Pictou Advocate sports

Thinking of Donnie and Jean Murray


It hasn’t been easy for any of us, day after day after day, listening to Justin Trudeau from Ottawa and Dr. Robert Strang in Halifax.

At the beginning, we believed the COVID-19 pandemic might hang around for a few weeks, maybe a couple of months or more.

Now we’re halfway into a 14th month, still staying at home as much as possible, still avoiding everything from social events to church services to our favourite restaurants, wearing masks wherever we venture, following arrows up and down the aisles at Sobeys.

Always worrying the worst.

In many instances, it hasn’t been easy. But we’ve carried on pretty well, believing that, yes, these unusual times will eventually disappear. We just don’t know when.

Unfortunately, there are some among us who are experiencing personal problems.

These past few months I’ve been thinking of Donnie and Jean Murray, one of New Glasgow’s best-known couples, two of my most cherished friends.

For them, these have been tough times.

After living in the same house on the east side of town for some 60 years, they moved to an apartment complex on the west side. Like many of us, they adjusted to their changed surroundings.

Then, six months ago, Donnie fell in the parking facilities at their new residence, fracturing a hip among other things.

He spent weeks at the Aberdeen Hospital, then months in rehab in Pictou, and now he’s in Glen Haven Manor.

One day, while he was in Pictou, Jean was taking Tims coffee to him. On her way in, she fell, injuring a shoulder, an elbow, a knee. Ever since, she’s been improving slowly in the apartment.

A couple of weeks ago, their younger son Grant — unable to get home to see his parents since COVID’s arrival — phoned from New Hampshire. More bad news. Grant’s 14-year-old son Miles, while playing high school baseball, was hit by a ball on the side of the head.

He was knocked unconscious, taken by ambulance to the nearby hospital, then quickly transferred to Boston Children’s Hospital. A brain bleed was affecting his speech significantly. He’s home now, but doctors say it could be up to 10 weeks before the swelling subsides.

You can understand, I’m sure, what I meant by tough times for Jean and Donnie.

In case you don’t know the family — I can’t imagine any Pictonian being in that position — I’ll update you on some of their achievements.

When I started writing sports in high school, the first game I covered for the Evening News was a senior softball contest in Trenton in which Donnie was playing infield.

A close friendship has lasted for six decades.

I watched Donnie play lots of softball, some hockey, and many, many years of golf. I believe the Abercrombie fairways and greens were his heaven on earth, an ongoing love affair that included three holes-in-one, on three different holes.

Some of our grandest times together were travelling by car to hockey games at Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens and baseball games at Boston’s Fenway Park.

We’ve both been life-long Leafs fanatics, so lots of agreements have existed there. The only difference: He began with Syl Apps as team captain. I worshipped the next captain, Ted (Teeder) Kennedy.

In baseball, however, I grew up a Yankee fan and he was a Red Sox diehard. There were many arguments, many friendly debates because of that rivalry.

Donnie and I spent countless happy hours in hockey rinks, at ball fields, at the golf club, in bowling alleys, eating heartily at each other’s homes and in favourite restaurants. In other words, we created many great memories together.

Jean’s been a dear friend for very different reasons.

As a faithful Progressive Conservative worker, especially at election times for leading local politicians like John Hamm, Elmer and Peter MacKay, she has been invaluable for the Tories.

As a devoted community and Trinity United Church volunteer, she has always been giving of her time and efforts to make things better for everyone around her.

As a fantastic homemaker, especially in the kitchen, she has had countless happy recipients. My selections, if I were naming the three stars? Her jams, her pickles, particularly her butterscotch pies.

But above all, she has been an all-star when it came to being Donnie’s better half, a faithful and loving mom to daughter Margie, and sons Gordon, Graham and Grant.

And Grant? The story I’ve told most frequently about him was the fact he couldn’t understand, for quite a few years, how my wife Jane saw him before his own mother did. The secret was finally told to him. Jane, a registered nurse, and John Hamm, the family’s doctor, delivered Grant at the Aberdeen.

Grant, like his dad, has filled his life with sports.

He ran the Boston Marathon, he ran the local Johnny Miles Marathon, he was a left-handed baseball pitcher, he was a varsity track and cross-country star during his years at Dalhousie University, and he was and is a competitive golfer like the old fella. Just recently he played seven rounds of golf in four days out in Oregon.

Though living in New Hampshire for some 25 years, he still gets my daily attention — as a fantasy baseball and hockey opponent for the last two decades. We have a reputation of making unusual trades in both sports — always surrounded by varying degrees of controversy.

And the fourth and youngest key person in this family story?

Miles plays both high school baseball and football and, no surprise, he’s joined his father in our fantasy baseball league, its youngest ever rookie. Like his dad, and confirmed by his mother C.J., he checks the fantasy results first thing every morning. As I wrote this, Miles was in first place, Grant in last place.

Oh yes, one additional thing: In July, my old travelling partner Donnie will be 90 years young, probably dreaming of getting a fourth hole-in-one.