Eugene J. Murray, a lifelong Rockville Centre resident who served as mayor of the village from 1987 to 2007, died on Tuesday at his home. He was 93.
After serving on the village’s board of trustees for three years, Murray, the father of current mayor Francis X. Murray, was first elected to lead the village in 1987, and ran unopposed for re-election in 1991, 1995, 1999 and 2003. He was also an active member of the Rockville Centre Fire Department for 72 years, serving as a chief from 1977 to 1983, and was president of the New York Conference of Mayors and the Nassau County Village Officials Association.
During his first year as mayor, Murray established the Rockville Centre Community Fund, which has supported residents in need, including seniors, single parents and victims of disasters. Over the past three decades, the fund has raised more than $1.6 million.
A man of great faith, “He was, is and will always be the father of this village,” Francis said of his father, “and that was because of his dedication, his commitment and his passion as he guided Rockville Centre through good times and bad for 20 years.”
Murray was in the Army in 1944 during World War II, at age 19. He fought in Germany as part of the U.S. Third Army, led by Gen. George Patton, according to his son, Tom. When he returned to Rockville Centre, he started his own business, Murray Floor Waxing Service, which he operated for four decades. Murray was named the recipient of the Rockville Centre Chamber of Commerce’s first Businessman of the Year award.
“He taught us all unbelievable work ethic, whether we liked it or not,” Tom said with a laugh. “. . . He had a big heart.”
Tom added that after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, his father went to the homes of people who had lost someone on that tragic day. “People always remembered that about him,” he said.
Despite his dedication to serving residents and tireless work ethic, “he also loved to party,” Francis said, chuckling. His motto was “Never miss a party,” he added, “and he never did.” Murray attended many village gatherings and fundraisers up until his death.
Tony Cancellieri, who worked beside him as village administrator from 1987 to 2002, said that Murray never used the second-floor mayor’s office in Village Hall. Instead he worked at a makeshift desk closer to the front door so he could meet and greet those who visited the building. “He treated the whole village like a family,” Cancellieri told the Herald. “He made sure he went out of his way to help any resident that was in need of assistance.”
To honor Murray, the longest-serving mayor in village history, Village Hall was named in his honor when he retired in 2007.
Murray was one of 13 children born to William Murray, who served as the village’s postmaster, and his wife, Josephine. In addition to his sons Francis (wife Barbara) and Tom (wife Nora), he is survived by daughters Mary Lou Marquardt, Jean Joyce (husband Chuck), Rosemary Murray and Anne Hayden (husband Pat); his brother, Paul; his sister, Anne Walsh; 24 grandchildren and many great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by his wife of 66 years, Mary Lou, who died in 2013, his son Larry Murray and daughter Teresa Ferriole.
Visitation will be held at the St. Agnes Parish Center, at 99 N. Village Ave., on Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m. and Friday from 4 to 8 p.m. A funeral service will take place on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. at St. Agnes Cathedral.
“He definitely is the greatest mayor this village has ever seen,” Francis said, noting that his father cared for everyone he came into contact with. “There will be nobody like him ever again.”
Editor's Note: The story that appeared in print said visitation would be held at Macken Mortuary. The plans have since changed.