What does it mean to live a belief in “live and let live?”
To Eloisa Murphy it means to love others, without judgment as to the color of their skin, their religion, opinions or other lifestyle differences.
“’Live and let live’ is not a passive adage — not laissez faire,” she states in her thick Spanish accent. “I will interfere if someone is in harm’s way or if someone is going to hurt somebody — otherwise I mind my own business.”
LaVena DeClercq writes of Murphy, “I absolutely love her; she’s volunteered at the senior center for 10 years. I work in the kitchen and she makes our jobs so much easier. She serves everyone their milk, coffee and all of their meal. On rare occasion when she cannot come in, people sit and wait to be served, they don’t realize that it is self-serve coffee, because they are so used to her serving them.
“I think everyone thinks she works there and it’s her job,” DeClercq continued. “They don’t know she volunteers there and chooses to serve everyone. She’s just amazing, so giving and lots of spunk too. If I could be like anyone it would be Eloisa. When we tease her she tells us to ‘chut-up’ in her Spanish word, it’s so cute. She’s bilingual. She’s a woman of service who accepts and welcomes everyone.”
Murphy says her parents always served others and passed down their faith in God by actions toward others of a non-judgmental “live and let live” attitude of loving others.
“Our parents always shared anything they had,” she said. “When they bought the first TV in the neighborhood, an itty bitty 7-inch black and white TV, they set it up facing the window so all the neighbors could watch it too. We all went outside and shared food and watched the TV together.
“When the hobos came off the rails during the Depression, Mom and Dad would feed them and allow them to sleep on our property. When I married my Irish boyfriend, many of my relatives and friends no longer accepted me. They told me I was ‘mixing the bloods’. But Mom and Dad accepted my husband as their own.
“I was raised in Texas so I call myself a ‘TexMex,’” she said, her laughter making here rocking chair go back and forth.
“I never understood why some people judge others because of their way of life; if they aren’t hurting anybody what business is it of ours? We are all the same blood. God doesn’t judge us like that.”
She recalled her parents saying chickens have different colored feathers: brown, white, yellow, rainbow but they are all still “chicken” on the inside.
“We’ve got to love people, and we’ve got to forgive too. My sister’s kids were all under 12 years of age when we found out she was placing them all in an orphanage,” she said.
Eloisa and her husband already had six children of their own, but they wanted to adopt them.
“It wouldn’t do anyone any good to judge my sister for this, what was needed was action, the five children needed a home! None of our 11 children ever gave us any problems, they were all good kids thank God.”
She added, “My husband was a good father and good man, so I was shocked when 25 years into our marriage with four kids still at home he left me for another woman. I knew it was important to forgive him and the other woman too, for my sake and for our kids’ sake.”
Now on her own, she got a job at Woolworth’s and raised the kids on that salary.
“I would not have chosen my marriage to end, but he was a good husband for 25 years,” she said.
She laughs and adds, “I felt sorry for that other woman because shortly after leaving he got sick and she had to take care of him the rest of his life. So see I got the good years from him.”
One of Eloisa’s neighbors, Angela Reynolds, said, “I call her mama she’s a sweetheart. Some people don’t like my dogs, but she likes them. I call her mama because she’s always there if I need someone to talk to or just need something. I am disabled and I needed a blanket but I couldn’t’ afford one, so mama bought one for me.
“She seems to understand me, and always tells me to not to give up,” Reynolds said. “She keeps encouraging me, she tells me to think positive and to pray, and so I do and it helps! She really is an inspiration to me. We play dominoes together too. Some people act like I am bugging them, but not mama. She she tells me she likes to spend time with me.”
As Eloisa sees things, everyone needs acceptance.
“Most of what we find annoying in life can be overlooked. If I do have a problem with someone I feel I cannot ignore I go directly to the person. I don’t understand why people call the dog control to complain about someone’s dog rather than ask the person themselves,” she said.
Eloise recalls another personal example. “I remember when I had come home from the hospital and had a lot of visitors for a week. Someone called the board to complain that I had too much foot traffic at my apartment. I wished they had come over and asked me.”
She believes we cannot assume things about people unless we have asked that person. For example, when she passes someone on the street that has a sign asking for money to buy food, she says she always gives them some money.
“I was in town last week walking with a couple of friends, and handed someone with such a sign some money and my friends told me I shouldn’t give them money because they will buy alcohol with it. But I said I gave the money with a clean heart and pure intentions to buy food, so now what they do with it is none of my business.”
Eloisa lives in a small apartment filled with mementos of family and friends. Her walls are covered with framed photos. She has memory knickknacks displayed throughout, ceramic and glass roosters, angels and crosses everywhere. She displays her shelves with hundreds of little gifts people have given her.
Not expensive items, they are gifts from the heart; most were given by children, such as rocks, handmade clay animals, cards and hearts. Going through her albums of faded old photos, she lovingly shares her kids’ ribbons, notes, cards and certificates of achievement.
She remarks, “These all mean so much to me, I cannot get rid of anything like this.”
She shows a necklace she wears from her mom, and even though it’s been 13 years since her mom passed away, she chokes up.
“My mom died at age 95. I had lived next door and taken care of my parents, so I was really close to them. My dad died first, then years later my mom. I still miss them.”
Linda Thomas, a community volunteer says, “Eloisa is always showing concern and compassion for people. She’s encouraging, too. When I was losing weight she kept encouraging me all along, and then when I did she gave me some new clothes to wear.
“We play Mexican dominoes at the center at Brookhaven. Eloisa has a smile on her face for everyone and she touches everyone on their shoulder to greet them, no matter how dirty or shabby or grungy they are, and there are some that fit that description.
“However, Eloisa I don’t believe notices such things; she never ignores anyone she treats all with the same kindness. Everyone just loves her to death. My husband Richard always says it doesn’t cost anything to be kind, and that is what Eloisa is.”
Eloisa said, “If we cannot be kind what can we be? I think kindness is what ‘live and let live’ is about.”
Name: Eloisa Ramirez Murphy
Born: April 24, 1934, in San Antonio, Texas.
Siblings: Ten, including five brothers and five sisters. Three died in the war, one as a baby.
Education: Lanier High School, San Antonio.
Children: Six of our own, five adopted.
Grandchildren: Ten grandchildren, 13 great grandchildren.
Years on Whidbey: Fifteen.
Hobbies: Gardening, crosswords, word final, Mexican dominoes, bingo, cooking tamales.
Questions and answers
What does it mean to you to have class?
“Someone that can get along with and treat all people with kindness.”
Who would you like to apologize to?
“One of my sisters, she passed away before we could clear the air.”
Your favorite book?
“The Bible above any other book, next ‘Little Women.’”
What qualities do you most admire in a person?
“Good manners, polite, humorous.”
“People who assume things about other people without checking it out.”