Betty Murray says she didn’t know her husband, Bill Murray, when he joined the Navy at the age of 16.
World War II was under way then.
And besides, she was only around 10 or 11 years old at the time. He had returned home and she was a sophomore in high school when they finally met.
They were married in 1951, five years after he returned to Fairmont.
“It seems I have known him all my life,” she said with a forced smile.
Her husband passed away last Tuesday.
The men of VFW Post 629 knew him well. With his death, the last member from World War II had passed on from the VFW post. There were many before him.
“He was the last World War II member of this post,” Allen Pollastrini said. “Bill was a retired fireman along with his outstanding military service. He was a true hero of World War II. He served in the D-Day and Normandy invasions. Then after that, he was in several battles in the South Pacific.”
Frannie Hyde knew him well also. The employee at VFW Post 629 said, “I loved him to death. I know he has one son out in Colorado and another in Reston, Va.”
Another VFW member said the Murrays had a daughter — also in Colorado. It turns out the daughter, Beth Ann, lives in Golden and the son ,Thomas, resides in Aurora.
Gary Martin was a good friend as well.
“He was always happy,” Martin said as the group gathered at the VFW to talk about their friend. “He was a heckuva nice guy. He had to quit driving because of his eyesight, so his wife would drop him off here and then pick him up.”
Another member said that Harold Russell would pick him up on occasion as well.
Hilen Humphrey spoke well of him as well.
“He was extremely fun to be around,” Humphrey said, “and he was an ornery as all get out.”
But serously, he said, “You couldn’t meet a nicer guy.”
“Bill came in just about every day,” Martin said.
“And he always had a story for everyone. ... And he never used his key card to get in. He always rang the bell.”
Did he talk much about World War II?
“He would if you asked him,” Martin said. “But he seldom would bring it up.”
“Age wise he wasn’t our oldest member,” Martin said, “but he was the oldest in point of service. He was 86 years old. He was going to be 87.”
On Sunday, the VFW Post 629 members paid their final respects to Bill Murray.
“We all got together and went down to the funeral home (Domico’s) and paid our respects that way,” Martin said.
Rarely Talked of War
His wife, Betty, looking through some old photographs at the family home on Katherine Street, said that “he talked to me about the war on occasion. But I guess when he was out with the guys he was telling stories. “
Bill Murray arrived home from the war in 1946.
“We were married in 1951,” she said.
She does remember him telling her about being on a battleship that was torpedoed.
“He was out in the Pacific for several days. They finally picked him up — the ones that were left.”
She doesn’t know how many men may have been killed when his ship was hit.
She went through some more papers and pictures and found his “Notice of Separation from the U.S. Navy” and a list of his battle ribbons.
Betty Murray can tell you about his days with the Fairmont Fire Department, where he worked for 26 years.
“He was a great fireman,” she says. “He really was. He never missed a day of work except when he had a broken leg. The fire was at the Poky Dot, and he came down the ladder and missed the last step and broke his leg.”
She remembers when VFW Post 629 honored him with a dinner two years ago for being the last World War II veteran in the organization. They both enjoyed that.
Now, with Bill Murray’s death, the last living member from World War II had passed on from Post 629.
Email John Veasey at firstname.lastname@example.org.