“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. - Mark Twain”
Mary Ellen Brown Murphy was born in Pittsburgh PA August 28, 1932. She was the first child of Helen and Charles Brown. Helen and Charlie were friends in Pittsburgh - Charlie, five years older than Helen, was a good friend of Helen's brother John - and their friendship turned into love. Their marriage was long and loving. Charles Senior died in 1966, age 80, and Helen at age 95 in 1987.They had two children, Mary Ellen, and then Charles, born 16 months later. Mary’s brother, Charles Brown Jr, died from multiple myeloma early in the morning of September 14, 2011.
A life-long Democrat, Mary began her public career in 1972, serving as the Ridgewood, NJ, volunteer chairwoman for George McGovern’s presidential campaign. Under her leadership, a team of dedicated people ran one of the most coordinated and visible campaigns in that usual Republican stronghold.
After the presidential race, the new Bergen County Democratic County Chairwoman, Barbara Werber, hired her, in 1973, to serve as Assistant Executive Director under Executive Director Loretta Weinberg, now State Assemblywoman and majority conference leader from the 37th district. This new team opened up the party membership and strengthened its grassroots participation.
After Mary ran an unsuccessful campaign for the party’s nomination for freeholder in 1978, the new county chairman, Vincent Rigolosi, chose her to be his executive director. They worked together to strengthen the party and to bring together all the local organizations.
Leaving party politics in 1980, Mary joined the development staff at Felician College in Lodi, and rose to Director of Development in 1983. A breast cancer operation ended her career at the college.
After her recovery, she was hired to be chief fundraiser for the John Harms Theater in Englewood, NJ.
While working there, she was approached, in 1985, by two old friends, Paul and Vickie Giblin, to help them set up a major fund raising event in memory of their little daughter, Colleen, who had tragically died early that year from an inoperable brain tumor at age 4. This volunteer effort led to the beginnings of a new non-profit foundation, The Colleen Giblin Foundation.
Mary worked out of Paul Giblin’s law office, with a typewriter, a phone and an index card file of donors and supporters. From that modest start, the Foundation grew to become one of the most established and successful organizations in the pediatric neurological non-profit field. A laboratory, named for Colleen, was begun at The Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City in 1994.
Mary retired from her position at the foundation in 1995, continuing as a consultant and advisor.
Another of Mary’s interests, web site design and development, keeps her busy and active. Among her award-winning sites is one dedicated to her mother, Helen Burrey Brown, who served in France in World War 1 as a Red Cross nurse. That site is now part of the Smithsonian Institute’s Great War materials. She has her own domain on the internet -- www.murphsplace.com. She also runs popular web sites for the actors Russell Crowe, Colin Firth, and Clive Owen, as well as for old favorites Sir Laurence Olivier, Sir Alec Guinness and Carol Lombard.
Through all her active life, Mary’s family has been her greatest joy, her mainstay and support. Married in 1961, she and her husband, Joe, a retired Senior Editing Manager in the McGraw Hill Book Company’s College Division, live in Ridgewood, NJ. Their grown children, Chris, and his wife, Elaine; Paul, and his wife, Kathy, and sons Sean and Charlie and daughter Julia; and Mary Beth, her husband Mark, son Griffin and twins, Bridget and Genevieve, live a short car drive away. Sadly, Mary’s husband Joe suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease and is now in a nursing home facility nearby.