It was late in the morning on Tuesday, July 17th and I was driving through our neighborhood in Imperial Oaks and then on to Oak Ridge. Nothing too special about the day – just the area at its best with the sun shining, children splashing around the local pools and people waving to me that I don’t know. “The Wave” is something I’ve learned to enjoy here as although I grew up in a pretty area of Connecticut, you’d never get the wave from people you don’t know. Yep, it was another beautiful day here that exudes life.
However, later in the day as the sun was going down, there would be a tragedy that would literally rock the core of this otherwise quiet area. Many of us started receiving texts, emails and phone calls regarding the tragic and unexpected death of one of our beloved members of the Oak Ridge community whose impact would be felt by so many and literally crush the spirit of so many young boys he called, “Friend”. A piece of our hearts would be lost in the furor over the seemingly senseless death of William Montgomery Murray, age 21.
Will grew up in Oak Ridge and attended Oak Ridge High School where he was a standout pitcher for the War Eagles and Coach Stacy Scheiner. I remember a day a few years back when Will shined more than he ever had wearing the Oak Ridge royal blue. When Oak Ridge defeats The Woodlands in anything, it is a huge deal because it just doesn’t happen very often.
Speaking with Ryan Bonnot, who pitched for The Woodlands that infamous game, he said that Will was fearless. Will gave it everything he had to help the team come out the victors against their rivals, the Highlanders. I overheard Will telling his teammates that he knew he made his family proud that day as it was a dream of his to finally beat this team. The crowd was cheering Will and his teammates and the stands were filled with ecstatic fans. More than a few parents, coaches and players could be seen with tears of joy in their eyes.
Will showed his true spirit when he was surrounded by his teammates. It was a moment in time that teammates don’t ever forget. Sometimes, people don’t seem to understand the bond that is developed between teammates at not only the high school level, but even lower levels. Teammates share in these glorious times forever!
A few of Will’s closest friends, which is hard to say as he had so many, gave eulogies at the funeral that were truly heartfelt and touching. Moses Molina spoke of Will’s “Big Hugs”. Baseball secured many of the boys relationships, but was really just a part of who Will Murray was. Moses reached out to the congregation and blinded by tears said, “You are only as good as the person beside you. God bless you, God love you, look next to you and embrace the love you feel right now as we honor Will. Moses then commented on something very important their Coach (Stacy Scheiner) said to them a few years back… Don’t ever forget to tell the ones you love how much you love them.”
Michael Molina, in a very emotional speech, so eloquently said, “Will lived the life of an 81 year old at 21 years young.” Baseball offered the support that Will never stopped giving as a teammate, a friend and a mentor. Will was a great friend and all our happy times are now a memory but I will always cherish those times in my heart. Now swimming upstream, our memories are cherished and can never be taken from any one of us. Bonded by love, the wonderful friendships Will made will be forever.”
Preston Gustavsen spoke of one of Will’s many love’s in life, fishing. Although Preston, was at the bad side of being hooked by Will on occasion, he loved Will’s laugh and how he sang loudly and how special a person and friend he really was to everyone he called, “friend”. Once a friend, always a friend, always had your back and the camaraderie that existed was unbreakable. Some of the lessons Preston mentioned that he learned from Will was how giving, adoring and athletic he was, and knowing it was a gift from God. He trusted God, and one day committed that trust to love. Will never wasted an opportunity to have fun and made everyone around him join in.
Darrell Abke, willfully and endearingly offered his insights into the spirit of Will. He jokingly said how every time Will would call, he’d say simply, “talk to me”. “It made me smile every time I heard his voice.” He endearingly, and tearfully said goodbye to Will, simply by saying,”I miss him so much and God bless Will Murray.”
Stevyn Rivera stated how the world was a better place with Will Murray in it. It was an honor to be the one to pull Will out of the river and touch his face for what would be the last time.” He added a little levity to the proceedings by jokingly talking about their baseball positions. Stevyn said they would always argue about who was really the pitcher and who was really the catcher.
William Montgomery Murray had an uncanny ability to reach out to people, always in a positive manner. He truly lived life to the fullest through simple pleasures- always being surrounded by family and friends, fishing with friends every chance he got and the way he played baseball, all heart and simply put, “For the Love of the Game”.
We will miss you Will, but you will always be a part of our lives.
For those few who missed out on the funeral… not sure how because it was SRO at Oak Ridge Baptist Church. The funeral was led by the Reverend Floyd Hoke and Youth Minister Neal Matthews. Reverend Hoke gave the opening words and Reverend Matthews handled the rest of the proceedings. Both were awesome and Matthews would do well to moonlight as a comedian. He kept us light and he kept us smiling with tears.
Tom, Janelle, James, TJ, and Sam, we thank you for giving us the opportunity as a community to say our good-byes to our beloved friend, Will. You and those close to you have endured quite the rough ride these last nine months, as it was that long ago that TJ came up missing.
Last week, in watching KHOU’s report on Will and also TJ’s not having been found, Will’s oldest brother, James was interviewed and displayed serious strength describing the Murray’s feelings and that God would carry them through these rough times. James will most assuredly be God’s right hand man.
Saying good-bye to loved ones is always a heart-wrenching experience, but somehow the support of family and friends makes it a little easier. We can begin to turn our mourning and grieving into remembrance. Remembrance of the happy times and special memories in Will’s life that we have to celebrate. The fond memories spoken of today at this celebration of life will be valued, cherished and never forgotten. They will remain in all our hearts, forever.
I think Will would want you to read the following lyrics by Ce Ce Winans and live by their touching words. There are things that cannot be fixed, but maybe someday we will have a better understanding of the death of Will Murray.
“Here we are again, that old familiar place
When the wind will blow, no one ever knows the time or space
Don’t cry for me, don’t shed a tear.
The time I’ve shared with you will ALWAYS be
And when I’m gone still carry on, don’t cry for me
No one is to blame, my death was meant to be
Don’t carry guilt or shame, the reason why I came soon you’ll see
Don’t cry for me
Don’t shed a tear
The time I’ve shared with you will always be
And when I’m gone, please carry on, don’t cry for me
Dont cry when life is not the joy it should be
With life comes pain
Soon time will end its cause appointed
Then you will be rewarded and all the world will see
Don’t cry for me, don’t shed a tear, the time I’ve shared with you will always be
And when I’m gone life still carries on
Don’t cry for me…
We’d like to thank all the members of the community for their support and especially Laura Diller for coordinating all the meals. Pit Master BBQ, PF Chang’s, Tewbeleaux’s and Stir Crazy for the food donations and their continuous support of the Oak Ridge community.
Tom and Janelle Murray and their family wish to thank all of their friends and the people in our community that have shown them kindness and love through this difficult time.
By Maura McMahon-Steinman and Doug Sarant