AVM To Honor Centenary’s First Lady With Wreath & Tree of Life  

By Cheryl Conway 

 

Retired U.S. Army Col. Jeanne Murphy of Hackettstown will be remembered and honored on Monday, May 29, at 10:30 a.m., following the 2023 Memorial Remembrance Day Ceremony at the All-Veterans Memorial in Budd Lake. 

The late wife of Centenary University President Dr. Bruce Murphy, Jeanne Murphy was an advocate for Centenary University and veterans. The AVM has organized an Honorable Service Ceremony to recognize her years of service. 

AVM Founder Charlie Wood Uhrmann will give the opening remarks at the Honorable Service Ceremony, which in the military is held when a warrior is Killed In Action. Its purpose is to acknowledge a person’s military service and to demonstrate gratitude to the fallen’s surviving family members so that they know their loved one’s service and sacrifice was not in vain. 

 “The intent is to help the grieving families and friends with the healing process,” says Uhrmann. 

“We have selected U.S. Army Sergeant Luis Mattacastro of Hackettstown to deliver Col. Murphy’s accolades,” she adds. “We plan to lay a Memorial Wreath at the Prayer Garden bench that she and her husband Dr. Bruce Murphy sponsored and dedicate a Tree of Life in her memory and support.”     

Dr. Bruce Murphy will lay the memorial wreath to honor his late wife who died on Sunday, Jan. 8, of injuries suffered as the victim of a hit-and-run accident a day earlier while on her morning walk near her home. She was 70. Murphy was laid to rest at Arlington Cemetery on Wednesday, April 12. 

The Murphys had been involved at the AVM in more recent years through sponsorship and as speakers. 

When Jeanne Murphy took her first tour of the AVM, her “reaction was one of great respect and admiration,” says Uhrmann. “Jeanne was a bit surprised that Centenary was not more involved but vowed to change that.   From that moment on, Jeanne and Bruce participated in our Memorial Remembrance Day and our POW/MIA 24 Vigil. Last year Jeanne and Bruce sponsored a bench at the Reflection Sanctum; laid memorial wreaths and installed their own Honorable Service Pavers. 

“Jeanne was our first combat female Keynote Speaker at the 2022 Memorial Remembrance Day Ceremony,” adds Uhrmann. “Col. Murphy delivered a compelling speech regarding the historical role women played on the battle field.  From that point forward, Col. Murphy offered to play an active role in the volunteerism and planning stages of the Memorial and POW/MIA events; attended the AVM Awards Ceremony; and began assisting in the planning stages of the 2023 Memorial Remembrance Day Ceremony.   

“One of Jeanne’s goals was to cultivate a strong relationship between the AVM and Centenary and to reinstitute the Veterans SVO organization at the university,” she adds. 

 How fitting that the Centenary University Alumni will dedicate the Tree of Life. 

Since 100% of the All-Veterans Memorial is being funded by private donations – Centenary University Alumni has offered to sponsor a tree in Jeanne’s memory. 

“Similar to all sponsorships, a beautiful denotation (plaque) with Col. Jeanne Murphy and our organization’s name will be permanently set at the tree denoting your contribution,” Uhrmann advises the alumni group. “I know this would mean a lot to Jeanne to see Centenary University represented at the AVM.  The $500 sponsorship would cover the cost of the tree and plaque.  

“Within only a couple of years, the tree will cascade over Jeanne and Bruce’s memorial bench,” adds Uhrmann. “The tree, I believe, is an excellent symbol of Jeanne’s strength, resilience and contribution to society.  Like the many memories we all hold dear of Jeanne, the tree will continue Jeanne’s gift of life and giving heart.” 

Uhrmann says “I am planning to plant a tree in Jeanne’s honor near the bench she and Bruce sponsored at the prayer garden.  I have selected the Northern Red Oak for several symbolic reasons.  The NRO happens to be the State tree, it is one of the strongest, most resilient, fast-growing trees. It is a deep-rooted tree to which it can endure all types of weather.  It will provide privacy and comfort (shade) to those who are seeking a quiet moment.  And simply, it will provide splendor to the overall landscape at the AVM.   The tree I have selected stands at 12’ high.” 

The Centenary alumni group will sponsor, unveil the tree and read the plaque in Murphy’s memory during her Honorable Service Ceremony.  

“The Centenary University Alumni Association is honored to be part of this tribute to Colonel Jeanne Murphy’s life,” says Nancy Paffendorf, recording secretary and Alumni Trustee of the Centenary University Alumni Association Executive Board.  “She was an exceptional person.”   

Yolanda Sheffield Williams, president of Centenary University Alumni Association Executive Board, and Paffendorf met Col. Murphy when she and her husband came to campus in January 2020 as the 14th President and the First Lady of Centenary University. 

“She was very involved with Centenary events, including therapeutic horsemanship for Veterans with disabilities, for Veterans with physical, emotional, mental, post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury,” says Paffendorf. “My husband, Major George Paffendorf, U.S. Army, Retired, was the founder and director of Operation Centaur (therapeutic horsemanship for Veterans).  Jeanne was a supporter of the program, frequently in attendance, and was instrumental in providing connections and opportunities with other organizations which were developing programs. 

“Jeanne was a positive force,” adds Paffendorf. “We looked forward to seeing her and hearing her thoughts and advice.  We will miss her greatly.” 

Jeanne Murphy was in the U.S. Army for 30 years and was an example of a life well lived, says Paffendorf.  

During her three years as First Lady of Centenary University, Murphy was an enthusiastic supporter of Centenary’s academic, athletic and extracurricular programs. Besides her involvement with its Equine Studies program, her experience as an Army nurse and knowledge of the field helped to inform the university’s new RN to BSN degree.   

Murphy was extremely active in the local Hackettstown community, including as a member of the Hackettstown Business Improvement District (BID) and the Women’s Club of New Jersey. She was dedicated to improving the well-being of fellow veterans through advocacy and support for veteran’s services at Centenary and in the broader community.  

During her three decades in the military, she served with distinction in many leadership roles in posts spanning the United States and abroad, including Europe, Latin America, South Korea and the Middle East. Murphy served as chief of health promotion for the U.S. Southern Command in Panama and spearheaded Army health, wellness and support programs in Germany, Virginia, in the Pentagon and at the Army War College. During and after the Gulf War, she worked with combat troops in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq. She later worked with the American Red Cross in Gulfport, Miss., during Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.  

Before retiring from the military in 2001, Murphy was given oversight of the military’s program for world-class athletes, a task that placed her on the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Board of Directors and as chair of the USOC Multi-Sport Organizations Council for 10 years. For the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, she was designated Chef de Mission for the U.S. Paralympic Team. A former competitive runner and swimmer, Murphy was the first woman ever selected to the U.S. Modern Pentathlon Team in 1975, competing for the team until 1978.  

“Col. Jeanne Murphy not only touted an impressive and disciplined military career, she shared our core values regarding giving back and supporting the community,” explains Uhrmann as her reasoning behind her Honorable Service Ceremony. “Sharing these values created an everlasting bond between me and Jeanne.  She and I recognize the strong foundation and unity that created when the community is invited to take of project that is bigger than one person.  We have always held that the AVM was built By the People, For the People; similar to the mindset and intent of our Founding Fathers. This mindset is why the AVM is exceptional in every way.    

“Though her time on Earth was cut short, I feel incredibly blessed to have gotten to know her,” concludes Uhrmann.     

 

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