Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow - Delta Murphy
I have tried for many years to build my life around my faith, my family, my friends, and above all - find time to be a contributor. We have been given so much in our lives, and are so blessed; it is essential that we return some of this in kind.
When our two boys were in school, and gone all day, I started doing volunteer work. I spent several years working at Murphy Hospital in pediatrics, became a member of the Y.M.C.A Board, and the Salvation Army Board. One day Monte Wicker called and asked if I would go on the Park and Recreation Commission. This sounded right up my alley, and I resigned from my other activities to spend time in this endeavor. I felt we were helping people from 8 to 80. Establishing many new parks, an opportunity for recreation was a real thrill. Some of us went up to Sacramento to negotiate the purchase of the Hellman property at the end of Greenleaf. It would be a new 200-acre open space for the citizens of Whittier. After that acquisition, as well as, Michigan Park, Founders Park, and Palm Park, we had one of the best per capita park systems in Southern California. I ended up as Chairman of the Park and Recreation Commission, and a member of the State Park and Recreation Board. I was ready to retire at the end of my 8th year. Just as I was nearing that juncture in my life, the gentlemen from the City Council called to see if they could speak to me. They came over the next day, and asked if I would please consider finishing the unexpired term of Councilman Merrick. He had had a heart attack and was obliged to resign, and move North. I told them I wasn't really interested in politics, but they asked me to think about it for a week, and they would return. Breene and the boys were very enthusiastic that I take it, but I still wasn't sure. That Sunday our minister's sermon was titled "Dare to have a Purpose Firm - Dare to make it known. If you haven't got any scars, you haven't been in the battle. Additionally, it is important to take on a task you think is bigger than you can handle, because you will be given the strength to finish it." The next week I accepted their offer, and that was the beginning of a new challenge in my life - that I sometimes call my "not by design" tenure. None of it was planned.
I truly enjoyed my years on the council because of my fellow council members, the City Hall staff at the time, and the opportunity to meet hundreds of Whittier people that I would not otherwise have had a chance to ever know. As I recall there were 156 organizations in Whittier at that time. I tried to attend each one as the occasion arose. I went to anniversary celebrations, inaugurations, annual meetings and whatever else I was invited to. I would never have met the members of the Audobon Society, or other lesser-known groups, had I not been in that position.
During that same period in my life, I was asked to be a member of the Board of Trustees for Presbyterian Hospital. I had worked on the campaign to build P.I.H. and it was dear to my heart. Those were also special times as part of that outstanding institution.
The experiences during that time on council were too many to relate, but all of them were interesting, informative, and increased my love of this wonderful city. In fact, that was my theme when I was mayor - Pride. I still feel it is an essential ingredient in our current and future plans for our beloved community.
I believe I should add, also, that I had two very special opportunities - one to establish the Whittier Village, and as a consequence, closer tie to Whittier College. And the second - Invitations to speak to numerous groups, including at one time, 2000 young women. What a once in a lifetime chance to tell them about the incredible life they had before them, and the infinite number of paths they could choose. Although, I always suggested doing things chronologically in your life – school, marriage, children – and then those wonderful later years for following your dreams.
After my six plus years on council, and two as mayor, I decided it was time for new council people, new ideas, new enthusiasm, and new vision. I was going to blend in to the woodwork – watch Days of our Lives, and eat bonbons.
That's when Supervisor, Pete Schabarum, called and asked me for another one of those pivotal lunches. There had been problems in the County, and the Supervisor asked if I would please come as his appointee to the Planning Commission. He knew that I was knowledgeable about land use problems after my years on Council. You quickly learn about zone changes, conditional use permits, and other land use issues. I accepted, but told him I would only stay for a limited time, because I don't believe in self-perpetuating boards and commissions. I try to acquaint myself with the tools over the first year, and then work hard and produce for the next few years.
Once again, it was a marvelous experience. My fellow commissioners (4) were dedicated, bright, and articulate. The County staff was astounding, and our regular attendees at Board hearings in our large auditorium (in the Los Angeles County Hall of Records) were two attorneys, the Assistant Planning Director, two secretaries, a stenographer taping all proceedings, and assorted planning staff. The problems and projects were always of great magnitude - any other issue was decided by an administrative board. The reading was voluminous, and the homework precluded much outside activity for most of us. I equate the County to General Hospital - with problems of every conceivable kind. As I told the attendees when I was chairman - we were not a blank check, but we were there to try and solve the issues, and help when it was appropriate and legally responsible.
We also wrote the General Plans for all political entities in the county - as mandated by Sacramento. Which leads me to my next endeavor after I left the commission seven years later.
We have now covered "Yesterday", and "Today" is my present thrill and activity - The Wrigley Marine Science Institute for U.S.C. Because of writing the General Plan for Catalina I probably knew Catalina as well as most natives. We circumnavigated the Island by boat, traversed it by four-wheel drive, and completely viewed the Island by helicopter several times. We held public hearings in Avalon and at our hearing room in L.A. We brought professionals from back east to help us write the plan, retaining all of the conservancy and respecting the environment.
When the Dean of Letters Arts, and Sciences and assistant to the President of U.S.C. asked me to Chair the Wrigley Institute Board, I was both flattered and delighted, As the young people say, "What a trip". I asked them to please consider me as interim chairman. At this juncture, I have been there almost seven years. The Board is made up of Wrigley progeny, corporate and business people from St. Louis, Arizona, Los Angeles, and Florida.
We have just hired the top man in microbiology in the world. Dr. Ken Nealson was at J.P.L. in charge of all material brought back from space. He was in great demand by all research universities, but he chose U.S.C. because of the Wrigley. The work he is doing now is astounding. There are many other marine research projects as well. Catalina has some of the most pristine waters in the world. With a state of the art three story institute on Catalina as well as the facilities on campus at U.S.C. It is hard to beat. It is an exciting new world to be part of.
Last summer we had 30 of the top scientists in the world at a seminar and "think tank". Following that session - with some overlapping - 20 of the most proficient young students in the world came to Catalina. They were mostly doctoral candidates and came from Cameroon, Belgium, Russia, Yale, Harvard, Cal., M.I.T. and other prestigious universities. I am a sponge, and continually trying to learn and grow. When this episode in my life is through I will continue my Meals on Wheels volunteering and board work. That's my busy "today". - As well as my main job with my beloved husband of 56 years, my two sons, two dear daughter's in law, and six grandsons.
As for "Tomorrow", I will leave you with my favorite aim for the future. I am an aficionada of Will and Ariel Durant - the couple who spent their entire lives writing those great tomes – 20 volumes – on civilization. They studied cultures, mores, geography, history and man since the beginning of time. We were blessed that in their last years they came to Los Angeles to live. When he was 90 years old, the Los Angeles Times sent a young reporter out to interview him. It is a fascinating article. Will was an agnostic as a young man, but when asked, he said that the major revelation to him was the effect religion played through time, and how it positively changed countries and people for the better. When asked what message he would leave us after a lifetime of research and study. He said: "We have been silent too long, it is time for us to say humbly, but publicly that we resent corruption in politics, dishonesty in business, faithlessness in marriage, pornography in the literature, coarseness in language, chaos in music and meaninglessness in art - It is time for all good men to come to the aid of their party, - whose name is Civilization."