When they imagine having an impact on future generations and how they will be remembered in the future, people often think of parenting children. But as these interviews from Erie, Pennsylvania show, there are many ways to leave a legacy.
Jim Murray and his son Bob Murray came to the MobileBooth to talk about Father Bob, Jim’s older brother and a devoted priest. Jim and Father Bob are the two youngest sons in an Irish-Catholic family of five boys, all with big personalities. The other brothers became engineers, attorneys, and insurance partners, but Father Bob knew from the age of nine that he’d become a priest.
Jim recalled, “He was never a pastor…He was quiet. If we were in a room, and if there were thirty people in that room, I’d go around and meet thirty people and I’d remember who they were and where they were from. But if there were two people in that room that were hurting, and one was thinking about suicide, somehow they would talk to Father Bob. And he would make them feel better about themselves.”
Father Bob’s life was cut short by sickness when he was just in his 40s, and Jim named his son after him. Jim explained, “He did his best. In a quiet way. And sometimes in our society we forget that to be quiet, to have inner peace, to have inner strength-that that’s what should be admired in our society. And I’m not knocking our society, it’s a great society, but sometimes there are people that see life in a different vision than we do, and it’s healthier than the way we look at it.”
When they were young, Emma Lee McCloskey and her brothers had a babysitter, Lillian. To Emma Lee, she was more than a babysitter. “I don’t think that would be the term I’d use. She was so much more than that.” Throughout Emma Lee’s childhood, Lillian would take her on walks around the Erie cemetery and down the street to spend time with elderly neighbors.
Years later, Emma Lee was a single parent with a son of her own, and Lillian cared for him as well. She took Brad on walks similar to those she’d taken with Emma Lee. Both Emma Lee and Brad remember the cemetery filled with tulips, and the PB&Js that Lillian would make, using more jelly than anyone else would consider. They also both remember the day she was hit by a truck in a terrible accident. Emma Lee and Brad were with Lillian through her recovery, through the sickness that ensued, and through her death in a nursing home.
Emma Lee recalled, “I know that between the two of us and all the people she impacted through her long life, and the way she didn’t dominate but allowed other people to come forth…she taught us by her heart and her caring spirit that one becomes family by being family. And that’s what she was to us.”
Bruce Morton Wright, director of the Erie Chamber Orchestra and Erie Opera Theater, is widely credited with jump-starting Erie’s strong music community. A lesser known fact is that Erie’s music community was also backed by a behind-the-scenes benefactor.
One day 30 years ago, Clarence E. Beyers strolled into Bruce’s pick-up orchestra holding a duct-taped viola case. Bruce didn’t know it at the time, but Clarence was a visionary, and would slowly make his vision a reality. Bruce explained, “Clarence’s dream was to have an organization that could provide quality performances for the community but free of charge: to break down that barrier.”
Unprompted, Clarence began to fund-and continued to fund for decades-Erie’s free music programs, gradually establishing an entire season of free orchestra and opera performances in Erie. And he did all this without seeking acknowledgment.
“Now, Clarence was a special man. There are very few people that I have ever met that want to support something without anybody knowing that they had…He didn’t want to have his picture taken, take bows, or anything whatsoever,” Bruce said. Over the years, Erie’s music community flourished. “But if it weren’t for that individual,” Bruce explained, “that Mr. Beyers, that Clarence, that person that walked in with that viola with that duct tape keeping that case closed, if it hadn’t been for that input, that generosity to get us started, we wouldn’t be here. And I just hope that this community takes a moment to appreciate what he did for it.”
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