Jim Murphy: living a multi-dimensional life

A story by Biddeford Cultural & Heritage Center Voices of Biddeford project from 1940s to current

Voices of Biddeford interview with Jim Murphy on October 28, 2023

To say that Jim was multi-dimensional would be an understatement. With a strong Irish paternal lineage and French-Canadian maternal heritage, his upbringing melded the essence of those two different cultures.

His education and work life took many turns. He spent most of his high school years in a seminary, which he left to help his family at home.  His work life covered a wide spectrum including factory work, managing Dunkin Donuts, cooking in restaurants, handling auto parts, working at Pease Air Force base and Hope Memorial. He has devoted time to countless community organizations including serving on City Council.  His passion for theater was part of the initial link with Elaine Lavoie Kadlec, his wife of 20 years.

A pivotal experience in his life was joining the US Navy where he experienced, for himself, "Join the Navy, see the world." However, he was adamant that "Biddeford is home."

Jim shares the immigration story of his father's family from Ireland and mother's family from Canada, and growing up in an Irish/French family, how his maternal grandparents were married at 5am and went to work in the mills afterwards, experiences at St. Mary’s School, his life at a seminary and why he left, and the transition to his high school senior year—graduating from Biddeford High. He also remembers working summers at Old Orchard Beach, piecework at a shoe shop, joining the Navy reserves during the Vietnam era, time at sea while in the service and experiences at different ports. Jim discusses working at various local businesses in the area, how an Irishman who hardly speaks French became President of the Société St-Jean-Baptiste de Bienfaisance and their contributions to the community, insights of being elected to City Council and why he values his part-time work at Hope Memorial.

Recorded on October 28, 2023

View a transcript of this interview and more pictures/additional information

For more stories from the "Voices for Biddeford" project, visit Voices of Biddeford.

James H. Murphy, Jr -US Navy from 1966 to 1968

St. Mary's Church, Convent and School-Biddeford

Jim and wife, Elaine Lavoie Kadlec