By bike and bungee cord — but mostly by boat — Christopher Murphy ’88 loved to explore the world.
In the Woodbridge, Conn., home of Virginia and William Murphy ’50 LAW ’53 — the house Chris Murphy lived in from birth to college — his mother followed the same routine each time her youngest son called.
“Hello?” Virginia Murphy would answer.
“Hi Mom,” Murphy would say.
“Hi Chris,” Virginia Murphy would respond.
Then, before anything else, Virginia Murphy always had to ask, “Where are you?”
As she sat in Woodbridge — a small community with little more than a church, town hall, and a school — Virginia Murphy beamed with pride each time Murphy called to tell her about his current adventure.
He bungee jumped in Australia, sailed the Great Coral Reef among sharks, biked across France, and raced a boat across the Atlantic after college.
A natural athlete, Murphy was “a sailor, first and foremost,” Virginia Murphy said.
Sailing was a family affair for the Murphys, and they often entered races as a team when the boys were young.
“We weren’t the stars out there on the [Long Island] Sound, but we really had a wonderful time,” Virginia Murphy said. “Both boys to this day –,” she continued, her voice starting to crack.
She paused when she realized her mistake. “Well, Chris of course is gone.”
Murphy — the father of Hopewell Blacker Lee, 2, and Hannah Lloyd Clare, born May 7, 2001 — died Sept. 11 when a terrorist plane struck 2 World Trade Center in New York City.
A senior research analyst at the investment firm of Keefe, Brunyette & Woods, located on the 88th and 89th floors of the south tower, Murphy called his wife at 8:45 a.m. that Tuesday after he saw a plane strike 1 World Trade Center.
Calmly, he told her not to worry.
White then called Virginia Murphy.
“Don’t worry, Ginny, it was the other tower that was struck,” White told Virginia Murphy. “They’re going on with their day as usual.”
Soon afterward, a second plane struck the tower where Murphy worked, killing nearly half of the 170 employees in the firm’s New York office.
As David Murphy ’86 wrote in his brother’s obituary, “[Chris was] at his desk rather than at sea that day.”
Ever since the family bought a small Seasprite sailboat when Murphy was 10, he spent as much time at seat as possible, practically growing up at the Yale Corinthian Yacht Club.
Murphy sailed his way through Beecher School and then spent six years at Hopkins Grammar School, a prestigious private day school in New Haven.
In his time at Hopkins, Murphy was an accomplished sailor and wrestler and during the summers, he taught a youth sailing program at the yacht club.
Murphy moved from one New Haven school to another after high school graduation, enrolling in Yale and quickly becoming an integral part of the University’s sailing community. His fun-loving yet serious attitude led him to be voted captain of the Yale sailing team senior year.
Teammate, senior-year roommate, and current Yale sailing coach Zack Leonard ’88 said Murphy — or “Murph” to his college friends –“knew the ropes” around New Haven and the yacht club, and helped even the most homesick freshman find his niche.
A group of Murphy’s college friends gathered at Naples Pizza after a reception held in his honor Sept. 20 at St. Mary’s Church on Hillhouse.
They had a beer at “Chris’s table” in the corner, paying tribute to the Silliman history major whose “constant smile” they already missed.
Murphy’s smile always left an impression.
For nervous teenagers at Sail Caribbean — an organization where experienced staff lead teens out to sea — Murphy’s warm smile promised weeks of safe but adventurous sailing.
Murphy worked for Sail Caribbean off-and-on for six summers there and met another staff member, Catherine Goldsborough White of Easton, Md., who eventually became his wife.
Mike Liese, the founder and director of the program, said each had the same initial reaction to one another –they saw the person they were going to marry.
“Of course, they were staff members and they were at work, so nothing happened right away,” Liese said. “But they certainly started hanging out more and trying to make sure they were assigned to the same programs. We all teased them about it.”
Murphy and White married in 1992, the same year he graduated with honors from Emory University’s Law School and went into private practice in Stamford, Connecticut.
In 1994, the couple moved to Richmond, Va., where Murphy practiced law for a few years, until he decided to test his luck at William & Mary’s business school.
After graduating in 1998, Murphy worked as a banking industry analyst, and then joined Keefe, Bruyette & Woods in April 2001.
Those who knew Murphy respected the curiosity, adaptability and sense of adventure that led him to explore everything from the deepest oceans to multiple professions.
However, Virginia Murphy and her son had an ongoing joke that if he ever considered medical school, he should not tell her.
The closest Murphy got to the medical profession was caring for his daughters’ scrapes and bruises.
Murphy had always been good around youngsters, and his girls “simply adored him,” Virginia Murphy said.
He took them to parks and zoos, and Virginia Murphy said there were too many walks in the woods with the family’s two black labs to count.
After the memorial service, White and the girls headed to the Outer Banks with a family friend. White left no contact information, hoping to escape for a while.
“He leaves a big void,” Virginia Murphy said, her voice trailing off.