In Memory of




Obituary for Deborah Brill Murphy

Deborah Louise Brill was born in Yonkers, New York, on February 26, 1943, the second and youngest child of Arthur Peter Brill and Eileen (Bessie) Brown. Her mother Bessie died at age 29 when Debbie was not yet two. Her father later married Mary Ellen "Mem" Kelly, who lovingly raised her and her older brother Artie as her own. Her father Arthur died when she was 16, leaving Debbie and Artie with their lifelong love of baseball and determination not to take a single day for granted.

Debbie was a lifelong Yonkers resident, attending St. Dennis Grade School (where the Sisters of Charity cured her left handedness with a ruler) and High School of Commerce. After high school she took courses at Hunter College while working for the New York Telephone Company. In 1964 she headed to Florida for flight attendant training after being accepted into the Eastern Airlines program. She flew for 23 years, never losing her sense of awe at a jet's takeoff and the magic of a new place -- even when the new place was Havana, where in 1980 a hijacker diverted her Miami flight by threatening to set off a bomb from the bathroom.

In 1962 Mem hatched a plan with Teresa Murphy, her coworker at Catholic Charities, to set Debbie up with Teresa's son John Emmett on a blind date. Debbie would later question their judgment about the setting (Emmett's twenty-first birthday party on Belmont Terrace) but not the man. He was the love of her life. During their comically long courtship Debbie continued to commute from Van Cortlandt Park Avenue to the New York airports, sometimes listening in despair to casualty reports from Vietnam, where Artie was leading a company of Marines. But Artie made it back alive, wearing a Purple Heart and three Bronze Stars, to walk her down the aisle on a hot September wedding day in 1970.

The newlyweds honeymooned in Rome, where Debbie was ushered out of St. Peter's for her immodest sixties miniskirt, and they otherwise wandered wherever Eastern's flight vouchers would take them: trips to Paris, movie nights in Texas, huevos rancheros in Acapulco, and uncomfortably close encounters with gun-toting troops in Northern Ireland and Israel.

Most of that came to an end when Debbie found her true gifts as a mother, giving birth to Jennifer in 1975, John Emmett III in 1978, and Katherine in 1982. Her fierce love defined, and radiated throughout, the home she built for them (cooking not included). She was known well in her community as, among many other things, a devoted fan of North Yonkers Boys and Girls Club sports, Sacred Heart Eucharistic Minister, campaigning spouse, Den mother, cancer survivor, great talker, and loyal friend.

After retiring from Eastern, Debbie worked as a secretary for various Westchester County agencies, retiring for good in 2007. By then she had more important things to worry about - namely her ever-increasing brood of grandchildren. They (all 10 of them) called her "Nanny" and adored her almost as much as she treasured (and fretted about) them.

Debbie died peacefully in her home, surrounded by her tearful husband, brother, children, grandchildren (Lucy, Atticus, Noah, Eamon, Alice, Emmett, Mae, Ruth, Michaela, and Thomas) cousin Bruce, and her three children in law: Jennifer, Chris and Tommy (whom she loved as her own).