Obituary of Carolyn Smith Murray
Carolyn Smith Murray of Larchmont died on December 27, 2022. She was an active member of Sants John and Paul Parish for over 50 years. A wake will be held from 4 to 7 at Fox Funeral Home in Larchmont on Friday, December 30. A funeral mass will be celebrated at Saint John and Paul church in Larchmont on Saturday at 11:00. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, https://www.franciscanfriars.com/donate
Born in Quincy, Massachusetts to Margaret (Riley) Smith and Carlisle Smith, Carolyn grew up in Braintree. Carolyn’s mother, a first-generation American, was a nurse from a large Irish Catholic family in Quincy. Her father, a pharmacist who would later own a pharmacy complete with soda fountain, was from an established Boston family.
Nurtured by my grandmother, Carolyn’s devotion to the Catholic Church was steadfast. A daily communicant at Saint John and Paul for years, religion shaped the Murray family’s weekly and yearly life. And then God created Saturday-night Mass and, lo, Sundays were available for pilgrimage to the Yale Bowl, Yankee Stadium, Giants Stadium and finally the couch, to watch on DVR, thereby bypassing the traffic and TV timeouts that made us all question the benevolence of God.
Growing up we heard stories of Mom and Grandma on Cape Cod during the depression, making the most of what they had while my Grandfather was struggling to keep his business afloat. For us, that experience manifested long after as sandwiches wrapped in “broken-in” waxed paper, a lifetime supply of rubber bands and “pre-cut” sheets of aluminum foil.
Those years also fostered a lasting relationship with the Cape. Carl and Margaret retired to West Dennis from Braintree. Our family spent many summers there, together with friends from all over who gathered on the Cape year after year. Carolyn and Alan returned regularly, visiting friends and favorite beaches, sampling New England Clam Chowder (is there another kind?), steamers and Boston baked beans, all the while avoiding the tourists (a group with whom we never associated ourselves - this despite inheriting a lobster claw lamp, although it was confined to the attic.)
Driven by the sacrifices and aspirations of her parents, Carolyn went to a private high school, Thayer Academy in Braintree, where she developed many lifelong friends, earned some serious shin bumps playing field hockey and, later, multiple undersized mugs and water bottles from reunions she loyally attended. At Wellesley College she majored in Zoology, formed more lifelong friendships, mysteriously lost her Boston accent, and fortuitously met her future husband, Alan, a Dartmouth grad, then a graduate student at Harvard.
Carolyn developed a voracious appetite for learning via books and lived experience that shaped her life. She loved reading, working in the Lafayette College library where Alan was a professor and where they were dorm parents. Despite having borrowed more books from the library than all her sons combined, she never darkened the door of a Barnes and Noble and knew the Amazon to be the life-sustaining jungle it somehow remains. Every day she devoured the printed New York Times end to ever-shrinking end. As evidenced by the weekly envelopes stuffed with stories cut from the Times, notes in the margins in unusually readable cursive, she exhibited surprise, curiosity, outrage, knowledge and deeply held opinions on all manner of topics.
Introduced to the piano as a child by her parents, Mom played nearly every day of her adult life that we can remember. She could lead us through Christmas Carols and worked constantly to learn complex new pieces, in lessons and by sheer determination, laboring over an agonizingly (to us) dim lamp above her upright piano. Her favorite piece was Claire De Lune which she was playing from memory often and beautifully only weeks ago.
She was a lifelong student of French having studied it for years, reading it fluently and speaking it competently (as far as we knew.) In addition to having neighbors from England and Austria, for many years the house next door to ours at 116 Carleon was rented by French families and Carolyn assumed the mantle of ambassador for Howell Park. She hosted conversational English gatherings where the French nationals spoke only English and the Americans were supposed to speak only French. Those gatherings led to yet more lasting friendships with mutual visits back and forth across the Atlantic.
In addition to stints at the Mamaroneck High School college admissions office and a local travel agency, Carolyn taught English as a Second Language classes to Japanese students, mostly the spouses of associates of Alan at Fuji Bank. Again, as the ideal ambassador, she loved learning about Japanese culture and enjoyed creating and guiding itineraries through New York’s cultural high points. If fact, she cultivated in her sons an appreciation for art, theater, and music via frequent visits (forced marches?) to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and even to the symphony, although she claimed rehearsals were the better deal and maintained that the sometimes-frequent stoppages by the conductor were in fact additive to the performance.
Carolyn’s love of music extended to all genres, including that of her son, Peter, even once recruiting a group of friends and fellow music aficionados to attend her son’s band performance at the venerable CBGB’s. Upon entering, the crowd graciously acknowledged the dignitaries with chants of “Old people, old people, old people.” Once while attending a performance in Worcester, Mass, Carolyn leaped on the back of her son, Thomas, who had driven down from Vermont. The leap surprised Thomas, standing as he was on the edge of the mosh pit.
Carolyn and Alan share the most loving of marriages, one lasting 63 years. Having met in Boston, the couple subsequently lived in Georgetown, Washington D.C, Bethesda, Maryland, London, England (while Alan was at the London School of Economics) finally settling in Larchmont, New York where they lived for 54 years. They were seldom apart. Inveterate walkers, they could be seen strolling hand-in-hand through town, heading to the Larchmont Library, Trader Joe’s or the train station for trips into Manhattan. During Carolyn’s last years Alan was her constant and devoted caretaker.
Across all those years and destinations, Carolyn developed a remarkable cohort of friends. There were many common threads through that time – music, language, culture, travel. Carolyn also played a passable game of bridge and a politely mean game of tennis. Playing well into her 80’s, she achieved notable interclub success playing with her partner, neighbor, and fast friend, Maura Concannon, for the Larchmont Shore Club, where Carolyn was a member for over 50 years. On court and off – even in the garden - Carolyn possessed a notable tenacity, winning opponents over with patience and determination rather than imposing her will by sheer power. She also passed on to her sons the ability to swing smoothly and gracefully despite clenching her jaw with crushing force and somehow sticking out her tongue at the same time without injury.
It’s likely that many of the details above are news to most people reading this. We attribute this to Carolyn’s remarkable gift of making anyone she met feel comfortable enough to share intel on just about any topic and answer just about any question she posed. (The exception to this would likely be the girlfriends of her three boys to whom we would like to apologize for the grilling they received.) Her inquisitive nature paired with a deep Yankee reserve probably led to many conversations where Carolyn learned much about you and your life while revealing very little about herself and her life.
Carolyn is survived by her husband of 63 years, Alan, and by sons Thomas (Dana), Jonathan (Bettina) and Peter (Severina) and grandchildren Emerson, Caroline, Matthew, Alexandra and Michaela. We firmly believe this is the most valuable lesson she has passed along to us all: Be open to actively listening, learning, living and loving.
Visiting will be Friday December 30th from 4:00 PM until 7:00 PM at the John J. Fox Funeral Home, Inc. 2080 Boston Post Road Larchmont, NY Larchmont, NY 10538. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated for Carolyn on Saturday December 31st at Sts. John & Paul Church 280 Weaver Street Larchmont, NY 10538. Interment is private.