Shining on: Polly Murphy remembered
The day was an exquisite sun-and-blue sky Island canvas. No matter. Polly Woollcott Murphy - according to the testimony of the afternoon's speakers - would have seen the beauty in a day painted in a gray wash.
Family and friends took turns introducing her. She had the gift of reverence, of artfulness, and of an all-encompassing responsiveness. Polly Murphy elevated ordinary things to art: crabgrass floral arrangements, tea at the kitchen table, leftovers that became feasts, and friends into extended family.
She died at 86, at her West Tisbury home on Sunday, Nov. 15, surrounded by family. Those who spoke at this past Sunday's tribute to Ms. Murphy - wife of Stanley Murphy, one of the Island's most prolific and prominent artists - summoned laughter, memories, tears, and music to the overflowing front room of the Ag Hall in West Tisbury.
The Murphys are a close family with an abundance of spill-over warmth that has touched many. It is a snug and protective clan, and Polly stood quietly and staunchly at the helm, representing something both fragile and grand. She was part of a generation of open-door Islanders - nature celebrators, humanists, activists - that seems to be fading away. She was the sort of person whose pattern you want to cut out and fit yourself into: the keeper of joy, generosity, and grace. It wasn't that her life was without stress or effort, it was that she chose embrace rather than struggle.
So those who crowded into the Ag Hall and sang "Wabash Cannon Ball" (Stan Murphy's favorite song) accompanied by Warren Doty, who officiated, on banjo and grandson John Murphy, 15, on Stan Murphy's old Martin guitar, listened to as one by one, those who spoke - daughter Laura, son David, niece Sundy Smith, granddaughters Hope MacLeod and Mary Boyd, friends Allen Whiting, Ruth Kirchmeier, Paddy Moore, Whit Griswold - each added a unique and beautiful color to the portrait of Polly.