Robert Murphy, a veterans advocate and longtime community volunteer in the Norwich region, died last week at the age of 60 after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
Murphy, a Montville native and Lisbon resident, held many titles in the community. He was a member of several volunteer fire departments, a life member of the Norwich VFW Auxiliary, a member of the Norwich Area Veterans Council, and the Thames River Detachment 1344 Marine Corps League. He was also a commanding officer of the Three Rivers Young Marines for more than 25 years, mentoring young people involved.
"He influenced a lot of kids," said Shannon Murphy, Robert's wife.
Murphy's older brother, Gary, said that Murphy idolized their father who was a marine. He looked up to him and always wanted to serve, but was not able to because of medical issues.
"He told me that he was sad that he could not join the military and that is why he chose to help veterans," said Gary. "There are a lot of stories of him helping veterans."
The family shared countless stories with NBC Connecticut of Robert, or Bob, going out of his way to help the veteran community. Just several months ago Bob stood outside of a nursing home and gave a veteran a proper send-off when he heard that no one else would be able to make it.
In addition to helping the veteran community and shaping young marines, Bob also volunteered with Toys for Tots every year.
"Every middle of October to December I did not see Bob because he was busy with Toys for Tots," said Shannon.
Murphy's family said that while Bob loved to volunteer and held many titles in the community, his favorite role was grandpa, or "grumpy". His oldest granddaughter started calling him "grumpy" when she could not say "grampy". It stuck and he loved it, says family.
"He found that to be a treasure," said Gary. "He really loved being a grandfather. No doubt about it. One of the single biggest joys in his life was to be a grandfather."
Murphy has three children and seven grandchildren.
"No matter what dad did, he always did it to the fullest. He gave it 110%," said Bob's son, Bobby.
The family hopes people will learn from how Bob lived: with a big smile, a big heart and a willingness to help.
"He volunteered wherever he could. Did whatever he could," said Shannon. "I would like to see other people be the same way."
"I think the point of Bob's existence and his life, really, was to help people," said Gary, Bob's older brother.
Bob's family also said that he was a fighter. He has lived with diabetes since childhood. He has also survived nine heart attacks and multiple surgeries.
"He would say, everyday, if he was not in the police report or the obituary it was a good day and he got up and he went," said Shannon.
About two weeks ago, Murphy was hospitalized for double pneumonia. The family said he had not tested positive for COVID-19 and was sent home. Six days later, his health declined. He was readmitted to the hospital last Monday, says Bob's wife Shannon, at which point he tested positive for the virus.
“They told us he was COVID positive. They sent him down to Yale and when they went to put him on a ventilator Thursday morning he coded,” said Shannon.
Murphy's family was not able to be with him, but they say he made sure to call each of them in the days leading up to Thursday.
"He said to me, 'I love you. I will see you on the other side'," said Shannon.
While the family hopes people take away a lesson from how Bob lived his life, they also hope people learn from how he died.
"It is real. Wear a mask," said Shannon, adding that Bob followed all of the safety precautions and still got sick.
“It hurts to lose a family member to this," said Gary. "It really hurts."
Bob's wife and one of his daughters have also tested positive for the virus. They are quarantining at home and doing well.
Since the family is not able to have a service at this time, they are hosting a drive-by parade this weekend in celebration of Murphy's life.
People are asked to line their vehicles up 10/24 at noon at Regina Rd and Baron Dr in Lisbon. Beginning at 12:30 p.m. the cars will drive to Sullivan Road and drive by Murphy's home.