NEW ALBANY — Michael Murry’s family responded to his death by finding inspiration in the way he lived his life, and in the process, they’ve helped protect others from dealing with the loss they’ve endured.
To Murry, time was too precious to waste it on pity, hate and regret. He was a man who lost his mother at an early age, and grew up in a foster care system that left him bouncing from one home to another.
But he didn’t make excuses. He instead forged his own path that led to a career as a U.S. Air Force officer before retiring and going on to work at Austin Tri-Hawk Automotive for 17 years.
“He could have had lots of excuses for not doing what he did,” said Michael’s widow, Melinda. The two were married for almost 40 years.
“He didn’t let where he came from define him.”
Murry’s beginnings weren’t ideal, but his life was a testament to overcoming adversity. And after finding his own successes, he gave back. He regularly volunteered in numerous ways, and Melinda and Michael made about 80 masks at the onset of the pandemic to give to others.
His family believes he contracted COVID-19 last November while giving his time to a cause several miles away from his home in Salem. On Dec. 11, 2020, Murry died from the virus at the age of 65.
Melinda recalled when they first heard the news about the coronavirus. She and Michael believed it to be more of a big city problem, and not one that would affect rural areas.
“Less than 12 months later, he was gone,” she said.
But what’s not gone and is quite tangible is the inspiration that Michael gave his family.
Devastated by his loss, Melinda and Michael’s two sons, Matt and Mark, found a way to fight back against the enemy that took their loved one.
Matthew owns Touchdown Solutions in New Albany. Michael had also worked there before his death, and Melinda and Mark also are employed at the business.
While driving to work one day after her husband’s death, Melinda noticed the Floyd County Health Department vaccination clinic at Indiana University Southeast. She later read an article describing the need for volunteers to assist with the vaccine rollout.
As April rolled around and they were able to receive a vaccination, the family decided the ultimate tribute to Michael would be to volunteer at the clinic.
“We wanted to help when the vaccine came out, because he didn’t get the chance to take one,” Melinda said of her late husband.
But they went beyond their own volunteer efforts. Matt agreed to pay Touchdown Solutions employees to work at the clinic, and several responded to the offer.
“There’s so much that needs to be done, and people are doing the right thing by being vaccinated, so we wanted to pay them for helping,” Matt said.
“That was always dad’s thing — to be givers, not takers.”
And when they volunteered at the clinic, the family felt like they were fighting back against the unseen enemy of COVID-19. They also knew that Michael would have done the same thing.
“He would have shut the entire office down so that everyone could have volunteered,” Matt said.
While they were paying homage to Michael, they were also inspiring others.
Linda Pahner is a retired nurse who organizes the health department’s volunteer schedule. She said the volunteers who’ve helped with vaccinations are all heroes, but she vividly remembers the first day Melinda came to the IUS site.
A cold, drenching rain was falling from the sky. They attempted to relieve Melinda as she stood in the downpour, but she declined.
That evening Pahner called Melinda to see how she was doing.
“She told me ‘This is the best day that I have had since I lost him’,” Pahner said. “It had such a profound effect on me. It just kind of put it in perspective why we’re there. That it’s bigger than us. That it’s about our community.”
The work continues. Melinda returned to IUS this week to help with vaccinations. She said at times she’s felt like her role was small compared to what the medical experts were doing at the site, but Melinda emphasized health department officials always made her feel like she was a big part of the team.
“Everybody just works together to get the job done and that’s been huge in us wanting to stay a part of the effort,” she said.
His loss inspired his family to help others avoid the same fate, but Michael’s wife and sons clearly remember how he lived his life.
He loved listening to The Eagles, enjoying a glass of wine and reading a good book. Michael would take a seat on his favorite chair on the back porch, and his tuxedo cat, Killer, would quickly occupy his lap.
Michael cherished his family and also didn’t forget his roots. He was a major supporter of The Refuge for Children in Austin.
As the pandemic continues, the family hopes people will look out for one another.
“We’re all in this together. We’re all on the same page — the same mission,” Matt said.
The health department is urging the public to receive a vaccination in the fight against COVID-19. Volunteers are also still needed. For more information, call 812-948-4726.