Owen Murphy Mattingly
April 30, 1928 - December 11, 2020
Owen Murphy Mattingly, called “Murf” by his friends and family, was born on April 30, 1928. He grew up in rural Appalachia, in Garrett County, Maryland, during the Great Depression. His parents, Owen and Clema (Murphy) Mattingly, worked hard to survive those years, and Murf never lost the family work ethic.
Murf’s mother was one of 12 children, many of whom lived nearby, and some of his father’s family also lived in the area, so Murf spent a great deal of time with grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles, as well as with the local characters. He remembered for the rest of his life some of the jokes and expressions these people used. One neighbor used to say that he “worked like a dog,” which made Murf and his brother wonder how a dog worked. Another man, in an effort to avoid bad language, limited his exclamations to “the set-fired thing.”
After a short stint at Hanford, Washington, where his father participated in the construction of the country’s first nuclear site, Murf and his parents and younger brother Ray returned to Maryland, and he completed his education at Bruce High School in Westernport. He accelerated high school, finishing in three years, due to the possibility that he would be drafted into World War II; however, the war ended at about the same time he graduated.
Murf moved to Baltimore where he had some relatives, and signed on at Bethlehem Steel. He showed up for his first day in a suit and tie because he thought that was how one should begin a new job. Since this clothing was unsuitable for work at the furnaces, he was sent home, and he returned the next day in sturdier garb. Murf sometimes reminisced about the friends and leisure activities of those years, such as swimming, soccer, and especially playing table shuffleboard in local bars.
A few years later, Murf went into the Air Force, trained as a mechanic, and was sent to Alaska. After growing up in the mountains, he was undaunted by the cold and snow, and he gained great skill in repairing military vehicles. One night at a USO dance, he met a wonderful young woman, Delores Pfeifer, who was there visiting her sister, a military wife. Thus began a loving partnership of over 66 years. Murf and Dee married in her home state of Minnesota, lived in California while he finished his military duty, and then moved to Baltimore where he returned to his job at Bethlehem Steel, working there until retirement. One of Murf’s proud accomplishments was fine-tuning the heating of the furnaces so that production was significantly improved. He even filed a patent on one of his innovations.
In addition to the steel mill, Murf tried various other business ventures in his spare time. Most of his effort went into several coin-operated laundries. The machines required frequent repairs. During these years, he became known in the family for two sayings: “It must be operator error,” and “Put a little Motion on it,” Motion being a spray lubricant.
Dee and Murf adopted two children, Dolores and Gary. The family enjoyed camping, boating, and community activities. They all attended Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church. Dolores married and had two children, Wayne and Renee Peyton. Tragically, both Gary and Dolores died young, but Wayne and Renee both married and had children, so Murf and Dee had the great pleasure of watching five great grandchildren grow. They played important roles in the lives of Zachary, Amy, Joshua, Marbella, and Elizabeth—and vice versa.
Early retirement, when it came, was not as attractive as Murf had envisioned, so he dabbled in hydroponic plant growing, solar collection of energy, real estate sales, an Amsoil dealership, wood-working, playing piano and guitar, square dancing, photography, painting, hunting, golfing, and investing. He liked trying unusual plants like kiwi fruit, and taking on new challenges, such as beekeeping. He golfed occasionally with his brother Ray in Western Maryland and regularly with a group of friends in Baltimore. After a few false starts, he found great success as an investor. Murf and Dee visited family and friends all over the country and were always glad to have visitors. He found that he loved travel, and he and Dee saw most parts of the world on their many trips. During these years, he also began working on a memoir.
In 2013, Murf and Dee moved to Oak Crest Village, a retirement community not far from their home of more than fifty years. Murf was reluctant to leave his workshop and garden, but Dee felt it was important for them to have additional support. This turned out to be a sound decision because she was already ill with cancer. Murf cared for her faithfully, and when she died in January of 2017, he continued his independent living for three more years. He and Mary Mattingly Reisinger, his niece, got serious about completing the memoir he had begun decades earlier, and it was sent to the publisher in March 2020.
On April 13, 2020, Murf had a minor stroke. This was followed two weeks later by a major stroke. Despite his valiant efforts at all the therapy offered to him, he could not regain the ability to walk or to care for himself. He had difficulty talking clearly and swallowing due to damage to his throat. This led to several cases of pneumonia. Visiting by family and friends was severely limited due to the coronavirus pandemic, but with the assistance of the staff at hospitals, rehab centers, and Oak Crest, he did manage to stay in touch with a few people via video calls. He remained alert and aware until the end, with a prodigious memory and an intact sense of humor. After six months in long term care at Oak Crest, he succumbed to the effects of pneumonia on December 11, 2020.
Murf will be dearly missed and fondly remembered by his many friends and his family, including his brother Ray Mattingly and Ray’s wife Betty; his sister-in-law Luella Schlueter and her husband Virgil; sister-in-law Pat Pfeifer; Godchild Stephanie Floyd; grandson Wayne Peyton and his wife Antonia; granddaughter Renee Peyton and her husband Kenny; great grandchildren Zachary and Joshua Myers, Amy and Marbella Peyton, and Elizabeth Burnley; and many nieces, nephews, and other relatives.
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