April 24, 1940-June 14, 2023
Lavinia (Gaines) Murphy, 83 of Marblehead passed away after a brief illness June 14, 2023. Lavinia is predeceased by her husband, Philip Cadwell Murphy, and leaves behind her daughter, Sabrina Velandry, and two granddaughters, Sienna and Luna of Marblehead.
Lavinia — or “Vinnie,” as she was known to those closest to her — was born on April 24, 1940, in Hartford, Connecticut, and was the only child of Ruth (Wiley) Gaines and Philip DuBois Gaines.
She was named for her Aunt Lavinia, who, according to family lore, was engaged to the president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, but had to break it off when a family member fell ill, forcing her to return home. (However, as of this publication, we could not find confirmation of this detail.)
Weeks after Lavinia’s birth, her father Philip Gaines joined a technical corp in Canada and was sent to England at the onset of World War II. For reasons unknown, he served just nine months, then returned to New York.
Shortly after his discharge, he filed for divorce, leaving his toddler and wife behind, forcing Vinnie’s mother to pursue work outside the house. This was no easy task in 1943, but Vinnie’s mother Ruth prevailed, landing a position at the Aetna Company, where she worked until her retirement.
Young Vinnie was raised by her grandmother Claire in the Wiley family home in the West End of Hartford. Lavinia loved to tell stories of her childhood and growing up “in the big house on Oxford Street,” and later reflected how difficult it was for her grandmother to raise a baby. But Lavinia always told her stories of childhood with humor and grace.
Lavinia was a 1959 graduate of Hartford Public High School and went on to study art at Hartford Art School, which is now part of the University of Hartford.
Lavinia met her late husband, Philip C. Murphy, as a young teenager while the two were attending a summer youth group program on Shelter Island, New York. They quickly became high school sweethearts and were married in Hartford by the justice of the peace on June 11, 1966.
Only weeks after their wedding, Phil was offered a job at the General Electric River Works Plant in Lynn as a statistician, and the couple relocated to Marblehead, where they remained happily married until her husband’s death in 2018.
Lavinia was a prolific artist. After she moved to Marblehead, she studied oil painting under the late Mrs. Ethel Morehouse. Lavinia sometimes found herself on the other side of the canvas, often modeling for art schools. One such painting, a portrait done in oil painted by Mrs. Morehouse, hung in the National Grand Bank for several years.
In addition to her artistic talent, Lavinia was an excellent cook and baker. She earned herself a name in The Shipyard neighborhood of Marblehead. When her daughter was a child, the neighborhood children always wanted to “eat over at the Murphys.” Her specialties were her homemade scalloped potatoes, a fish chowder made with flounder caught in the Marblehead Harbor and a recipe she crafted herself, called “Stay-a-Bed Stew,” which was a stew beef, potatoes, and whatever frozen vegetables she had on hand, all tossed into a pot and topped with cream-of-mushroom soup and baked on low “real early in the morning,” so she could go back to bed.
Vinnie had a spark and spunk and was quick to find the humor in anything. She sketched with vigor and passion until the very last week of her life, which she spent at the Lafayette Home in Marblehead, where the staff and nurses took exquisite care of her.
We all will remember “Grammy” and her stories and humor that always had everyone laughing.
A celebration of her life and that of her late husband, Phil Murphy, will be held at Eustis & Cornell of Marblehead, 142 Elm St., on Thursday, June 29, 2023, 4-7 p.m. Light appetizers, sweets and refreshments will be served, and a collection of Lavinia’s paintings will be on display.
Lavinia was an active, lifelong member of the St. Stephen’s United Methodist Church in Marblehead. In lieu of flowers, a memorial donation may be given to St. Stephen’s in Lavinia’s name by visiting marblehead.church/donate.
Fond memories and expressions of sympathy for the Murphy family may be shared at eustisandcornellfuneralhome.com.