Subject: A Great Lady Has Passed
widow of WWII hero and actor, Audie Murphy, died peacefully
at her home on
April 8, 2010. She was the widow of the most
decorated WWII hero and actor, Audie Murphy, and established
her own distinctive 35 year career working as a
patient liaison at the Sepulveda Veterans Administration
hospital, treating every veteran who visited the facility as
if they were a VIP.
Any soldier or
Marine who came into the hospital got the same special
treatment from her. She would walk the hallways with her
clipboard in hand making sure her boys got to see the
specialist they needed.
If they didn't,
watch out. Her boys weren't Medal of Honor recipients or
movie stars like Audie, but that didn't matter to Pam. They
had served their country. That was good enough for her. She
never called a veteran by his first name. It was always
"Mister." Respect came with the job.
cut through VA red tape faster than Mrs. Murphy,"
said veteran Stephen Sherman, speaking for thousands of
veterans she befriended over the years. "Many times I
watched her march a veteran who had been waiting more than
an hour right into the doctor's office. She was even
reprimanded a few times, but it didn't matter to Mrs.
Murphy. "Only her boys mattered. She was our angel."
died broke in a plane crash in 1971, squandering millions of
dollars on gambling, bad investments, and yes, other women.
"Even with the adultery and desertion at the end, he always
remained my hero," Pam told me.
She went from a
comfortable ranch-style home in Van Nuys where she raised
two sons to a small apartment - taking a clerk's job at
the nearby VA to support herself and start paying off her
faded movie star husband's debts. At first, no one knew who
she was. Soon, though, word spread through the VA that the
nice woman with the clipboard was Audie Murphy's widow. It
was like saying General Patton had just walked in the
front door. Men with tears in their eyes walked up to her
and gave her a hug.
they said, over and over.
The first couple
of years, I think the hugs were more for Audie's memory as a
war hero. The last 30 years, they were for Pam.
One year I
asked her to be the focus of a Veteran's Day column for all
the work she had done. Pam just shook her head no.
"Honor them, not
me," she said, pointing to a group of veterans down the
hallway. "They're the ones who deserve it."
disagreed. Mrs. Murphy deserved the accolades, they
said. Incredibly, in 2002, Pam's job was going to be
eliminated in budget cuts. She was considered "excess
staff." "I don't think helping cut down on veterans'
complaints and showing them the respect they deserve, should
be considered excess staff," she told me. Neither did the
veterans. They went ballistic, holding a rally for
her outside the VA gates. Pretty soon, word came down from
the top of the VA. Pam Murphy was no longer considered
working full time at the VA until 2007 when she was 87.
"The last time
she was here was a couple of years ago for the conference we
had for homeless veterans," said Becky James, coordinator of
the VA's Veterans History Project. Pam wanted to see if
there was anything she could do to help some more of her
boys. Pam Murphy was 90 when she died last week. What a
lady. Dennis McCarthy, Los
Angeles Times on April 15, 2010 ~