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Michael F. “Mike” Murphy
Michael Francis Murphy

Michael “Mike” Francis Murphy, 91, passed away March 17, 2021 on St. Patrick’s Day.  The world, along with the Murphy family, lost a charming old devil with an ornery angel on each shoulder.  A lifelong resident of the Great Bend area, he was one of the most magnificent and endangered species known to the modern world, a Central Kansas farmer – Renaissance man in overalls, poet farmer in cowboy boots, part-time auctioneer, full-time weatherman, benevolent landlord and handyman, world class polka dancer, and extemporaneous country and western singer. 

Michael Francis Murphy arrived, kicking and dancing into the world, on October 7, 1929.  Born just two weeks before the Great Depression, he was the second of eight children born to J.W. & Alma (Riney) Murphy.  After graduating from Great Bend High School in 1947, he attended Kansas State University and remained a proud Wildcat until his final breath.  In his final year of college, he was a member of the university’s 1950 Livestock Judging team, which was the first to win a National Championship at K-State.  Even at age ninety, he had no problem identifying a horse’s ass and offering an expert assessment on the subject.  He graduated with a degree in Agriculture Education in the Spring of 1951.  

The morning of his college graduation, on the front steps of St. Rose of Lima church in Great Bend, he met a girl named Rose Koester.  Two years later, in a white sport coat with a carnation on the lapel, he married that same girl at that same church.  The date was July 27, 1953.  About nine months later, the first (and by far the chubbiest) of their five children arrived. About fifteen years later, the last (and most unexpected) of their five children arrived.  

There was a magic to his personality.  The kind that could make the words “you big dummy” feel like the ultimate term of endearment.  The kind that could convince an entire generation of grandchildren (and half a generation of great-grandchildren) to sit through old reruns of the Lawrence Welk show — and enjoy it.  He had iron in his handshake and splinters in his fingers.  He kept candy in one pocket and a pouch of chewing tobacco in the other. There was a twinkle in his eye reserved for ornery children, old dogs, and stories that made his wife blush.  He never met a park bench or a stranger he didn’t like.  If you gave him a few minutes and a couple answers, he would pinpoint someone from Great Bend that you both knew – unless his wife Rose beat him to it.  When he slapped his knee after a joke – his or yours – you knew it was funny.  

He could fix anything, other than a remote control manufactured after 1985.  He knew that every tool works better if you occasionally curse at it.  He was country when country wasn’t cool, Irish Catholic when it wasn’t yet welcome, and always damned proud of both.  He got his hands dirty when someone needed his help and cleaned up nice when someone told him to wear a tuxedo.  He made his share of mistakes.  He avoided more than his share of excuses.  He was an example of perseverance and redemption for anyone willing to pay attention.  And he was both a joy and a blessing to all those who truly knew him.  

Among other accomplishments, Mike was a longtime member of Prince of Peace Parish at St. Patrick Catholic Church, a 3rd Degree Knight of Columbus, a 4-H leader for nearly three decades, a former member of the St. Patrick’s Catholic School Board, a Director of the Golden Belt Community Concert Association, and a longtime employee of the Barton County Appraiser’s Office.  

He is survived by his wife, Rose Murphy of Great Bend (KS); daughter Sherrie Gross of Topeka (KS) and her three children Geoff Gross (Vanessa), Garrett Gross, and Becca Leal (Christian); son James Murphy (Loretta) of Great Bend (KS) and their two children Madison Murphy and Dalton Murphy; son Marty Murphy (Kathy) of Denver (CO) and their two children Paige Pakkebier and Caden Murphy; son Kevin Murphy of Great Bend (KS) and his three children Anna Harris (Dane), Andrew Murphy (Brooke), and Adam Murphy; daughter Laura Van Etten (John) of Denver (CO) and son Davis Van Etten; brother Joe Murphy (Roma Lee) of Great Bend (KS); sister Janice Sis (Ray) of Bryan (TX); sister Joyce Tooley (George) of Wamego (KS); and sister Rita Buchanan (Joe) of Council Grove (KS).  He is also survived by ten great grandchildren (and counting), as well as numerous nieces, nephews, extended family, and a lifetime of friends.  

He was preceded in death by his parents, James William and Alma; brother Richard (“Dick”) Murphy; sister, Barbara Bernard; niece and goddaughter Kathryn (Buchanan) Gant. 

Visitation will be held from 11:00am to 4:00pm, Monday, March 22, 2021 at Bryant Funeral Home.  The family will receive visitors from 5:00pm-7:00pm at St. Patrick Catholic Church for vigil service with Knights of Columbus Rosary beginning at 7:00pm.  Funeral Mass will be held at 10:00 a.m., Tuesday, March 23, 2021, at St. Patrick Catholic 

Church, with Father Don Bedore presiding. Interment will be in Great Bend Cemetery.  In lieu of flowers, the family requests that any donations be made to Holy Family Endowment or the Golden Belt Community Concert Association, in care of Bryant Funeral Home.

Condolences may be sent and notice viewed at

Funeral arrangements provided by
Bryant Funeral Home 
1425 Patton Road 
Great Bend, KS  67530
Great Bend (Kan.) Tribune, March 21, 2021