Updated Sept. 29
There are two sides to every story, we are told, but that seems not to be true of Jo Ann Murphy.
No matter who you talk to about the retiring Dukes County veterans agent, the story is the same: Jo Ann Murphy is a godsend of a human being in her role in advocating for veterans and their rights and due process for the past 18 years.
Now, you might expect to hear that at a retirement party like the one on Thursday night at the P.A. Club in Oak Bluffs, into which piled several hundred vets, friends, colleagues, and community colleagues in her host of volunteer roles.
But there was a clarity to the comments we heard from all of them. They all described her character in the same or related words: dogged, fierce, follow-through, passionate, and compassionate. The litany began before we got in the door. Richard Hayden, an Oak Bluffs native, was taking some air on the porch at the P.A. Club.
“I’ve known Jo Ann her whole life,” the 15-year U.S. Navy vet said, adding, “She’s what it means
to be a good person, always has been.”
Susan Murphy of Chilmark is part of the Murphy clan. She’s stepmother to Brian, Jo Ann Murphy’s husband. Thursday night she thought a moment and said, “Jo Ann Murphy is the most generous person I have ever known. Generous with her time. Generous to people.”
West Tisbury Patrolman Bradley Cortez listened for a while to brief interviews, and offered this summary: “Jo Ann Murphy is a saint. She saves lives.”
But here’s some interesting info. The affair was planned and paid for by her colleagues at the Dukes County offices. The Sheriff’s Department deployed a color guard to escort her into the soiree.
There’s more. When former county treasurer Noreen Mavro-Flanders, current treasurer Ann Metcalf, and their pals began planning the affair, they found the P.A. Club wouldn’t take their money for the hall after they learned the party was for Murphy. Over on Circuit Ave., Rosebud Balloons declared the balloons festooning the hall were on them.
Where could Murphy have gotten this fierce determination? My guess is from Mom, Ernestine Kinnecom, 85 and feisty as all get-out. Ernestine had been waiting for me all night to let me know about a mistake I made in a profile on her daughter, in which I described her own deceased husband as being alive. “He’s been dead for three years. Three years,” she said.
She made her point clearly and in sufficient volume, repeated it, heard my apology, then announced “It’s 7 o’clock. I have to go now, I’m 85 years old,” and quick-marched out the door. The woman has grit.
Jo Ann’s husband, Brian Murphy, doesn’t think much will change in their postretirement lives. “She’s just a go-getter. She will volunteer in more groups to help people.”
“I support her all the way. I worked for NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] and when I was out to sea, there was no contact for months at a time. There were no cell phones or social media. She worked and raised the kids alone,” he said.
Meanwhile, his wife was working the room, talking to “her vets,” giving out her phone number here and there.
“I’m still here, and I’m not going anywhere,” she said.
Updated to correct her son’s name and the number of years she served as veterans agent.