Born in Castlerea, Roscommon, Ireland Joseph was one of the youngest in a large family. He grew up on a farm without indoor plumbing or electricity but lots of faith and love. Like many in the area, Joe left school early to work and help his family. He enlisted in the Irish Army, and then followed opportunities to London where he met a beautiful young dance instructor named Anastasia (Ann) Glendon. Anastasia too grew up in a small town in rural Ireland (Kilkenny) in a house with no indoor plumbing but lots of faith and love.
Joe heard of an opportunity at a mining school in South Africa so after pledging to stay in contact with Anastasia he headed off. It being the 1950s the route to South Africa for one without ship passage was not direct -- Italy, Malta, Cairo, hopscotching all the way. While Joe studied in South Africa, Anastasia came by ship to join him and the two were married in Johannesburg before moving to a copper mining town in what is now Zambia where the young couple had two boys. Despite their love for Zambia, they knew it would not provide many opportunities for their boys. They planned, saved and the four immigrated to the United States in the mid-1960s.
Like millions before them, it was a ship across the ocean, into New York harbor, past the Statue of Liberty and on to another country where they had no family. After various opportunities did not work out the family settled into the San Francisco Bay Area where Joe and Anastasia had the daughter they always wanted. Since then, the couple became Nana and Papa Joe. Their home has remained the gathering place for celebrations as the family has grown to include grandchildren and great grandchildren.
After a life that defined altruism, Alzheimer’s struck Papa Joe and Nana. Papa Joe faced the disease with the type of courage most of us can only hope to display. Anastasia was always by his side with unwavering love and support. Joseph “Joe” Murtagh died peacefully in his home on June 23, 2019. He was 84 years old. I walk for my Dad, Papa Joe.
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