MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS — More than a hundred mourners gathered Saturday to honor the life's work of community and youth services advocate Richard Murphy, a commissioner of youth services under Mayor David Dinkins whose legacy will linger long after his death, friends and relatives said.
Singing hymns that included "Amazing Grace" and "Shepherd Me, O God," the dozens who gathered at Union Theological Seminary on Broadway at West 120th Street to honor Murphy sat through a moving and oftentimes humorous service as friends and relatives shared personal memories and anecdotes of Murphy's life.
Murphy was responsible for championing public schools opening their doors after dismissal, and for weekend activities, friends recalled, spearheading the idea of treating schools as community centers, those who remembered him said.
"Today was an incredible outpouring of love,"said one of Murphy's stepsons, Noel Garcia, 40, after the service. "It's definitely been encouraging in a time of such grief, the services were incredible, the people were incredible."
"I'm just here soaking up all of the love that has been shown for my father," he added.
Murphy passed away on Feb. 14, after suffering from complications related to stomach cancer, the Times reported.
He was remembered as an outspoken advocate for providing inner-city youth with positive outlets for their energies to keep them on the right track.
"You can have a policeman on 178th Street and a policewoman on 179th Street and you can sweep kids off the streets,” he told The New York Times in 1990, as the paper's obituary noted Friday. "But unless you give them something to do, they’ll simply go to 180th Street. You have to give kids something to do."
Jim O'Neill, CEO of the Sports & Arts in Schools Foundation and former friend and colleague of Murphy's, spoke at a reception after the service.
"His dream has really come to fruition, in terms that New York City today has the largest out of school-time programs in the United States, and is a model that has been adopted all over the U.S."
"I don't think these things would have happened without him," O'Neill said.