Rita (Sullivan) Murphy
CASPER - Rita (Sullivan) Murphy joined the Heavenly hosts on Sunday morning, October 10, 2021, enveloped by her children. Rita Murphy crossed from earth to eternity. Born in Casper, Wyoming on August 21, 1929, Rita Murphy was 92 when she passed. What a 92 years they were!
Who of you heard her soft voice? Who of you were touched by her kindness, her soft hands, her loving embrace? Were not each of you comforted when she held us, bandaged our physical wounds, when she wiped away every tear, when she told us we were loved, when we saw – in Rita's face and bearing – Christ himself? And not just her 12 children and family. Everyone. The lonely. The forsaken. The downtrodden. The helpless. And especially the homeless. Each and all. Did we not become better ourselves from knowing and being loved by Rita?
Rita's parents were Charles and Marie (Gerber) Sullivan. Rita was the oldest and the last surviving of the five children, Alice Swinson (Albert); Charles "Uncle Izzy" Sullivan (Karen); John Sullivan (Virginia); and George Sullivan (Marlene). She was also loved and supported by her brother-in-law, Father Donald J. Murphy, S.J. and sister-in-law, Mary Murphy Munn (John).
Rita graduated from Natrona County High School in 1947, then completed her three-year nursing program at St. Joseph's School of Nursing in Denver, Colorado in 1950. The nuns at St. Joseph's quickly and wisely made Rita the "head nurse" on 5th floor medical.
A young Casper physician, Dr. Joseph Murphy, asked Rita on a first date to the "Regis Ball" in the Spring of 1950. But Dr. Joe was then called up to the Korean War. Upon his return to Denver in 1952, he asked others: "Is Rita Sullivan still in Denver?" Hearing that she was, Dr. Joe called Ms. Rita Sullivan: "Rita, this is Joe Murphy. Do you remember me?" "Indeed, I do," Rita replied.
With these words, history changed.
Rita and Joe married on October 24, 1953 at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Denver, then spent two honeymoon nights at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs for $16.50/night. Rita then had 12 children – no twins! – from 1954 to 1970, returning with Dr. Joe and their three oldest children to Casper in 1957, where she had "nine more." Together, they established "3200 Hawthorne Avenue" as a safe harbor where friends, family and strangers would be nurtured. Always under Rita's care.
Blessed by an inner and outer beauty and elegance, with tranquility admired by all, Rita suffered life's greatest tragedy – the sudden deaths of her college daughters, Michelle and Rita – in a Nebraska blizzard on I-80 as they returned to Notre Dame from Christmas break. When family and friends flocked to 3200 Hawthorne to console Rita, Rita instead consoled them. "Heaven," Rita said, "needed two more angels," and her faith in God never wavered. Make no mistake: Rita Murphy was all of our rock. Still is. At Sunday morning Masses in the '60's and 70's, it was a joy for us, her children, to listen to her beautiful voice and tussle with each other to "sit next to Mom."
Rita Murphy is, and will forever be, "Mom." Trusting everyone, she was each of our wingman. Her touch? Pure gold. Her children's friends – even the occasional mean ones! – adored Rita Murphy. How did she make every meal look effortless? How did she know where every stray sock and left shoe were ten minutes before 8:00 Sunday Mass? How was she as beautiful and stunning at midnight as she was at 6:00 am (after doing 20 loads of laundry, cooking, cleaning, supporting and loving)? And how she cared for her aging parents and aunts, priests, nuns, and total strangers – while wrangling and doing everything for her husband and 12 children – is unfathomable. Rita made each of us feel liked she loved only us.
The kindness and forgiveness Rita extended to all is her legacy. So is the suffering she graciously and stoically endured. With peace and equanimity she bore all sorrow, all suffering. God has carried her straight to Heaven.
Rita's loving husband of fifty years, Dr. Joe Murphy, predeceased Rita in 2004 (as did her daughters, Michelle and Rita, in 1983).
Rita is survived by ten children: Pat (Lori); Mary Ann Hogsett (Harry Durham); Don (Sue); Kevin (Julie); Mark (Elena); Sheila Winstanley (Dean); Kathleen Finch (Marty); Maureen; Rob (Katy); and Anne Thorpen (Jim). Rita is also survived by twenty-nine grandchildren, seventeen great-grandchildren, and numerous nieces and nephews. Rita was especially close to her lifelong friend, Mary Loutas. They loved and supported each other daily.
After Dr. Joe passed, Rita married a fellow St. Anthony's parishioner and friend, Don Galles, on December 29, 2005. Don's wife, Ann, had also recently died, and Don and Rita shared 12 wonderful years together. We, Rita's children, are grateful for Don Galles and his children: Tom Galles (Susie); Dave Galles (Becky); Dona Shockey (Gary); Laura Claunch (Don); Karla Dundas (Dave); and Jeff Galles (Teresa).
The Vigil Service with recitation of the Holy Rosary will be at 7:30 pm on Friday, October 15, at St. Patrick's Catholic Church. Family and friends are welcome to gather at 6:30 – 7:30 Friday evening in the church before the Rosary. Mass of the Resurrection will be celebrated by Father Kevin Burke, S.J. at 11:00 am on Saturday, October 16, at St. Patrick's Church, with Rita's burial to follow at Highland Cemetery, immediately followed by a reception hosted by Rita's children at St. Anthony's Tri-Parish School.
Donations in Rita's memory can be made to St. Anthony's Tri-Parish School or to Central Wyoming Hospice and Transitions, or the charity of your choice.