Evans Funeral Home

"Compassionate Funeral Service"

Carrington and New Rockford, North Dakota
701.652.3003 or 701.947.2911

Secondary Number ~ 701.650.9937

John Murphy 

John Wendelin Murphy was born July 5, 1929 to Terrence & Lenora Murphy, the eldest of three living children. In 1940, his mother died in childbirth with the birth of her fourth child. The loss of his mother and young sibling shaped the development of his character, with his strongest attributes being protector and provider for others — not only his own family, but the members of his community, as well.

The death of his mother affected his father to such a degree that John had to take over the management of his family farm at the age of about 15. He graduated from Bordulac High and attended NDSU for one year.  He had the dream of attending medical school, but his hope was cut short due to his strong sense of duty to continue the legacy of farming begun by his great grandfather, John William Murphy, one of the founding members of Foster County.  He was an efficient and analytical farmer and was well respected as a cattleman and rancher. A normal farming day usually started at 8:00 AM and ended by suppertime.  Only on extremely rare occasions did he work on Sundays.  One of his favorite farming tasks was stacking hay and riding horse, which he did until the age of 80.

In 1953, John married Bertha (Seitz), and together they raised five children, whom he often called his “pride and joy”. During his marriage of 63 years, John and Bertha were committed to the needs of both family and community. He served for 30 years as Foster County Commissioner and loved every minute of it. In addition, he served on the ND Association of Counties, township board, and the local hospital board. John was always busy working to solve various types of problems, from the complex math problems assigned to his children, to the recruitment and securing of a physician for the community. John’s commitment to family and community was also seen in his undying willingness to help members of both his immediate and extended families. He also contributed to, and helped set up, a fund designed to provide medical school training to an aspiring physician, enabling the community to benefit from needed services.

The Murphy family and the family farm was not neglected during his many years of service to Foster County. His sons Michael and John joined him in crop production, as well as the raising of both cattle and sheep. Wanting to assure there would be sufficient land for both of his sons, both John and Bertha were driven to see the growth of the farm to the point where both sons and their families could continue the tradition of farming.

John and Bertha valued knowledge, education and appreciating “the finer things of life”. To this end, John was an avid reader and collector of interesting artifacts. He and Bertha enjoyed travelling the world, both here, in North Dakota, and as far away as Tahiti and China. Their trips always ended with discussions showing an increased appreciation for the earth’s beauty, and the cultures of other peoples. While John may not have acquired a college degree, he and Bertha were committed to seeing their children educated. Their eldest daughter, Louise, practiced medicine as a family physician. Their youngest son, Paul, became an attorney, and their youngest daughter, Eileen, worked as a university professor.

Among the treasured memories held by his family are his trips to the pasture to find the tender shoots of the early crocuses he brought back to the house, the trips to Kelly Creek, picnics at Dry Lake, spring cattle drives, and the generosity shown by opening his home to many who were entertained by his great ability to tell a good story. Particularly formative to his family were holiday meals and the Sunday morning brunch. He always enjoyed seeing the family around the large formal dining room table, discussing various matters ranging from politics, to science, to cultural issues. These occasions were frequently enriched by the presence of guests or elderly family members.

He was preceded in death by his great uncle, Arthur Cletus Murphy, and his parents. He is survived by his wife, Bertha, his daughter Louise & Robert Biwer; Michael & Cindy, Eileen & Rodney Savelkoul, John & Tina, and Paul, as well as his 15 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren: Christopher, Adam (Rachel & baby Gwen) Biwer, and Shannon (Peter & baby Ivan) Reimer; Jenna (Brett) Hershberger and Casey (Maartje) Murphy; Margaret, Elliot, Audra, and Lily Savelkoul; Jessica (Christopher, and children Jack, Lucas, & Emerson) Skadberg, James, Shania (Seth) Gilliss, and Jonathan; Connal & Ceara; and his younger brother and sister Dan Murphy and MaryKay Puffee.

Visitation will be held at a later date.

Private Family Mass of Christian Burial  will be on Saturday, April 4, 2020.

A Memorial Mass open to the public will be held at a later date.

Burial will be in the Carrington Cemetery.

Posted Condolences:


  1. Mr Murphy lived large. He was a huge presence: when you were with him or next to him you were as smart , as big , as kind , and as powerful ! It could be riding in the car, seated next to him, could be in the collision shop getting the window fixed on the car, in church or seated at a family dinner; if you were with him, you were just like him. He carried that power! A very intelligent man, with humble beginnings but a very fruitful life. He and his wife were able to give their children and grandchildren things [culture, attitudes, work ethic, values, character and generosity] that will go on for generations. He was fun and cool. If you were around him, it would not be dull. A very great person for us to have had the privilege to come across in our life.

  2. Sending Love and prayers to Johnny’s family at this time, so sad we can’t be there to give hugs at this time of sorrow. We will be there when you are able to have Memorial.

