My mom, a remarkable woman

mom in high school

Catherine Faulkner, as a Lowell senior.

By John Murphy 

Today I awoke at 3 a.m., as I do way too often. I made some coffee, turned on my laptop and noticed that it is Nov. 14 – my late mom’s birthday.

Catherine Florence Faulkner was born on Nov. 14, 1914, in San Francisco. Her father, John, worked for Spreckels Sugar. Her older brother, Charles, played football and baseball at St. Ignatius High.

My mom had aunts who were dressmakers for wealthy San Francisco women. These aunts doted on her and took her on some of their travels, including to New York City. Later, she attended Lowell High School, known as the “smart kids’” public school in the city. She was president of the Girls Athletic Association at Lowell and rode horses, among other pursuits.

Teaching was my mom’s passion and, like me, she attended San Francisco State – then known as San Francisco Teachers’ College. After college, she landed a job in Oakland and had to take a ferry all the way across the bay to reach her destination.

Eventually, she met my dad, James Murphy, on a ferry headed for a dance in Marin. He was once in the seminary but was now on his way to a career in education. The rest is history as they were married and had four children, with me being the youngest.

My mom was smart, artistic and was astute in business, which was unusual for a housewife in 1960s and 70s America. She also liked to dispense pet sayings that have sustained me during some dark moments. Just simple things like “Tomorrow’s another day” and “Being poor is one thing, but being poor in spirit is another.”

My mom made it all the way to 100 years and eight days, living out her final years at the Mercy Retirement and Care Center in Oakland. We had a big 100th birthday party for her there on Nov. 15, 2014, and she had a grand time, as the old-timers used to say.

Eight days later she passed away – but not before living a most remarkable life.




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