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Gerard (Jerry) Murphy, a visionary market researcher, loving father and committed teller of absurdist jokes died on September 6, 2020 at his home in Overland Park, Kansas, four months after the death of his beloved wife Susan. Though he was nearly 87, his hair was still red. Friends and family will miss his thoughtful advice, charming sense of humor and entertaining stories.
Jerry was born in Mt. Vernon, New York on September 25, 1933. Some of his most memorable tales took place in the Rhinebeck-area where he grew up with his mother and three brothers, at Camp Rising Sun, a camp for gifted young people in upstate New York that helped Jerry figure out what a special brain he had, at Harvard University, where he cultivated an interest in psychology, and at BBDO, a Mad Men-esque advertising agency, where he began to forge a career in market research.
Jerry loved RESEARCH so much it was the vanity plate on his car. Part of what excited him about market research, specifically, was that it was a new field he could have a role in shaping. Among the innovative tactics he employed was putting a $2 bill in his mail surveys with a note to buy yourself a cup of coffee while you took the survey. (It worked; return rates were exceptional.) Before forming his own San Francisco-based company, GMA Market Research, he worked for agencies in New York, Detroit, Hawaii and the Philippines. His presentation style won him jobs; his insightful analysis made up for his wild hair. He believed that just about any business could be improved through a well-designed questionnaire or focus group. His signature product, Metropoll, helped cities across the world — including Las Vegas — figure out how to draw more visitors.
In his later years, Jerry sometimes observed that he’d been a man who loved falling in love a little too much. He did not regret loving who he’d loved but he was not proud of having been married five times. He was proud, however, of the children that came of marriage one — Rory, Jossy and Peter — and marriage four — Heather. And though some were skeptical when Jerry married again in 1999, he and the wonderful Susan were inseparable until the end. She even managed to get him interested in gardening.
In 2004, Jerry and Susan moved from Northern California’s Bay Area to Overland Park, Kansas to be closer to Rory, his wife Glynis, and their children, Max and Amanda. Jerry and Susan’s home became a hub for a family spread across the world; Thanksgiving and Christmas were joyous affairs filled with ample red wine and games; throughout the year, the couple’s children and grandchildren would retreat there. After Jerry’s son Peter tragically died, his daughter Megan moved from the Philippines to attend high school in Kansas and live with Susan and “Gramps,” as his grandkids called him.
Jerry loved singing, playing golf and nightlife. When he visited his daughter Heather in New York City, he always wanted to see where the young people partied. Even in his 80s, he considered midnight an embarrassingly early time to head home. Preternaturally calm in crisis, he required just two things to get through even the toughest of days: a 20 minute cat nap and a cup of instant coffee (his preferred source of caffeine.)
When Susan was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2015, Jerry devoted himself to making sure she got the best possible care. In April of 2020, after defying the odds many times, she passed. He spent the next few months, devastated, trying to figure out how to spend his remaining time on earth. In Sept of 2019, he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, but he still had plenty of energy. A road trip across the country, stopping to see friends and family was one possibility that particularly appealed to him.
The call that he had just a few hours left came as a surprise. Fortunately, he defied his doctor’s prediction, giving all his three living children, stepson Matthew and five of his grandchildren time to get to his side to spend several final days with him. Even as his strained breathing reminded them that the rare type of prostate cancer that afflicted him had spread to his lungs, he was classic Jerry, charming the room with jokes and stories. He said his final words in the living room he adored, surrounded by people who loved him, his loyal dog Augie curled by his feet.
This funny, kind, wise man with his spectacular blue eyes is already so missed. It’s hard for friends and family to conceive that they will never again join him for an ice cream. He was always so open-minded, so full of advice. (Among his tips: personal dramas can often be resolved through a smartly constructed spreadsheet.) Who are they to call when life gets tricky?
Jerry is survived by his son Dr. Rory Murphy and his wife Dr. Glynis Murphy in Overland Park, Kansas., daughter Jossy Ensey in Salem, Oregon, daughter Heather Murphy and her wife Mito Habe-Evans in New York City, daughter-in-law Fhe Murphy in Manila and his stepson Matthew Wolfe in Santa Cruz. (Jerry and Susan’s devoted dog Augie has relocated to Santa Cruz with Matthew.) He is also survived by his ten grandchildren Jessica Murphy, Megan Murphy and Mary Murphy in New York City, Gerard Murphy in Manila, Dr. Max Murphy and his wife Teresa in Pittsburgh, Amanda Murphy in Kansas City, Shannon Collins and her husband Josh in Salem, Oregon, Rachel Lucas in Keizer, Oregon, John Ensey in Salem, Oregon and Ren Murphy Habe-Evans in New York City; his four great-grandchildren Tobias, Jaxcy, Sebastian and Taelyne Collins in Salem, Oregon.
Jerry was preceded in death by his wife Susan, his son Peter Murphy and his three older brothers Dr. Jim Murphy, Dr. Hank Murphy and Philip Murphy.
Close family held a memorial in his home in Overland Park the week he passed. Another ceremony will be held in the Rhinebeck cemetery— not far from where he grew up — where his ashes will be placed, this fall or spring as the pandemic permits.
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