    My big brothers David and Dale loved coming to the farm.

  3. Hello Mike and All Family:

    Sorry to hear about John’s passing. My heart goes out to you all. Say hello to Bert and rest of the family. I will always cherish the times I spent at your farm when you guys taught an old beet farmer from the Red River Valley how to de-horn cattle, work the cattle drives, and check fences.

    You always made me feel welcome in your home and will remember the talks I had with John.

    Take care and God bless.

    Russ and Janette Jackson

  4. I was honored to have worked for Chairman John Murphy, while I was employed by Foster County. John was intelligent, articulate, and always very kind to me. John taught me a great deal. I consider him a great man. My condolences.

  5. We always appreciated your father’s commitment to helping people and building community. He had such a “get er done” spirit. Marks of his work will continue to be manifest in the county and community for years to come. Our deepest sympathy in your loss. Claire and Jill

  6. John was the Chairman of the Commissioner’s when I started working for Foster County and I worked with him for many years. I always respected his generosity and the knowledge he had for county government. I learned a lot over the years from him. I was saddened to hear about his passing. My deepest sympathy and prayers go out to the entire family he always talked very highly of all his children 🙏🙏

  7. I have such good memories of Uncle John telling stories whenever we were together for family weddings and reunions throughout the years. He always had a powerful presence and could definitely make us laugh. I also recently re-read the New York Times article from 1995 in which he was featured and was reminded of how he worked so hard for his community. I will really miss Uncle John. My heart goes out to all of the family. May God grant you peace and comfort.

  8. Hello Murphy’s! I respected your dad very much. Now I know why you were good in math, Mike:). John has left a wonderful legacy in each of you. Bert, I had great memories of you working with Dr.
    Vogelwede. I wish I could personally give you hugs, so here they are virtually. Much love, Jerilyn Miller

  9. I enjoyed working with John on the twp board. He was willing to go that extra mile for thing. H e will be missed, so sorry for your loss

  10. Seems like we just thought “Big John” as we all called him would just always be here. Well he was for 90 years, I enjoyed his stories and our once in a while talks. He was absolutely wonderful to my eldest daughter who became “Little John’s wife” I feel for the whole family and offer my condolences to all. So wish there could have been a service, but John would not have wanted all the people to be at risk. John I wish I could see you and offer my hug. We love you and will be there when we are allowed. Tina, I know you are going to miss him terribly. Love you honey.

  11. I will cherish the memories of our vacation trips to North Dakota. I will still make our hunting trips up north but Uncle John will surely be missed. Got used to having lunch at the Safari Club with Uncle John and Aunt Bert.

  12. I have such a good memory of John´s hospitality and great generosity, while I spent my highschool year 2005/2006 with Eileen and Rod´s family in Lansford. We spent Thanksgiving at John´s and Bertha´s house and they were such generous hosts when my parents and brother visited from Germany. He showed us the entire Murphy farm and my family and I were so impressed by his knowledge and kindness. My sincere condolences go out to the whole family. God bless him!

  13. Mike, Cindy and family,
    Our sympathy in the loss of your father Mike. After reading the postings, it is apparent that he was the kind of person we should all strive to be. May your memories sustain you and your family through this difficult time.
    God’s Peace to you all.

    Rick & Deb

  14. Our thought and prayers are with all of you .He was a good friend and always had time to stop and talk with us .. He will be GREATLY MISSED ..

  15. John was truly a big part of the Messmer life. Our Dad had such respect for John. Our Thanks goes out to John and the Murphy Family for All the years of allowing us to Hunt the Pasture! Without Johns generosity, the Messmer boys could not have literally followed in the footsteps of our Dad in all the years of Deer Hunting. Murphy’s Pasture is apart the Messmer family’s History and Memories. Only a few people will know what it means when someone says “the big one crossed down by the Lone Tree” or “Let’s meet at the Corral”.
    Johns Generosity did not stop with allowing us to Hunt in the Pasture. When our Brother Jim pasted, John allowed a Evergreen to be planted and Ashes to be spread on the Hill in Jim’s Memory.
    So many Memories surround the Pasture and the Memory of John!
    Thank You Johnny!!!!
    Here’s to the Old Timers!!

  16. Our sincere sympathy to the entire Murphy family! May God bless you and keep you in the palms of his hand!! Blessings!

  17. It is with the greatest sadness that I read of John’s passing. I had the honor of getting to know John when I served as the Executive Director and he served on the board and later as President of North Dakota Association of Counties. Together, we spent countless hours lobbying at the Legislature. John was such an effective advocate for the state’s counties. And I dare say, hands down, the most highly regarded and respected statewide organization spokesperson at the Legislature. Legislators from both parties relied on John for his knowledge and expertise. My condolences to the family. RIP my friend.


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