By Bob Balgemann


Township government, history, city government, young people, Republican politics, the elderly, community events, and more: Many aspects of life in Boone County were touched in a positive way by Patrick Murphy, who died unexpectedly Friday, Sept. 16 at age 67. He was the Belvidere Township supervisor at the time of his passing.

He went by “Pat” and was an integral part of the township’s ongoing success after being appointed to carry on what had been done by the late Robert Turner, who also died in office after 28 years in the position.

There were many ways in which the township grew under his leadership. Much of the progress took place at bimonthly township board meetings, out of the spotlight.

Murphy would talk about that progress when prompted. However, he was eager to expound on the importance of serving young people and how that was one of the primary missions of the township.

The Flaming Monkeys were his pride and joy, and he particularly enjoyed reminiscing about that Boone County 4-H robotics club.

About four years ago, members had outgrown the residential garage space they occupied since their beginning. The search for a new home came to Murphy’s attention, and before long, the Monkeys had taken up residence on the lower level of the township building at 8200 Fairgrounds Road.

Later, a robotics club for middle school-age boys and girls, the Atomic Chimps, joined the Monkeys on one side of the basement.

An alumnus of the program, Jack Jenkins, 20, wrote this on his Facebook page: “We lost a fantastic person today. Patrick Murphy was one of the kindest and most genuine people that I have ever met in my life. He has given more to the community than many ever will. R.I.P., Patrick, you will be sorely missed by many.”

Club co-founders Dee and Mike Sternhagen and Matt Jenkins stated: “Patrick was a great man and a wonderful asset to Boone County 4-H Robotics. He was considered by all to be part of the Flaming Monkeys family, and his loss was felt very deeply by all.”


Dee said she first met Murphy in 2012 when the club conducted a presentation at a Belvidere Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

“At the time, the Flaming Monkeys were the only robotics team in the county and our workspace was my house,” she recalled. “After the presentation, Patrick approached me and introduced himself, and expressed his interest in what we were doing and how impressed he was with the students who presented that day. After learning the team was building [robots] in my home, he seemed to immediately make it a priority to find us legitimate build space. Within three months, Patrick had secured us space in the Belvidere Township building. Without this huge commitment to our team, our growth into four teams covering elementary through high school-aged students may not have occurred.”

That dedication to the club never waned.

“Patrick was always trying to find new and inventive ways to our assist our program,” Dee said.

Murphy liked to promote the Flaming Monkeys, “which I personally witnessed on countless occasions,” she said.  “Anytime we were together, he would introduce me to everyone he knew and tried to get a conversation about the Flaming Monkeys started. A perfect example of this was just two weeks ago, while Patrick was in the hospital. I stopped to see him and during our conversation, he was asking his nurse if she had heard of us and encouraging her to check us out. Patrick lauded our team at the state capital and encouraged both state and U.S. congressmen from the area to support our organization as well.”


YMCA scholarships

Murphy’s dedication to youth was felt at the Belvidere Family YMCA, through the Belvidere Township Youth Recreation Scholarship Program, which began in September 2014 and continues today.

Jen Jacky, executive director of the Y, said the program was an example of his being “dedicated to being sure the youth of Boone County have all possible opportunities.”

Qualified youngsters are able to participate in programs on a sliding scale rate, with the township picking up the balance of the cost. So far, the scholarships, which vary in amount, have helped 45 children, she said.

She, like others, remained in shock Sept. 19 over his death the weekend before.

“I talked to him Monday [Sept. 12], and he was in awesome spirits,” she said. “He was an advocate for the community and the YMCA.”

Longtime township trustee Bill Robertson said he was stunned by Murphy’s passing. They worked together when Pat was on the board and throughout his almost two full terms as supervisor.

“He was just a great guy and did a great job for the township,” Robertson said. “No one expected it. He had some medical issues, but we thought he had resolved them. In fact, he ran the meeting last Tuesday [Sept. 13].”

Now the board is faced with appointing someone to replace him.

“That will be tough,” Robertson said. “We have to find out what to do next.”

Ironically, that’s how Murphy became supervisor. He was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Robert L. Turner, who died in office May 22, 2008, after serving 28 years. He was elected the following year and re-elected in 2013. His current term expires in 2017.

He was revered around the office he occupied for those eight-plus years. It was open Monday; both employees were in a state of shock.

“He never failed to say how much he appreciated us,” his longtime assistant, Terri Bullard, said. “He had a huge heart.”

Even while in the hospital earlier in the week, he sent them flowers, which remained on their desks. Now they’re “trying to figure out how to move forward,” she said.


Other service

Service to the township wasn’t Murphy’s only involvement in the community.

He was first elected to the Belvidere City Council May 1, 1985. Four years later, he was appointed acting mayor, to complete the term of then Mayor Terry Gratz.

“Pat Murphy was a tireless cheerleader for Belvidere and Boone County, serving numerous organizations with dedication and enthusiasm,” said current mayor, Mike Chamberlain. “Pat never met a stranger … his love of conversation is a legend. He will be missed.”

Until recently, he served as chairman of the Boone County Republican Party Central Committee and was a lifetime member of the county Republican Club. He continued as Belvidere Precinct I committeeman.

The current GOP chairman, Owen Costanza, said he knew Murphy for more than 20 years.

“He was a colleague in the insurance industry and also in politics,” Costanza said. “Pat served on many boards, volunteered when and wherever he could. He has given a lot of support and advice over the years. His loss to the community will be felt deeply, whether at political functions or the [county] fair, which he attended and volunteered at many booths. Pat was a true patriot; his office at the township and personal sacrifice reflected that [with] many pictures and memorabilia of the Republican Party; a big fan of Abraham Lincoln.”

History was a favorite subject of his, and he put that interest to work by serving as vice president of the Boone County Historic District. He was a key participant in the recent 6,000-square-foot addition to the downtown museum, which was feted at an open house Dec. 6, 2014.

The $1.4-million project was sparked by $500,000 in donations.

Additional examples of community service are his participation in the Great American Clean-up and the annual chili cook-off at the downtown community building.

The township family was stunned by his death.

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