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Death of role model is loss for Webster City

Services set for John M. McMurray

September 27, 2010
By SANDY MICKELSON For the Daily Freeman-Journal

A memorial service for John Miller McMurray on Tuesday will bring an official closing to a lifetime legacy of making a difference in his hometown.

The 95-year-old McMurray died Sept. 23, four months and two days after his wife of almost 72 years, Jean, died.

The two were inseparable in life, friends say. But more than that, they were the kind of people who made a difference to their family and their community.

Article Photos

John McMurray

"They were some of the most positive people I met when I came here," said Webster City City Manager Ed Sadler. "There's a bench down in the Plaza with a plaque on it for them. They've been a positive influence in this town."

His voice trailed off, then he added, "It's just a big loss. It really is. For the both of them."

Sadler called the couple "so loving. They were so attentive to each other. It was just wonderful to watch and see." And, he added, "This is who my wife and I wanted to be like."

Born June 4, 1915, in Webster City, McMurray was the son of McMurray Hatchery founder Murray McMurray. He was just 2 years old when his father started the business, and he and his brother, Charles, eventually became owner-managers, followed by his son, Murray McMurray, and partners. McMurray Hatchery is the world's largest rare-breed hatchery.

"As long as I've been around, John and Jean have been here," said Hamilton County Supervisor Doug Bailey. "Sometimes in the background, sometimes in the forefront. They were great boosters of the area."

He said his wife's grandmother worked at the hatchery for more than 50 years, and said he's always seen it as a family business.

"They just have always been there," Bailey said. "A very positive force in many lives in Webster City and the area, supporters of major issues that have come before the community and the area, and supporters of all kinds of youth programs."

One of those contributions began with McMurray's father. He was a founder of Boy Scout Troop 17 in Webster City, which was made famous in a book by Pulitzer Prize-winning author McKinley Kantor, who was from Webster City and was a member of Troop 17 under the elder McMurray. That book, "God and My Country," eventually became the 1966 movie "Follow Me, Boys!" It starred Fred MacMurray and Kurt Russell.

A lifelong member of First United Congregational Church of Christ, McMurray was a Sunday school teacher, choir member, youth fellowship leader and trustee. In the city, he belonged to the Birthday Club and Diamond K Kiwanis and was a volunteer visitor and on the executive board of Hospice-Respite of Hamilton County.

Bailey said McMurray's loss "will make a difference on all lives, young and old."

Contact Sandy Mickelson at or call 573-2142.



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