Submitted by Peter Murray.
W. Clapham Murray, of Tamworth passed away peacefully on Sunday May 1st 2022, at 9:15 am, after an 8 week period of declining health. He was not alone; while his son Peter was on his way to see his father off, Suzy Kjellberg his health care aid, was there to comfort him.
W. Clapham Murray, known as “Cope,” was born in 1931 in Baltimore, Maryland. Son of Clapham & Thelma Ford Murray, he was raised on the family homestead in West River Maryland, settled by his Great, Great Grandfather, Dr. William H. Murray in the mid 1700s. His family lived with his Uncle Bill, with whom he shared many fond memories. As a child, Clapham was passionate about Baseball; he became an ardent fan of the Washington Senators. He shared a passion for Baseball and the Senators with his father. His favorite players were George Washington Case and Cecil Travis, who W. Clapham believed should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
His father, Clapham Deacon Murray managed to get him into Gilman school in Baltimore, where Clapham Deacon had graduated in the first class in 1903. W. Clapham had many fond memories at Gilman: one was watching a game against a rival baseball team. Al Kaline was on that team, hitting a home run that struck the bell tower. W. Clapham graduated from Gilman in 1949 and went onto Wesleyan University in Connecticut. It was at Wesleyan that W. Clapham received the nickname of Cope. At Wesleyan he joined the Alpha Delta Phi fraternity. One of the members was Robert Ludlum, the first theatre major at Wesleyan. Cope became the third, followed by Bill Christopher, later of M.A.S.H fame.
After a tour of duty in the US Army, Cope attended Emerson College, where he met his future wife of 59 amazing years, Priscilla Lowell. In 1957 he received his M.A. in theatre, while Priscilla received her degree in Speech Therapy. Cope pursued dual careers in acting and eventually Professor of Theatre Arts. He was a member of Actors Equity and The Screen Actors Guild. While a member of SAG, he appeared as a principal player with Sissy Spacek and British Actor Tom Reynolds in Todd Field’s “In The Bedroom.” He recited Walt Whitman.
In 1958 he and Priscilla became members of The Barnstormers Theatre, founded by Francis Cleveland, youngest son of Grover. When Francis died in 1995, Cope became Artistic Director. He was an actor/director with The Barnstormers from 1958 through 2012, an uninterrupted span of time exceeded only by Francis Cleveland. His greatest accomplishment as The Barnstormers Artistic Director was working with his former New England College friend Don Woodrow on the Capital Campaign. The goal was to renovate the old theatre and create a modern theatrical experience. The campaign was a huge success and kept The Barnstormers Theatre going long after Francis Cleveland passed.
In 1962 he came to New England College in Henniker, NH where he established a theatre program and was Professor of Theatre Arts. For five years he was on the British campus in Arundel Sussex England where he established a University Theatre troupe that toured the British Isles as far as The Outer Hebrides. He returned to the New Hampshire campus and remained there another 14 years, and moved to Tamworth full time. The town of Tamworth and Wonalancet (his summer residence since the late 50s) was the his jewel. He loved Tamworth and all the people within it. The feeling was mutual from the townsfolk.
In his 28 years at New England College, he was well respected by colleagues and admired by his students, whom he mentored. Two of his students, D. Neal Brown and Penny Purcell ended up at The Barnstormers.
He leaves behind a daughter, Lowell N. Murray, as well as a son-in-law, Patrick Kricksceonaitis and two grand-children, Samantha and Duke. A son, Peter, also survives him. Peter is highly talented, with a broad theatre resume. Peter took excellent care of Cope in his later life and was everything a son could be.
There will be a celebration of W. Clapham Murray’s life this fall. In lieu of flowers please consider making a donation to The Barnstormers Theatre. The address is P.O. Box 434 Tamworth New Hampshire 03886