While listening to Linda Murphy recollect the joyful memories of her son Tony, it is easy to understand why this local philanthropist wants to gift one of the oldest estates in South Dade to South Miami in his honor. “There were over one thousand people at his funeral,” recalls Ms. Murphy. “People spoke spontaneously for hours about what Tony meant to them. At the cemetery, the flowers offered in his memory were so numerous; they had to raise his plaque over eight feet high just so you could see his name among all the roses, lilies, orchids and memorial wreaths.”
Anthony Murphy was a rare four-leaf clover. His Irish heritage expressed by his wispy auburn hair and bright green eyes dazzled all the people he met. Born right here in South Florida, Ms. Murphy recalls how Tony was always a spiritual young man, even when drugs and alcohol took a stranglehold of his life.
“He won that fight,” celebrates his triumphant mom. “Thanks to South Miami Hospital and an incredibly effective rehabilitation program, Tony recovered from crippling drug and alcohol abuse and years later, he never touched the stuff again.” In fact, he never forgot his miraculous escape from the clutches of addiction and went on to become a forever available, 24/7 resource counselor for those still struggling to free themselves from addiction. “When he was so sick and was suffering the after effects of cancer treatment, he would still tell me, ‘look mom, I gotta go, they need me at this meeting.’ And he was so funny, he was asked to attend so many meetings because he made such a positive impact. Tony would get calls all the time from people in tremendous crisis who would speak only to him,” said Ms. Murphy.
Tony passed in 2004 at 37 years old. His condition was apparently misdiagnosed until it was too late. “He had Hodgkin’s disease, which when detected early has a very high survival rate,” said Ms. Murphy. “Unfortunately, by the time we found a doctor at Jackson who finally diagnosed him correctly, it was too late. He had 21 of the recognized disease symptoms for stage IV lymphoma.” Tony lived another 18 months after his diagnosis, an atypically long endurance when confronting such an aggressive disease.
Proud mother Linda Murphy acquired the million dollar property a few years before Tony’s passing. Castle Madell, as it is called, is “old Florida” at its finest. Nestled in unincorporated Miami-Dade between South Miami and Pinecrest, this two story coral rock home and multi-acre estate is an escape to a bygone era with glorious old oak trees and gardens. Visiting the sanctuary is like taking a trip to Peter Pan’s Never Never Land without leaving the city.
After losing her son, Ms. Murphy had an epiphany. “I want to give this treasure to South Miami in honor of my son, so future generations of the community can celebrate right here,” she said. “To hear the sound of children laughing happily here and future families making memories together, that is my mission for the space. That’s the vision for the future – a place for all of us to create memories. This gift is from my heart. I want to bestow it for others to have a happy place full of fun times – a tribute to the beauty of life that Tony was finally able to emulate, to remember him in the happiest most positive way – Anthony Joseph Estevez Murphy Park.”
City Manager Hector Mirabile presented the possibility of this municipal gift at a recent city commission meeting, offering three alternatives for the use of the space with varying expenditures required. However, the only alternative Ms. Murphy is interested in is for the estate to be available to the public. According to the city manager’s presentation, three alternatives exist. The first of which is a “passive park,” which would not directly benefit residents. The second alternative allows the public to be admitted for official city business only. The third option makes the property available to the public “as a rental facility for private functions.”
“Unless this gift is freely accessible to the public as a park and a place to gather for weddings and special events, like Merrie Christmas Park in Coral Gables, I will not sign the release papers,” said Ms. Murphy. “This is one of the oldest homes in south Dade, built of coral rock in the early 20th century. If it would become a place only for city employees to hold private meetings, I would rescind my offer. South Miami needs the Tony House for all the community to enjoy.”
Linda Murphy is busy these days completing her third year as a psychology major in college with a perfect Dean’s List 4.0 gpa. Inspired by her son Tony to go back to school and complete her degree, she is optimistic and excited about the possible future and intends to use her degree to work as a probono counselor at no charge for the Dade County School System. She does not let herself get sad, but rather lives with a gratitude for his presence in her life.
“Before Tony died, he would tell me, ‘don’t you be sad mom. I’m not afraid. I know where I am going.’ He would laugh at my tears and tell me Grandpa was waiting,” she recalled. “‘You will be okay and you will know how to proceed without me.’” Linda Murphy is doing just what her son Tony said.