time to change, or shave or anything,” Murphy said of arriving in Winnipeg in a Telegram story last year. “I just threw my luggage in the room and went down to the meeting.”
Murphy recalls seeing 20-odd men in the meeting when he walked in. Vancouver’s Cecil White, the president, asked Murphy to sign in.
“He looked at the book and said, ‘Gentlemen, we will adjourn for 10 minutes. Newfoundland is here and I want to talk to my new friend.’”
With one end of the country represented at the meeting, along with the four western provinces, Ted Petersen from Sport Canada agreed the group would be recognized as the national sports governing for softball and would be renamed to reflect that.
It goes without saying Ontario wasn't too happy. And that province would get increasingly sour.
“Back then,” said Murphy, who would go on to represent Canada at world softball meetings, “if you wanted to travel to the United States to play softball, you needed a travel permit. And because we were the governing body for softball, we had the permits.
“And we decided if you weren't a member of the association, you weren't getting a permit. And the States were on board with us, too. Needless to say, Ontario was vicious.
“The next year, they beat the door down getting to the meeting to become a member.”
Locally, he was a former president of the St. John’s senior and junior men’s softball leagues, and the St. John’s senior women’s league.
He coached several women’s teams to provincial championships, representing the province at nationals on several occasions, and served as chairman for three national softball championships, and as director for 103 provincial championships.
Murphy was the chairman for the softball competition in the 1977 Canada Summer Games held in St. John’s.
A former St. Bon’s athlete, Murphy was elected assistant secretary of the St. John’s Football (Soccer) League in 1953, which marked the beginning of his lengthy administrative career.
It was also the same year he started writing sports for The Daily News.
On the airwaves, Murphy hosted and appeared on more than 1,000 television shows, primarily for CJON and NTV. He also provided colour commentary for hockey and soccer broadcasts.
As for the Regatta, Murphy was associated with the sport for 50-plus years, starting in 1948 when he rowed as a juvenile with Holy Cross.
Murphy often joked the team was a two-cigarette crew: they were so slow, he said, legendary cox Shotty Rogers lit up a cigarette down the pond, and another up the pond.
Murphy would go on to become one of the Regatta’s biggest promoters, serving on the Committee, and reporting on it in the local media through newspaper, radio and television coverage, including a 12-year stint as host and writer of “Regatta Ripples”.
Murphy leaves to mourn his wife, Bette, children Richard, John, Denis, Ted, Mary and Kelly and a number of grandchildren.
Visitation at Carnell’s Funeral Home 12-9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Funeral Mass will be Monday morning, at a time to be determined, from St. Teresa’s Church.

robin.short@thetelegram.com

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