Columnist, UNH prof, Donald Murray dies at 82
DURHAM, N.H. --Donald Murray, who won a Pulitzer Prize at age 29 and went on to write The Boston Globe's "Over 60" column for two decades, has died. He was 82.
Murray won a Pulitzer Prize in 1954 for editorials he wrote for the Boston Herald. In addition to his column, renamed "Now and Then" in 2001, he published numerous memoirs and books on writing and taught at the University of New Hampshire for 19 years.
"Each time I sit down to write I don't know if I can do it," he wrote in his last column, published Tuesday. "The flow of writing is always a surprise and a challenge. Click the computer on and I am 17 again, wanting to write and not knowing if I can."
Murray, who lived in Durham, was visiting a friend in Beverly, Mass. when he died Saturday, apparently of heart failure, one of his daughters, Anne Murray, told The Associated Press. At 82, he planned to launch a new Web site for aspiring writers.
"He lived for writing. That's what he did, and that's how he lived his life, through writing," she said. "He was always around because he worked at home, so it was great to have a father who was always there."
Murray was born in Boston and grew up in Quincy, Mass. After what he frankly described as an unhappy childhood, he became a paratrooper during World War II and graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a degree in English in 1948. He got his start as a copyboy at the Herald and became a staff reporter in 1949.
Murray's first marriage ended in divorce. In 1951, he married Minnie Mae Emmerich, whose slow death from Parkinson's disease in 2005 was among the personal, private and sometimes painful parts of his life Murray chronicled in his column.
"I have to say there were mixed feelings sometimes -- it's kind of odd seeing your life in the paper," said his daughter, who describes herself as very shy. "But I just learned to live with it, and if he thought there was something we'd be concerned about, he'd always ask us. But it is weird to have all these people who feel like they know you."
After working briefly for Time magazine and as a freelance writer in the 1950s, Murray joined the University of New Hampshire faculty in 1963. He retired in 1984.
In 1977, he hired English professor Tom Newkirk, who said Murray was as much a mentor to him as he was to his students.
"What is this about?" Murray would ask Newkirk after reading something his colleague had written.
"I'd almost feel insulted by the question," Newkirk said Sunday. "But I'd tell him, and he'd say, 'Well, you only deal with that in the second half of this.'"
Newkirk, who lived across the street from Murray for about a decade, said he also was inspired by his friend's practical approach to writing.
"He'd write every day, never to the point of exhaustion. He'd never feel like what he was doing was this terrible, anguishing act. He always felt it was fun and enjoyable. He was a terrific model. It wasn't like writing was like opening a vein and bleeding."
Chip Scanlan, who teaches writing at the Poynter Institute, said he quotes Murray often in his work.
"What Don did was take the mystique and myth out of writing for so many in newsrooms and elsewhere who thought you just had to wait for inspiration to come," Scanlan told the Globe. "He did this with a simple but powerful message: Good writing may be magical, but it's not magic. It's a process, a rational series of steps and decisions that all writers take."
In addition to his daughter Anne Murray of Weymouth, Mass., Murray leaves another daughter, Hannah Starobin of Mount Kisco, N.Y., two grandsons and a granddaughter.
Funeral plans had not been set Sunday.