Remarks at Sharon Murphy’s memorial service at
Thomson / ISI on November 19, 2007
By Eugene Garfield
I'd like to thank all of you for attending this celebration of Sharon Murphy’s life. Hopefully your presence here provides comfort to Sharon’s family and friends.
Sharon was one of that small remaining group of Thomson employees who worked at ISI over forty years. She joined when she was only 18 or 19 in 1967 and spent her entire working career here with ISI and then with The Scientist. Later, while she was working she attended evening classes at the University of Pennsylvania and got her business degree from Penn. She saw this company through its many transitions and she carried with her a wealth of information and experiences.
All of you who knew Sharon already know that she was a caring, honest, dependable, loyal and intelligent person. She was always very professional in dealing with my many contacts and customers all over the world who consistently praised her calm and unflappable phone manner, her helpfulness and her knowledge of the company and its products.
As my personal secretary her skills were excellent and she was very discreet with personal information. She often had knowledge of personal matters I shared neither with attorneys, doctors nor family members and personal friends. She made sure I did not forget birthdays, anniversaries, medical appointments and family holidays.
Sharon was also very stubborn and very private… unfortunately so private that we didn’t know fully until too late how ill she really was. She reluctantly talked of retiring early on disability and agreed to do so at the end of September. Even so, she also planned on working part-time from home, but that was not to be.
In the early days, I kept a hectic work pace… there were meetings to hold and attend, papers and essays to prepare and write, prolonged foreign and domestic travel and many phone calls to make and return. I owe part of my success to Sharon for her dedicated support and long hours of work; for keeping me on track and on schedule. Her gift to me was to provide an environment that enabled me to perform my personal and professional obligations with the least amount of distraction.
Sharon started at the Mall Building during the Vietnam War. This is significant because my son Stefan was sent to Vietnam during that time. Sharon helped me keep in touch with him then and through some other rough times – not only when he was wounded but when he returned home. She also began to compile my family tree and helped trace the origins of my grand parents and their descendants throughout the world.
In the end, I think the key traits behind Sharon’s persona were discretion and loyalty. Perhaps I admired these the most, and will do my very best to remember. Sharon shared a great portion of my life… the growing up of my children, the loss of my daughter Thea, the loss of my parents, my surgery, the awards and accolades I received, my travels around the world, the loss of my friends, the birth of my son Alexander, my granddaughters’ college graduations and the birth of my great granddaughter, Dixie Magnolia Seville. In Sharon’s passing I have felt the pain of losing a friend, a family member and confidante.
When someone you have taken for granted for half your life passes away you realize how little you knew about them. I only wish I could recite a definitive biography of her life. She spent part of her earlier years in Venezuela. Some of you may know the details of her life better than I do. I take satisfaction in remarks she wrote to me on the occasion of my 75th birthday. In that birthday card she relates some of her earlier experiences at ISI and how fearful she was to work for the company president. But her concluding sentence gave me solace… She said
“The past 30 years have been so interesting and we’ve known a lot of great people like Mr. Lazerow, Mr. Hayne, Dr. Sher and Dr. Leake. And I came to know my favorite among all of your good friends, Dr. Merton. Life has seldom been dull. In fact, life’s been downright interesting! And for that I thank you.”