Earle “Murph” Murphy

Earle “Murph” Murphy

Earle “Murph” Murphy

Iowa City

Earle “Murph” Murphy, 99, of Iowa City, died peacefully Thursday, May 18, 2023.

Visitation will be from 3 to 6 p.m. with a time of remembrance to begin at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 1, at Lensing Funeral and Cremation Service, in Iowa City. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Friday, June 2, at St. Mary’s Church, with Father Stephen Witt officiating. Burial will be at St. Joseph Cemetery followed by a luncheon and celebration of Earle’s life in the lower level of St. Mary’s.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to the Earle and Louise Murphy Athletic Scholarship c/o The Levitt Center for University Advancement, 1 West Park Rd., Iowa City, IA 52242; or the Briarwood Health Care Center, 605 Greenwood Dr., Iowa City, IA 52246.

Earle was born Sept. 11, 1923, in Oxford, the son of Perry and Esther Murphy. At the age of six, he was diagnosed with polio and spent the next five years in and out of the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital. He had surgery at age 11 and no longer needed braces, but always walked with a limp. Murph never considered himself disabled or handicapped; he was “just crippled.” His resilience and humor were reflected on a plaque, “It is better to limp all the way to heaven, than not get there at all!” Since traditional physical therapy was not affordable for Murph, as a child of the Great Depression, he swam against the current in the Iowa River to strengthen his leg. He wanted to be strong enough to participate in sports. Murph succeeded and was able to play basketball for St. Patrick’s High School, his alma mater.

He attended the University of Iowa in pursuit of a history degree, but his summer job at Bremers Men’s Store in 1944 soon became full time. Earle decided to focus on becoming a salesman and began his 56-year career as a successful clothier.

On May 10, 1951, Murph married Louise Barnes in Washington. They made their home in Iowa City, and were the parents of seven children; “Ann being his favorite!” Earle loved being a dad and attended little league games, wrestling meets, volleyball tournaments, motor cross races, music concerts and dance recitals. He enjoyed taking his children to basketball games and wrestling meets at the old Field House gym. Earle acknowledged the hard work Louise accomplished as a wife and mother in order for him to attend countless sporting events. Murph enjoyed the company of friends and family at Hawkeye events, but his favorite date was Louise.

An Iowa City businessman, Murph owned and operated Bremers Men’s Store from 1963 to 2000. He loved being a retailer and made sure his customers found the exact apparel they wanted. His upstairs office was a place for friends to have a cup of coffee and discuss Iowa sports. Before the internet, the place to go for Hawkeye gossip was Bremers.

Earle was a member of St. Mary’s Church, Noon Rotary Club, Monday Morning Quarterback Club and the Garden Club. Murph and Bump Elliott co-founded the Garden Club, holding pep-rally luncheons during football season. In 1972, he was a founding board member of the Johnson County I-Club and was president in 1974. The National I-Club named him the “Hawk of the Year” in 1975. In 1984 the Iowa Varsity Club named him an Honorary Iowa Hawkeye Letterman for his contributions and support of Iowa athletics. From 1985-2015, he co-hosted the cable tv show, Sports Opinion, that promoted both Iowa Hawkeyes and local sports.

When the Amana VIP tournament came to Finkbine Golf Course in 1968, Murph was instrumental in making sure attendance was open to the public. The Amana Open was played in Iowa City for 24 years and during that time, the ticket proceeds were a major fundraiser for Iowa athletic scholarships.

Murph was the driving force in bringing “The Hawk” sculpture to the Iowa campus in honor of C.W. “Bump” Elliott. Since the ribbon cutting ceremony on November 10, 1990, “The Hawk” proudly resides near Carver Hawkeye Arena, and Duane Banks Field where Murph wanted it to also recognize all past, present and future athletes and fans of the University of Iowa sports programs.

In recent years, the book “A ‘Hawk’ for All Seasons” chronicled Murph’s life interacting with Iowa Hawkeye coaches, players and fans.

The family extends their appreciation to the caregivers at Briarwood Health Care Center and Essence of Life Hospice. Special thanks to John Streif, for the friendship and compassion he shared with Murph in recent years.

Earle is survived by his wife of 72 years, Louise; their seven children, Ann (Roger) Pearson of Anchorage, Alaska, Jim Murphy of Madison, Wis., Joe Murphy of Iowa City, John (Bonnie) Murphy of Coralville, Jeff Murphy of Newton, Jerry (Tracy) Murphy of Tiffin and Mary Sue (James) Kern of Plymouth, Minn.; grandchildren, Bill (Becky) Pearson, Kate Arduser, Kelly Murphy, Christopher (Colleen Sullivan) Kern, Patrick Murphy, Connor (Olivia) Murphy, Quinn Murphy, Courtney Kern, Jacob Murphy, Carson Kern, and Britt (Kevin) Tompkins; eight great-grandchildren, Samuel, David and Daniel Pearson, Anja and Anika Arduser, Isabelle (Blayze Griffis), Avery (Frankie Young) and Cameron Tompkins; sisters-in-law, Joyce Barnes and Mary Joyce (Ken) Courey; and numerous nieces, nephews and extended family.

Earle was preceded in death by his parents; his grandson-in-law, Alex Arduser; sisters, Lucile Kinney and brother-in-law, Vincent Kinney; and Pauline Gartzke and brother-in-law, Robert Gartzke; and brother-in-law, Wayne Barnes.

Obituary written by Ann.

Online condolences may be shared at www.lensingfuneral.com.

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