Stories travel from Ellis Island to Admiral Byrd PDF Print E-mail
Written by By DAVID C. MILLER Sentinel-Tribune Editor   
Monday, 14 December 2009 12:16
Maria McMurray, who is turning 95 soon, talks to the Sentinel-Tribune's editor, David Miller, in an interiew at her home at Otterbein Portage Valley on October 21, 2009. (Photo: Aaron Carpenter/Sentinel-Tribune)
PEMBERVILLE - Maria McMurray can easily take a person back to long before the days of modern entertainment technology. Born in 1914, during the infancy of radio, she grew up in an era when "home entertainment" was the art of conversation.
Her skill at telling a story complements her amazing memory for details. Those details range from once interviewing Admiral Richard Byrd to the day almost 90 years ago when she and her mother entered the United States through Ellis Island.
Sandwiched in between being born in Transylvania and now, 95 years later, residing in an independent living apartment at Otterbein-Portage Valley north of Pemberville was a 71-year marriage to the love of her life, Carl McMurray, an Irishman with wavy red hair and beautiful blue eyes. But it was a marriage that almost didn't happen.
In a fit of anger with her fiance one cold day in Toledo, she threw her engagement ring in the snow and stormed off to a nearby candy store. Carl quickly found the ring, followed Maria into the store and emphatically told her "we're getting married tonight." Within a few hours they were in Bowling Green, where he paid a justice of the peace $5 to marry them.
They lived in an apartment in Toledo while he worked for his father. After Carl started his own business, they moved to Maumee, where they raised their five children.
Their spur-of-the-moment marriage ended her pursuit of a nursing career, but Maria has no regrets. The seven decades with Carl were more than worth it. Her eyes still well up with tears whenever she talks about Carl ... and those blue eyes of his, nearly two years after he died.
Her life could have taken many different paths before she ever met her husband.
Maria's father came alone to the United States when her mother was pregnant with her. Six years later, Maria and her mother arrived at Ellis Island on Oct. 23, 1920. As the run-down freighter on which they crossed the Atlantic Ocean approached Ellis Island she remembers "people rushing to the railing. They were all excited. My mother held me up to see" the Statue of Liberty. But at her age, she was more impressed with the summer sausage and orange everyone received at Ellis Island.
For the next six years she and her parents lived in a steel town, Midland, Pa. Then her parents died in a tragedy she prefers not to discuss.
She lived with several foster families and went to high school in Maumee (where she met Carl) before graduating from Wilkinsburg (Pa.) High School. She then returned to Northwest Ohio and entered St. Vincent's nursing school in Toledo.
It was as a high school newspaper reporter at Wilkinsburg that she got the opportunity to interview Admiral Byrd, the polar explorer. He would later send her post cards and periodically call her to find out how she was doing.
Another highlight of her life was watching on television (she usually only watches PBS) when Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon. "I was absolutely amazed. It was so mind boggling."
Maria also remembers once waving to famed aviator Charles Lindbergh when he drove past her school in Lincoln Place, Pa., shortly after his first solo flight across the Atlantic. A smiling Lindbergh waved back at her, she recalls.
Thinking back over her life, she regrets that the world has not learned anything from all of the wars in all those years. Too often she heard the false assertion that "this would be the last war."
She had a very personal interest in one of the wars - the Vietnam War. Both of her sons served in Vietnam at the same time.
Many of the wars could have been avoided, she said, "if people would just talk to each other.

"McMurray's memoirs
Maria McMurray is starting to fulfill a long-standing request from her five children - to write her life story, beginning with her birth on Oct. 23, 1914 in Transylvania.
The Sentinel-Tribune intends to publish parts of her memoirs once she has completed them.

Last Updated on Monday, 14 December 2009 12:46

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