As 90th Birthday Approaches, Ferndale Woman Reminisces
(Lara Mossa, Jan. 23, 2020)
Ferndale, MI – There are things we can learn from long-time residents, including Florence Murphy.
Murphy will celebrate her 90th birthday on Jan. 30, the same birth date as her late husband, Thomas Murphy. Born as Florence Carter in Detroit in 1930, her family moved to Ferndale when she was in grade school. She graduated from St. James, a Catholic school in Ferndale, in 1948 and married within four years. The couple had 12 children including two sets of twins. Born within a 20-year span, she had four girls and eight boys.
“You’re only given what the good Lord knows you can handle,” she said. “People will ask how you did it. You don’t think about how you do it. You just do it.”
Although she did not go on for further schooling, Murphy worked for several years before getting married – remembering her time at the dime store Neisner’s earning 37 and a half cents an hour. She then worked at a nearby bakery, making 50 cents an hour. She eventually worked at Providence Hospital in Detroit as well as an insurance agency in the Fisher Building. But for the most part Murphy focused on motherhood.
“It was the trend of the time,” she said. “So many got married and were able to stay home.”
Her husband, who died at age 69 after 48 years of marriage, started his own floor sanding company and she helped him with that too. One of her sons, Kenny, died in his 50s, but the rest of the family still lives in the Detroit area. Her children visit often with children and grandchildren of their own.
“I see them all the time. It’s like a bus station. They’re in and out every 15 minutes,” Murphy said. Besides her kids, she has 29 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
One of the biggest changes she has noticed over the years is the size of Ferndale families.
“Large families are gone anymore today,” she said. “But it may come back.”
She’s noticed that children don’t play outside like they used to, but with their electronic devices.
“I call them pacifiers – the hand phones kids have,” she said.
Murphy remembers what it was like having races up and down the street and giant games of tag.
“The kids had plenty of playmates. One time for many years, there were 125 children living on this street. You can’t find that too often in any place.”
Everything has changed, she said, including buildings, the way people shop, and families.
“It’s moving so fast. You turn the TV on and the next thing you know, you have something new you have to do or remember. It’s a different world today.”
Murphy reminisced about what it was like meeting her husband.
She and some friends from school saved money to rent a cottage in Lake Orion after they graduated. She said that a friend and her boyfriend came for a visit, and “her boyfriend brought this young man who turned out to be Tom Murphy.” Murphy joined the Navy shortly after they met, and married afterward.
Whether someone has a career or not, Murphy said it’s important to stay active. Over the years, she took classes such as upholstering, cake decorating, computers, sewing and cooking. She joined a knitting and crocheting group for 50 years that is still going.
“To me age is only another number,” she said. “I feel very fortunate that things do change, and it’s a learning process. I myself try to learn something new every day just to keep busy. You have to keep your legs busy at this age.”
Florence Murphy said the secret to living a long life is to keep busy, take care of yourself, and try to accomplish something every day. “Oh, and a glass of wine doesn’t hurt,” she said.
The family will have food, cake and ice cream at her home for her birthday.