Tom Murray was always whistling a tune, a ditty from his stack of music, humming Big Band favourites or the oeuvres of classical composers.
“He had a lot of music in his head,” says his wife Norma, who often joined him to sing at care homes, choirs and church.
Murray passed away Sunday at the McKinney Creek Hospice in Maple Ridge after being diagnosed with cancer a month ago.
He was 73.
Born in Hamilton, Ont., Murray joined the Canadian Air Force at 22. That took him to the Baldy Hughes base in Prince George, where he worked as a radar technician.
After leaving the army, he ventured into real estate and eventually settled in Squamish, where he worked as a financial planner for a credit union. It was there he met Norma, via a Christian correspondence club.
It was back in the days before the Internet, she says.
“The old-fashion way, we wrote letters.”
Norma recalls tossing Tom’s address into her waste wicker basket, initially.
“I was taking the garbage out days later and his address flicked out and ended up on the ground,” she says.
“I thought, is this an omen? So I wrote him a letter and the rest is history. We were best friends, could finish each others sentences.”
Tom moved to Pitt Meadows after he married Norma and continued to work as a broker and financial planner until he retired.
In 2003, he was elected as a school board trustee and represented Pitt Meadows for one term.
“He wanted to make a difference and prove that politicians could be honest and work with bare bones budgets,” says Norma.
In 2011, Tom decided to take on city hall itself after reading a news article about increasing staff salaries and taxes.
It was Norma who challenged him to do something, instead of just complaining.
“He took it up and, boom,” she says.
“He was a determined guy. He always finished what he started.”
Although Tom failed to get the city to pursue a “zero tax increase” budget in 2012, he was successful in 2013. He spent the past two years pouring over city hall’s budget, spent weeks in summer seated outside a supermarket getting signatures for his petitions and even requested documents under the Freedom of Information Act.
He arrived at the hospice pleased he had achieved his goal and spurred others to push for fiscal responsibility.
A bursary will be started in Tom’s name for students of SD42 who will pursue a higher education in the arts.
Tom is survived by two children from a previous marriage, his step-children and grandchildren.
A celebration of his life, complete with New Orleans jazz, will take at Pitt Meadows United Church on Harris Road on Saturday, Jan 4 at 1:30 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, a donation to the Tom Murray Memorial Bursary would be welcomed.
Cheques can be written to:
School District 42 (Tom Murray Bursary)
22225 Brown Avenue
Maple Ridge, B.C. V2X 8N6