Spencer McMurray

Died: Mon., Jan. 26, 2015

Celebration of Life

Sat., Jan. 31, 2015
Location: Burns High School

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Music by The Piano Brothers

Spencer McMurray, 76 died at home surrounded by his loving family on Monday, January 26, 2015.  A Rosary will be held Friday, January 30, 2015 at 6:00 p.m. at Holy Family Catholic Church.   A Celebration of Life Service will be held on Saturday, January 31, 2015 at the Burns High School Cafeteria from 2 - 4 p.m.

Spencer was born Oct. 20, 1938, in Burns to James Nathan McMurray and Sybil Veronica (Svihovec) McMurray. He was raised in a close-knit environment, with his sister, Jeri, and enjoyed spending time outdoors, an activity he carried throughout life and passed on to many others. He enjoyed spending time with his niece, Peni, and nephews, Richard and Mike, until he joined the Army in 1960. After his discharge in 1961, he met and married Shirley Gregg. After marrying, the couple moved to Boise Idaho, where he found work as a delivery man in the Coca-Cola factory, and where his first child, Jeri Rae was born Sept. 2, 1962. Shortly afterward, the young family moved to Klamath Falls for a brief stint before moving to Torrance Calif. in 1963.

While in California, Spencer held a variety of jobs to support his growing family that included Janice Lea, born Feb. 2, 1964, James Nathan, born Dec. 15, 1968, and Jonathan Lee, born May 31, 1970. Spence worked at a furniture factory, a trailer manufacturing company, and for the U.S. Postal Service as a letter carrier. The family then moved to Fort Jones, Calif. in 1971, and to Medford in 1972, where he completed a teaching degree at Southern Oregon University. This led him home to Harney County and a teaching job in the one-room schoolhouse at Lawen. One year proved to be enough of education (at least formally), and Spencer worked for the Forest Service, Edward Hines Lumber Company, and making maps for Mark Palmer Surveying until he settled in at the Harney County Road Department, from which he retired in 1998. In addition, he spent many hours painting and teaching that trade to many an apprentice. Though he was demanding of his help, his drive created a cadre of painters who knew what to do with a brush and roller.

His retirement was much like the rest of his life, busy and full of activity and life. He spent many hours outdoors, fishing and hunting, practicing catch-and-release in both pursuits, though it was much more difficult with the latter; so he practiced more of a “hunt and not shoot” philosophy. His love of fishing was painfully evident in the fact that he rarely drove by a fish hatchery without a pit stop to enjoy a respite on the trip. He passed on this love of fishing to all his children, in varying degrees, and to many other people, young and old alike. He also passed on his love and compassion for animals to all his children. This was evident in the time he spent feeding squirrels and hummingbirds, while manning a lookout for the BLM in his retirement.

In addition to spending time on recreational pursuits and animals, he spent many hours as an official on the basketball court and baseball field, most often serving as an on-field coach, as well as an official. When he felt his vision and speed were getting too slow for the pace of sports, he switched to being an avid observer of youth and high school sports. If he wasn’t fishing, he was likely watching a group of young people toss about one kind of ball or another. This love of sports transcended the local area, and created a long-time love affair with the Oregon State Beavers.

In addition to officiating and watching sports, Spencer spent many an hour playing and coaching youth in the area. He spent countless hours playing pick-up softball games in Hines Park with countless numbers of kids and adults alike. He ran an open gym basketball game at Lincoln Junior High for years, both of which will be remembered quite fondly by a large group of people to this day. His commitment to his family, children, in-laws, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and “adopted” alike, was nearly unparalleled. His courage, sense of humor and ability to tell a great story and bawdy joke will be missed by a great many people.

Spencer is survived by his wife of 53 years, Shirley; children, Jeri, and her husband, Carl Hauth, of Corvallis, Janice Sloan and her partner, Tom Walsh of Salem, Jay McMurray and his wife, Delly, of Baker City, and Jon McMurray and his wife, Michele, of Fossil; grandchildren, Katie Hauth of Australia, Ryan Hauth of New Orleans, Zach Hauth of Corvallis, Ashley McMurray of Baker City, and Max, Maddie and Molly McMurray of Fossil.

He was preceded in death by his mother and father; sister, Jeri; nephew, Michael Banks, and many dear friends.

Spencer was cremated, with a request to spread his ashes in some of his favorite places, such as his parents’ homestead at Poison Creek, his cabin at Whitney, and the Blitzen River near Frenchglen.

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