Leonard “Lenn” Murphy, who grew up in the Conimicut section of Warwick, wasn’t difficult to please.
“He was as happy watching the Red Sox and Patriots as he was packing the grandchildren into his snowplow and playing a game or just sitting in the backyard,” Chris Murphy, Lenn’s widow, said Saturday. “He also loved to help people.”
That was evident Saturday afternoon at the Tri-City Elks Lodge No. 14 when more than 200 people turned out for the first annual “Lenn Murphy Memorial Family Fundraiser.”
“We had so many people we had to set up additional tables,” Murphy said, her voice cracking with emotion. “I was so thrilled because all the proceeds will go to Sailing Heals.”
Although money is still pouring in, Murphy expects that Saturday’s tribute to her late husband will bring in over $7,000 for Sailing Heals, a less than three-year-old non-profit that has become so successful that Executive Director Trisha Gallagher Boisvert will be at the San Diego Yacht Club on Saturday to open another chapter.
Boisvert co-founded Sailing Heals with her twin sister whose company, Panerai, a high-end Italian watch company, is the founding sponsor.
The non-profit, Boisvert explained, is quite simple: “Sailing Heals partners with sailors to offer VIP patient guests and their caregivers a memorable day of healing on the water.”
Murphy added, “It’s a wonderful day of healing. They take cancer patients like my husband out on the water so they can just forget – for a while – they have cancer. The idea is to soak up the sun ... and it really works.”
“We’re power boaters,” Chris Murphy continued, “but this was a chance to go sailing; we went on the Windogo and Mark and Wendy Treat were our host captains. We sailed out of Fort Adams [in Newport] and when we got back, I asked my husband how many times he thought about having cancer. His answer: “Not even once!”
That too, Chris Murphy related, said a lot about the strength, character and constitution of Lenn Murphy, who passed away at 3:42 p.m. back on March 29, 2013, two years and one month after he was diagnosed with liver cancer.
“It was awful,” Murphy said. “It was Valentine’s Day – Feb. 14, 2011 – and we were on our way out to dinner when we got the word. They told us Lenn only had three to six months to live.”
Again, as Chris Murphy explained, “Lenn was always in great physical condition. He went through numerous procedures ... because he was such a strong person, he got to see three of his grandchildren born; and that’s something we all thought would never happen.”
But for people like Boisvert and her husband David, the fact Lenn Murphy defied all odds during his battle with cancer came as no surprise.
“We knew Lenn well,” said Trisha Boisvert. “My husband and Lenn were good friends. They worked together for years and were golfing buddies. He was just the salt of the earth. If there was a hurricane, he’d get on a plane to go wherever and offer his help.”
The Boisverts, Trisha added, knew Lenn for 27 years.
“He had such amazing people skills; he always saw the beauty of life and reason for living every day to the fullest. He always saw the best in people; of all the people I’ve ever known, he was in the top three.”
Perhaps that explains why Lenn Murphy enjoyed near unmatched success in what his widow called “a couple of different lives.”
“Lenn was a teacher for many years,” Murphy said. “He helped found, develop and teach at a school in Lowell (Massachusetts) for troubled kids. They were basically kids that no one wanted.”
Lenn retired from that post and moved back to his native Rhode Island and began a new chapter of his life working with Shoreline Properties.
“This was his new realm of life,” Murphy said. “He was building houses and doing all kinds of stuff. Yet, he loved playing golf; riding his bicycle ... but my husband’s greatest passion was his kids and grandchildren.”
Saturday afternoon, those grandchildren and four of the Murphys’ five children – Tim, Erin, Jennifer and Sarah – accepted well wishes from everyone in attendance during that legendary guitarist-entertainer Cliff Myers called “a terrific tribute of Lenn Murphy’s life.”
At 3:42 p.m., in fact, Myers made a request – per Murphy – “to think about something that would make you happy, as we remember the passing of our great friend and a great man, Lenn Murphy.”
It was statements like that, as well as the one that came from Ed Berube, that best summed up the type of man people honored Saturday with the love and affection the Warwick native gave to people during his 63 years.
During the late stages of Saturday’s tribute, Chris Murphy continued thanking each person who came to the fundraiser, which included a video of the late Lenn’s life, a 12-item silent auction, 55-prize raffle and a television donated by Danny Paquette – the late Murphy’s best friend from his childhood – and folks like Berube, the general manager at Harbor Lights Marina and Country Club.
“We were standing there talking,” said Chris Murphy, “and I thanked Ed for coming. He looked at me and quickly said, ‘I only met him six times or so, yet I can say he actually made an impression on me; he also impacted my life!’”