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James Donald “Don” Murray, 86

A Life of Service
BARBERTON, Ohio – James Donald “Don” Murray, 86, was welcomed to his heavenly home on November 19th, 2023 with his loving wife Nancy and family at his side. Don was born in the “old” Barberton Hospital to the late James Gerald Murray and Leown (nee McDonough) on June 12th, 1937. Don led a life characterized by compassion and service to others, a quality that he instilled in his children and the many students he taught and mentored. He will be remembered as a devoted and doting husband, father, grandfather, uncle, son, true friend and good neighbor.His eccentric personality and sharp intellect left an indelible mark on those who encountered him. Known for his ability to lead with quick-wit humor to add a note of levity to any situation, he reveled in sharing his wealth of knowledge and wisdom when presented with the opportunity; often with a corny joke and gleam in his eye to make you laugh. He was a ready volunteer, participating in numerous programs throughout the schools, church, Masonic and ringing Salvation Army Bells each Christmas. His civic spirit exemplified a life of dedication and service to improving the lives of others. As a Christian with unwavering beliefs, Don was an active member of First Lutheran Evangelical Church in Barberton where he served in many capacities for over 50 years; including as a multi-time past President, Council member, Music and Worship committee, and Confirmation and Sunday school teacher. He also attended Johnson United Methodist Church and First Baptist Church in Barberton in his youth. Don was a dedicated Mason throughout his life beginning in the 1950’s a 65 year member. He was a Charter Member of the Barberton Order of DeMolay, Chevalier, Legion of Honor, Life Member and Past Dad Advisor. His membership continued with Barberton Lodge #750 Free and Accepted Masons, where he attained title of Worshipful Master in 2009, and then Past Master. Portage Chapter #202 Royal Arch Masons, Akron Council #80 Royal Select Masons, Cuyahoga Falls #83 Knights of the Templar, Valley of Akron Scottish Rite where he was a 32 Degree Mason, Grand Lodge of Ohio 50 year Mason, New Franklin Lodge #803, A.A.S.R and Eastern Star. Childhood summers were spent at his grandparents, John A., and Hazel McDonough’s (nee Hughes), farm in Franklin, Pennsylvania. This wonderful experience instilled in him a love of simple country living. Here, he enjoyed listening to his spirited grandfather, a tenor, sing hymns at various local churches, thereby learning the importance and art of bridge building. He knew his great-grandmother Mary Hogue, and participated in sing-a-longs around the piano at different family member homes. He is related to many families in the region. He is a direct descendent of a minimum of two Scottish families by his grandparents Laura Blair and James C. Murrey, and great-grandfathers, David Blair, and James L. Murrey. His expansive (Murrey, Murry) family from the Caldwell, Cambridge, Freeport Central OH area caravanned west from Maryland in the mid-1800’s along with the Bond and Brower families; his immediate Blair family arrived in Central Ohio, after his grandfather departed on horseback from the family homestead in Pennsylvania and arrived in Ohio. Both families were church leaders, early church planters and Sunday school teachers.Don’s greatest joy in life was his family where he motivated and instilled an excitement to learn to his children. His house was often a 3-ring creative musical circus, and collaborative think tank of neat projects, of which he either instigated or rallied to support. He enjoyed nature hikes and boating with his family, history, science, culture, fine music performances, animals (particularly dogs), and participating in various golf leagues; it was his great joy to watch the successes of his grandchildren receive many military, golf and academic awards. He loved to travel, whether exploring country roads, mountain ranges, cultural hot-spots, and escorting his grandchildren to his favorite historical destination Williamsburg, along with visiting national parks and presidential museums; he was often found planning a next educational family adventure. He and Nancy also were able to enjoy several cruises and spent many winters in Florida, where there are plentiful golf courses. Outstanding Educator Don’s passion for education was evident throughout his life. A graduate of Kent State University with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education, and a Master of Science in Education Administration from The University Akron, he and his wife Nancy shared a genuine love and concern for teaching children. His innate quality to inspire and motivate students made learning fun and instilled a can-do confidence in them. Today, people may refer to his educational style as that of a country educator, upholding traditional values. Coventry students may readily recall his storytelling, including his favorite traditional reading of “The Night Before Christmas” around the schools live Christmas tree. Also, the many creative costumes he donned for Halloween festivities and parade, each designed by his talented wife. Don’s teaching career began in 1957 in the Barberton School District, where he taught at Santrock Elementary School, and coached basketball and tennis. He then served in the Coventry School District in Akron, OH (Portage Lakes), as an administrator since 1966 where he was a principal at Cottage Grove Elementary School, Lakeview Elementary School, and Turkeyfoot Elementary School. He also served for many years as Title 1 Director and Elementary Curriculum Director. After retiring, he returned as interim principal at several Coventry schools. His accolades include the Administrative Leadership Award, Martha Holdings Jennings Foundation in 1980, and the Outstanding Educator of the Year Award in 1988 from the Turkeyfoot School, Parent-Teacher Association (PTA), the Summit County PTA, District 13, and the PTA Ohio State Level Recognition at Columbus, Ohio. The Ohio Senate and House of Representatives also recognized him for his contributions to excellence in teaching and education. He stated, “I prefer the role of helping people, and the nomination represents the efforts of a lot of people.” He strongly endorsed and encouraged parent participation in the school process as key to helping a child gain a successful education. “If you have good staff and parents, you are going to have a good school. And you need those ingredients to have a good school,” he said. He received a subsequent nomination for a Phoebe Apperson Hearst award, a function of the William Randolph Hearst Foundation. Don retired from Coventry with over 32 years of service in education. For the next 17 years, he served as Supervisor of Student Teaching for The University of Akron, where he enjoyed visiting many schools to mentor new teachers; all while managing to sneak in lunches with his grandson Austin. He was a life member of the Ohio Education association, and the Ohio and Summit County Retired Teachers’ Association. He is preceded in death by his parents James G. Murray and Leown Murray (nee McDonough) of Portage Lakes, Akron, Ohio; he is survived by his loving wife of 60 years Nancy K. Murray (nee Artinger), daughter, Sherri Murray; son, Christopher Murray (Jennifer); son, Donald Murray; daughter, Lisa Griffith (Cliff); his beloved grandchildren, Brandon, Austin and Alea; sister Marianne; 8 nieces and nephews; many cousins, and close family friends.Don will be deeply missed by his family, friends, and the people he impacted throughout his life. His legacy of compassion, dedication, and commitment to serve will continue to inspire generations to come.The family will receive friends from 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, December 3rd, 2023 with both Traditional and Masonic Services to immediately follow at Campfield Hickman Collier Funeral Home, Inc., 566 W. Park Avenue., Barberton, Ohio. A private burial for the family will take place on Monday, December 4th, 2023 at Lakewood Cemetery, 1080 W. Waterloo Rd., Akron, Ohio. Pastors’ Erik Swanson and Paul Schanz of First Lutheran Church of Barberton will officiate the service.
Citations:
“Murray Honored Educator” The Suburbanite, Tuesday, April 12, 1988
Hall, Ken “Turkeyfoot Principal is Top Educator”, The Portage Lakes Herald,
April, 26, 1988.

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