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The Murphy Family

(As told by William Murphy)

Our family’s connection with The Salvation Army goes back to the early 80s when I was first introduced to them through my association with the Northside Kiwanis Club. That particular club had a designated purpose every year to collect the most money of any Kiwanis club (or service club) for the Salvation Army in Indianapolis.

As I was just starting my CPA practice at that time, and it seemed a natural to get involved with such a great project. What we all quickly found was bell ringing was not just another volunteer assignment but transformation of raising money for those less fortunate. Turning actions into smiles from both children and adults we were able to really make a difference in other people’s lives.

The club primarily focused on Castleton Mall as the key area to set up our kettles. Several of the more senior members organized the shifts and made sure everyone was taking at least one shift during the month of December. What we all immediately realized that our Bell Ringing shifts put face on the message of the season. We always had representatives from The Salvation Army at our club programs throughout the year. They updated us on the ongoing projects and the meaning for all the hours of hard work. Everyone looked forward to each December and it was a labor of love for most of us...

In 1985 I asked my father M. Porter Murphy to join me in the same Kiwanis club that met at a north side cafeteria. My father was in his “second” career working for a large Indianapolis real estate firm at that time and wanted to find a spot to contribute his time. What was obvious from the start was his enthusiasm for helping others less fortunate and working the kettles every year for the club. He was a natural. He loved children and enjoyed “encouraging” their parents to help...if they could.

Over the years his dedication and time matched many of the “old regulars” and would ring for the club several nights a week. As he assumed a greater leadership role in the club he started working on other Salvation Army projects around the City of Indianapolis. 

As was his nature he encouraged my mother Frances Murphy (now 92) to join him in his “mission” and the two of them would ring together at Castleton Mall most years. She would bring the snacks and he would bring the enthusiasm. They would always volunteer for those shifts that were hard to fill and even into their 80s they were loyal bell ringers.

The only time I actually saw my father frustrated during this time was when he was told he had to stop ringing so loud at the Castleton Mall. He was warned by the security personnel that they would have to “tone it down” or the club would lose their location inside the Mall. He was undaunted – this only fueled his enthusiasm – along with the other bell ringing club members. Finally, the last week before Christmas, they were told that they had to stop ringing their bells or, as an alternative, take the clapper out of these small little bells.

I remember the conversation we had as to whether it would be feasible to continue to raise money without a bell. As was his nature regarding adversity, he was out there the next night, accompanied by my mother (his trusted wing man), with his now “silent little bell.” 

He was even more animated and inspired with his “silent bell” and the children all loved it. He had a particular gift of making children and common strangers smile. That warm and appealing demeanor carried over in everything he did and in the end they all met their goal. I think this new approach, ringing silent bells, made the mall staff even more frustrated.  He would encourage each child to sing out loud ”Ding….Ding...Ding” as they passed with his silent little bell waving in the air. The money kept on coming and the other Kiwanians all stepped up to help. With their silent bells and animation they continued the mission and met their goal.

One of the happiest times we enjoyed together was ringing bells together in Castleton Mall while discussing life’s challenges and gifts. He did not have an easy life growing up and was not known for his accomplishments in the business world. He was though a “loyal Salvation Army soldier” and was dedicated to teaching to his family the principles in life of “Giving back – your time, your talents, and your treasure,” if you can.

To that, the Murphy family wanted to call attention to his long dedication to The Salvation Army’s mission of helping others and dedicate an hour of the Radiothon to his memory. We also want to encourage other families to match our gift to The Salvation Army so that their mission can continue.

We miss dad very much but especially this time of year when we hear the sound of those other “loyal bell ringing solders” ringing their bells through the city.

He left us a legacy of how to treat others and how to remember that there truly is “a reason for the season,” which we need share all year long with those less fortunate.