This Flashback Friday has me, on a deeply personal level, feeling a little wistful and missing the daily routine of welcoming the morning, my colleagues, and the collections at the Michigan Tech Archives. I’m a creature of habit and one of my morning rituals was to say a quiet good morning to David.
For those familiar with our public reading room and the reference desk, they will recognize the picture featured today as it hangs proudly, and has for many years, on the wall adjacent to the main archives doors. Each morning I turn the key in the lock, cross the threshold, and as the heavy wooden door closes itself, I glance up at David to wish him good-morrow before heading to my office.
David, the precocious subject of this beloved photograph from May 1958, is a favorite of many archives staff members past and present. David Roche Murphy, a Keweenaw native and brother of Terence Roche Murphy (longtime friend of the archives), passed away in March 2017 after a life rich with travel and a love of nature.
Born of two families prominent in Calumet, Laurium, and Eagle Harbor, as a very young boy David found a swift and sincere love of nature, as evidenced by the photograph of him and a young deer ankles-deep in Lake Superior at Eagle Harbor. Having spent many youthful hours at the shores of the Big Lake it is perhaps of little surprise that David, after earning multiple degrees from Michigan State University and stints as a reporter and intelligence officer in New York and Southeast Asia respectively, found his true calling at sea. He spent most of his active career as a Senior Logistics Officer (Chief Purser with Commander rank) in the Merchant Marine. He served on U.S. Naval Service vessels and elsewhere in close collaboration with U.S. intelligence services from Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, North Pacific waters during surveillance of North Korean nuclear weapons activity, and was an officer decorated by the U.S. Navy for at-sea support of the battle fleet in 1990-91 Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
Upon coming ashore at last for his retirement years, David returned to the Copper Country where he found comfort in community, creative pursuits, and the great outdoors. He was a longtime volunteer with Little Brothers, Friends of the Elderly, read voraciously, and was proud to be a lifetime “Eagle Harborite.” His initial home in retirement was in Eagle Harbor where Lake Superior remained within sight and sound.
One of the things they don’t teach professional archivists and librarians in graduate school are the lively friendships you’ll forge with patrons and partners, nor the myriad of losses you will experience over the course of your career. I was grateful to be a guest of the Roche Murphy family at David’s Celebration of Life in Summer 2017 at Saint Peter’s-by-the-Sea in Eagle Harbor. I also take comfort in knowing that the Michigan Nature Association has dedicated “Mariner’s Preserve at Silver River Falls” in Commander Murphy’s permanent honor.
The current situation and the stay at home order has kept me from some of the things I love most about being an archivist, but I find peace in being able to take this time to reflect on why I find such satisfaction in the act of remembering, preserving, and sharing about the past. The stories we find in the stacks enrich us and make us who we are. The lives and memories of others remind us what it is to be human. As a native of the Copper Country and an alum of Michigan Tech, I take great pride and care to serve as one of several stewards and keepers of memory of this most magical place. I will never forget what it means to be a part of this, nor what it means to be home. And I will forever say good morning to our “boy with the deer.”