New Milford native turns 108
A New Milford resident celebrated her 108th birthday yesterday (Thursday).
Dorothy (Keifer) Murphy was born in town and has lived all but a short time in town, making her likely the oldest New Milford resident who was born in town.
A party to celebrate her life will be held Aug. 17 at 4 p.m. at the Ohmen Pavilion at Harrybrooke Park & Harden House Museum off Still River Drive.
The public is invited, with guests asked to bring a dessert or snack to share.
“She’s quite the character and has a sense of humor,” said Nancy Carlson, Murphy’s great-niece who resides in Gaylordsville.
Several years back, Murphy showcased her spirit while recovering from surgery at a skilled care facility. While there, she refused to eat in the main dining area, claiming everyone was “too old,” Carlson related, noting her great-aunt was the oldest one there.
Murphy remains active to this day, with weekly trips to get her nails and hair done. She also dines out with her companion-caregiver several times a week.
In her elder years, she attended UCONN Husky games, where she was seen on the jumbotron and received pom poms from the cheerleaders. She met Daryl Strawberry at Faith Church in town.
“People know who she is,” Carlson said.
Murphy was born Aug. 8, 1911, in a house on Grove Street. The house was located near the Booth House but has since burned down.
She was one of three children, growing up with brothers Melville, Carlson’s grandfather, and Clifford. Clifford and Murphy never had children.
“We can’t say she didn’t have children, though,” Carlson said, describing how Murphy opened her arms and home, offering steady guidance and love to Carlson and other family members throughout the years when challenges arose.
Carlson has fond memories of her time with Murphy, with whom she developed a strong bond from a young age.
Two weeks after Carlson was born, her mother needed surgery. Her father was unable to care for her due to his health, so Murphy took Carlson in.
“From that point on, we bonded,” Carlson said.
Over the years, Murphy walked Carlson to school in the center of town and bought Carlson her first bike and car.
“In my childhood, we’d sit on her front porch, which was screened in, and watch the cars go by,” Carlson recalled. “She’d say, ‘Every year there are more cars than I can count.’”
That sentiment is understandable. Murphy grew up riding in a buggy.
She attended school in the center of town and went to college, graduating from what is now Western Connecticut State University in Danbury.
In her younger years, she worked at the movie theater — where silent movies were screened — that was situated on the second floor of the building across from the present movie theater on Bank Street, according to Carlson.
She also worked for the government during war time, handing out coupons for meat.
Carlson said Murphy once told her actor Fredric March, who lived in town, came by to get a coupon and asked if he could get extra. Murphy reminded him he was only entitled to the same amount as others.
In addition to her work during the war and at the movie theater, Murphy was also a kindergarten teacher for a short time.
In her later years, she was secretary for the late Rev. Russ Ayre of the First Congregational Church in New Milford.
“She’s independent, very strong and was always for women’s rights and equality,” Carlson said, citing her great-aunt’s education, work and desire to learn to drive, which she did until she was 92.
Murphy was married for 63 years to William Murphy, who died in 1994.
Carlson said she has spent much time talking with her great-aunt, hearing stories of her past and the changes that have taken place, including with transportation, technology, education, women’s rights, civil rights and much more.
One story Murphy shared was her first experience with a motorcycle. When Murphy’s father declined to let her go with a young man who asked her to take a ride on a motorcycle, she made her own plans.
She met the man away from her house. Her adventure, though, was abruptly cut short when the bike got a flat tire, leaving Murphy to walk about three miles back home to her disappointed father, Carlson explained.