Edna’s parents moved to Worthington, Ind., before she was 3 years old after they purchased a farm outside of town. Her father, Calvin, raised hogs, sheep, cows and also some corn and soybeans. She was an only child and her closest friend, her cousin Mary Ellen, lived roughly 10 miles away where her Uncle Tommy’s farm was. She and Mary Ellen remained close until Mary Ellen’s death in 2006. As a child, Edna’s only friends or companions were the baby sheep that she would nurture to health when they were born small or weak.
She collected the eggs from the chicken coop early in the morning and did other typical chores as a child around her father’s farm. She often described life on the farm as tough, saying just to go to town in the winter they would have to heat up bricks in the fireplace and wrap them to keep their feet warm in the buggy on the long ride into town for supplies and necessities.
Edna’s mother, Minnion, worked hard around the farm and at restaurants sometimes to help ends meet. Minnion suffered a brain aneurysm, when Edna was 15 and recovering from an illness, after she grabbed a cold pitcher of water to get her daughter a drink, and passed away almost instantly. Needless to say, this was very hard on Edna, and her father, wanting her to have a future, later sent her away to Indianapolis for elocution lessons.
Edna learned to play the piano, sing and dance. She could play the piano by ear, and loved to play “Momma’s little baby loves shortening, shortening; Momma’s little baby loves shortening bread” to the children when they were small as they sat on her lap or on the piano bench next to her. She often times did this when the children were ill or not feeling well, to cheer them up. She continued to play piano into her 90s; all you had to do was make a request and she would figure it out by ear and be playing it before long.
Later, after graduating from high school at the age of 15 and completing the elocution lessons, Edna attended Indiana University, graduating in 1936, and then embarked on a teaching degree. She taught English and reading skills in high school for over 38 years before retiring. A large part of her teaching career took place at Chrispus Attucks in Indianapolis, a famous all-African American High School, where she was regarded highly by the students and parents in the community.
Around 1979, her husband, Arthur E. Murphy Jr., a deputy attorney general in Indiana and successful attorney, became ill with cancer. Edna went back to work at Fort Benjamin Harrison at the Defense Finance Accounting Service (DFAS) after her husband’s illness and worked as an administrative assistant for 25 more years. Arthur recovered and returned to practicing law in his own legal practice on the south side of Indianapolis, where he was held in high regard for his honesty and integrity. Later the cancer returned, and after a long battle he passed away in December of 1984 on Christmas Eve, with his son at his side.
In 2005, the Defense Finance Accounting Service held a birthday celebration in her honor where the entire base stopped work and attended out of respect for her. Her son Art remembers standing next to her as people stood in line to see her. “The line went out of the room and all the way around the hallways; it took a couple of hours, she knew all the people, she could sign with the deaf, understood the mentally challenged and everybody didn’t just want a handshake, they wanted to hug her ... She gave a speech that had the audience mesmerized, I was sort of shocked, as she reminded them that some of them complain about having to go to training, she told them there didn’t used to be any training, especially safety training, and young men were killed all the time in construction accidents, so it is given to you for free, you should have more appreciation for it ... She went on to make many more important points in her speech ... The crowd gave her a standing ovation, I was so proud of her ... How she remembered with such clarity her entire speech and never looked down at her notes was just amazing.”
Edna continued to work at DFAS until she was 94 when she retired, becoming the oldest federal employee ever to work for the U.S. government. Her commendation plaque was sent to Moab, where it was presented to her by Department of Energy Federal Project Director Don Metzler and his deputy, Joel Berwick, here in Moab. Edna loved Moab, and made many friends during her five-year residency. She belonged to the library and was in a book club, took Xi-Gong classes and always got her hair done at Joe’s Beauti Terrace – she revered Joe.
Edna usually read at least one book a week, sometimes two. She was pretty tough to beat at “Jeopardy” or “Who Wants to be a Millionaire,” according to her son. “She’d answer questions that no one on the show knew quite often and we were always impressed.” Each night her son and his wife Theresa King Murphy would play her at both games, it became quite competitive. Edna once said, “it starts when Art gets home from work and asks me, well Mom are you ready to get your butt kicked in Jeopardy, and it was on!”
Even though Edna lived in Moab for only five years she touched a lot of people. Edna accompanied her daughter-in-law (Theresa King Murphy) to many a Moab event, theatre performance, concert or festival, and she would go out to eat and review local restaurants as to the softest of their seats. She just loved the people here in Moab. According to Art, “she always told me they reminded her of people from southern Indiana who are known for their hospitality and generosity.”
In lieu of flowers, please send any donations to the Grand County Public Library that she loved so much.
Edna is survived by her daughter, Penny Roberson, a very accomplished artist who resides in Westfield, Ind., daughter, Margaret Starks in Cincinnati, Ohio, a son, Arthur E. Murphy, who resides in Moab, and eight grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
A service will be held for Edna at the Spanish Valley Mortuary and Crematory, 386 North 100 West Moab, Friday, August 23, at 4 p.m.
Later, there will be a service in Indiana for Edna where people will come from far and wide to where her family and former co-workers and students all live. She was very well liked and respected so many are expected to attend.
Condolences may be sent to the family at www.SpanishValleyMortuary.com