As a board member attending Jefferson County agriculture meetings, dairy farmer Douglas L. Murray would often sit silently in his chair listening to the discussion.
But when he spoke, everyone in the room would give him their undivided attention.
He didnt always say a lot and could be quiet for a long time, but then all of a sudden hed raise his finger up to talk, and youd better be listening, said Jay M. Matteson, agricultural coordinator for Jefferson County who first got to know Mr. Murray at an agriculture conference in 1998. It was always sage advice.
The 83-year-old dairy farmer died in an accident about 6 p.m. Wednesday at Murcrest Farm in Copenhagen. He was believed to have been sharpening blades on a mower attached to a tractor at the family-owned farm when the bracing holding the equipment came loose and the machinery pinned him to the ground.
As friends, farmers and family members talked about Mr. Murray, they described a man of humility and integrity who devoted his life to his family, dairy farming and community service.
My impression of Doug never changed over the years, Mr. Matteson said. He always left me with the idea of a thoughtful, intellectual dairy farmer. When my dad was a dairy farmer, I remember meeting old dairy farmers when I was young who offered valuable advice, and I think Doug represented that older generation.
Former county administrator and state senator James W. Wright knew Mr. Murray for years, but began to work more closely with him three years ago when Mr. Wright became chief executive officer of the Development Authority of the North County. Mr. Murray was then in his 15th year on the board of directors.
Mr. Wright described his old friend as a soft-spoken, quiet guy with a good, common-sense way of looking at things.
Mr. Murray questioned his value to the organization when he was reappointed to the board in December, Mr. Wright recalled. It was the same concerns Mr. Murray had when he was first appointed to the board in 1994.
He was a good farmer who was needed to keep an eye on finances, Mr. Wright said, noting that Mr. Murrays experience as a businessman made him an important part of the organization.
Mr. Murray also served on the boards of the Jefferson County Agricultural Development Corp., Jefferson Community College, Watertown Savings Bank and American Dairy Associations District 2.
LEADING BY EXAMPLE
Mr. Murrays actions spoke louder than his words. The farmer had a lifelong habit, for instance, of getting up early during the winter whenever a snowstorm was forecast to be ready to plow the roads on the farm. Even at 83, hed set his alarm clock, rising as early as 3 a.m. to rev up his tractor and plow.
Hed even plow neighbors driveways and build up high piles of snow for children to sled down, said grandson Mark G. Murray, who co-owns the family farm with his father, Lynn A. Murray. We never had to worry about the snow because he was always out here plowing.
Mr. Murray remained active on the farm every day. He also helped plan a new group-feeding operation for young calves that was launched on the farm last year.
He sent the message to do things because they need to get done, Mark said. And while farming is a 24-hour job, he taught me that you need to balance it and not lose sight of whats important.
Part of what was important was his membership in Watertowns First Presbyterian Church, where he was an elder and chairman of the Building and Grounds Committee.
Doug never made a point of letting on how intelligent and knowledgeable he was, said the Rev. Frederick G. Garry, who will conduct Mr. Murrays funeral at 11 a.m. Monday at the church. Yet when he spoke, it was obvious he understood, cared deeply and offered a peaceful confidence. So often before he spoke, he smiled. His smile was such a gift; it was kindness.
THE FAMILY LIFE
The Murray family gathered for family dinners every Sunday evening, but business on the farm was a rare topic of conversation.
He wanted everyone to share what was going on in their lives, Lynn said. If anything about the farm was brought up, it would be always during the last 10 minutes.
An alumnus of Cornell University in Ithaca who earned a degree in animal science in 1949, Mr. Murray stressed to his three sons Lynn, Roger E. and David L. that they could go to farming school wherever they wanted. But all three of them, and his five grandsons, all chose Cornell. All of the men in the family have pursued careers in agriculture.
Thats just one sign of the respect they had for the man who they say did nothing just for show.
I never had to question his motives for doing something, because it was always well thought out, Lynn said. And if he ever got angry, he would just walk away.
Mr. Murray also made an impression on teenagers who worked on the farm during the summer. Even in his late 70s, hed work alongside youths in the barn shoveling sand in bunks for cattle as it traveled off a loader. The farmer would often be several bunks ahead of the youngsters, who struggled to keep up with his pace.
They would ask me to not make them shovel with him because it was embarrassing, Lynn said, laughing.
Neighbors who knew Mr. Murray well would thank him for plowing snow from their driveways by delivering homemade cookies and cakes, because desserts were his favorite food. At his 70th birthday, family members had fun speculating about how many desserts Mr. Murray had consumed in his lifetime during a trivia game, Roger said.
We said he averaged at least three desserts a day, because he always started the morning with doughnuts as motivation, he said with a laugh.
Close friends of Mr. Murray knew of his faithful caring for and devotion to his wife, Helen H., who has Alzheimers disease and lives at the Lewis County Extended Care Facility in Lowville.
While watching his wife lose her memory during the past 15 years posed a challenge, Mr. Murray visited and cared for her. Every Sunday he took her to a church service and fed her dinner.
It was humbling to watch his devotion toward her, said Peggy L. Murray, Lynns wife. He would always read her Christmas cards even when her condition worsened.
During their days together on the farm, Mrs. Murray described Helen as a strong-willed woman who often gave her husband advice.
He respected her opinions and would always listen to her, she said.
After Roger was born July 1, 1959, Helen was back on the farm four days later baling hay at her husbands request.
Its what they knew they had to do, Mrs. Murray said.
Gazing out at the farms cornfields Thursday and thinking about the man who shaped his life so much, Lynn said hes always tried to imitate his father.
But he said he hasnt come close.
Ive spent my whole life trying to figure out how he did it, he said.