Seattle’s Memorial Wall slowly reveals its secrets

May 26, 2017, 9:34 AM | Updated: 10:15 am
Memorial Wall...
“My mother described him as just being a very, very nice young man and a lot of fun to be around,” Shawn Murphy said of his uncle Pat Murphy.

Shawn Murphy wasn’t even sure if his uncle’s name was listed on the Memorial Wall at Seattle’s Memorial Stadium.

Murphy emailed KIRO Radio after the story about Memorial Stadium’s uncertain future aired earlier this week.

“My uncle Patrick Michael Murphy, Jr. is probably on it, but I can’t say that with any certainty because I was unaware of that memorial. He’s on the Federal Building wall in downtown Seattle and the Olympia Memorial,” Murphy wrote.

On Thursday, I visited the wall to check. Sure enough, there between “Herb Munter” and “Dervyn F. Muth” — a few feet below the “N” in “FORGOTTEN” — was the name “Pat Murphy.”

Shawn Murphy was grateful to receive photos of his uncle’s name on the wall and agreed to share with KIRO Radio what he knows about his father’s younger brother.

Pat Murphy was one of 10 children, and one of six Murphy boys, Shawn Murphy says. He was born in 1924, and graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1942, just six months after the US had entered World War II. A few months after that, Pat Murphy joined the Navy.

“What I know is he enlisted Dec. 11, 1942 and he died July 23, 1944,” Murphy said. “He was assigned to a couple different ships. They were auxiliary repair docks, USS ARD-12 and USS Otus AS-20.”

Murphy says his uncle died of dysentery — a common ailment among the far-flung military in that era — in what was called British Guinea, an area now known as part of Papua-New Guinea. Pat Murphy was just 19 when he died, a few months before his birthday.

“My mother described him as just being a very, very nice young man and a lot of fun to be around,” Murphy said. “And she really thought the world of him.”

When he died, Pat Murphy also left behind a pregnant widow. The two married in Idaho in May 1943.

Shawn Murphy says that the tragedy of losing his uncle was further compounded by the fact that his widow, who had remarried, died just a few years later. Even worse, the family lost track of her child – Shawn Murphy’s cousin.

“She had had this little boy that we know of, and we have absolutely no idea what happened to [him],” Murphy said.

Details about Pat Murphy are hard to come by. Shawn Murphy says the family didn’t dwell on the tragedy. Somewhere in his files, Murphy has just one photo that he knows for sure is of his uncle.

He also says that one of his uncle’s old ships was moored in Olympia for years, but the family never visited it. Shawn Murphy isn’t sure if his late father knew the ship was there and chose not go because it was too painful, or if he simply had no idea it was so close by.

Murphy says that his uncle is buried at Golden Gate National Cemetery in California.

Learning that his uncle is included on the Memorial Wall to Seattle School District alums who died in World War II clearly touched Shawn Murphy.

“It’s really even more personal because they put his name as ‘Pat Murphy,’” he said. “It wasn’t ‘Patrick Michael Murphy, Jr.’ it was ‘Pat,’ and to me, that makes it even more personal.”

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Seattle’s Memorial Wall slowly reveals its secrets