Wednesday, May 23, 2018
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Joanne Murtagh (1926-2017)

Area volunteer was glue of her family, friendships

Joanne Murtagh, a community volunteer who was dedicated to keeping family and friendship ties strong, died Friday in her Ottawa Hills home. She was 90.

She had a short illness from which she did not recover, her daughters said.




As their children were growing up, Mrs. Murtagh and her husband, William, lived on Brookside Road in Ottawa Hills. Their two sons and two daughters returned to town after college and marriage. Three of the four remain.

“She didn’t push to have us move back to Toledo, but we all did,” her daughter Jenny said. “She was the glue of our family and just expected that we would all get along and forgive any sort of argument. We were loyal and family first.”

For 55 years, Mrs. Murtagh organized holiday gatherings in the family home — “and they were all huge celebrations,” her daughter Molly said.

Mrs. Murtagh once observed that of the large and expanding family circle — children-in-law, grandchildren, great-grandchildren — she only got to choose one, her husband. To her, “everything else was a gift from God and a blessing in her life,” daughter Molly said.

She was born Dec. 14, 1926, to Fanny and Daniel Sullivan. She and her three sisters, Grace, Alice, and Fanny, remained close throughout their lives, although her sisters were teenagers at her birth. Their mother died when Mrs. Murtagh was 24 years old, and her sisters “became her mother, her sisters, and her best friends,” daughter Molly said.

She was a 1944 graduate of St. Ursula Academy and for years nurtured friendships that dated back to grade school.

“She was all about maintaining relationships,” daughter Jenny said. “She put the work into reaching out to friends, organizing luncheons, remembering birthdays.”

She received a bachelor of education degree, with a business major, in 1948 from the University of Toledo. Along the way she was president of her sorority, Tri-Delta, and of the Pan-Hellenic Council; an officer of the student council and the Newman Club, and business manager of the student newspaper.

“She was extremely organized,” daughter Molly said. “She was able to motivate people in a kind way and lead people. She was social, so it wasn’t a chore for her. It was fun.”

She worked in the business offices of Gulf Oil. After marriage, she was a homemaker, stay-at-home mother, and a support to her husband, an executive in family businesses, Gerity Products among them.

“She encouraged us, but she was modest and felt this was her role in life — to raise educated, hardworking, and kind children,” daughter Molly said. “She said on her death bed she felt she had done that.”

She’d been a leader in the Junior League of Toledo and led the hospitality committee for the 1979 U.S. Open at the Inverness Club, of which she and her husband were members. She also helped her husband with St. Patrick’s Day activities at the Toledo Club, where they also were members.

She and her husband married April 14, 1951. He died March 11, 2013.

Surviving are her sons Dr. William and Dr. Daniel Murtagh; daughters Molly Meyers and Dr. Jennifer Murtagh; 12 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 4-8 p.m. Tuesday at Walker Funeral Home, Sylvania Township. Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Gesu Church, where she was a longtime member.

The family suggests tributes to Gesu Church or a charity of the donor’s choice.

Contact Mark Zaborney at or 419-724-6182.

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