Haines Borough maintenance man Russ Murray was buried at Jones Point Cemetery March 9, which former co-worker Eddie Bryant said was fitting. Bryant said Murray told him that the best times of his life were spent “mowing the grass in the cemetery, mosquitoes and all.”
Murray, 76, died of congestive heart failure March 6 at the Haines clinic. He had been in hospice care at friend Ralph Borders’ home since Dec. 16.
“He was the toughest fellow I ever saw. He used to drink a case of beer a day, then he quit cold turkey about 15 years ago. He was addicted, but he stopped by himself, without AA. That’s when he started eating ice cream,” Borders said.
Murray, who was lean and wiry, ate about four bowls of chocolate ice cream a day, Borders said.
Murray came to Haines in 1984 and worked with Borders at the former Food Center grocery store. He worked seasonally for the municipality for about 10 years until his health failed.
Russell Holsey Murray was born in Mount Desert, Maine in 1935, the oldest of Joseph M. and Iona Schofield Murray’s five children. He joined the Air Force in 1953 and served seven years, including as a radar technician in Greenland. He married and had a son, then disappeared in 1963 for 38 years, said Sandy Murray, his brother.
Murray lived in a Small Tracts cabin and treasured his mother’s Bible. Before her death she requested it be given to him, and inscribed it, “Remember me always as I have always you since the day you left us.” His siblings, wishing to fulfill her wish, found him.
“My brother was one of those people that are so private and so adventurous. He had his hard times, but the things he did, I didn’t know. I do know he came back to us, and that we were just so happy to be reconnected,” Sandy Murray said.
Murray took trips back to Maine where the brothers played music together. An aeronautics buff, “he could tell you anything you’d want to know about airplanes and flying,” Sandy Murray said.
Russ told his family he had lived in Key West and Los Angeles and ridden the rails across the country. Borders said Murray spoke few words beyond, “Think so?”
Murray fished, played the guitar and harmonica, and after decades of Jeopardy, was a trivia buff. “If Russ was awake, the TV was on,” Borders said.
He leaves brothers Joe and Sandy and son Carleton Alexander Murray. Cards may be sent to 48 Old County Rd., Rockland, Maine, 04841.