QUINCY – Daily walkers, dog owners, joggers and mothers pushing strollers around Nut Island State Park over the past two weeks have been happy to spot a familiar back-to-work presence.

Lois Murphy, dressed in a wide-brimmed straw hat, long-sleeved shirt, blue jeans, and work boots with pruning shears on her belt, forcefully pushes her shovel through the flower beds covered in weeds near the entrance.

“Everything has had an extra year to grow because of the pandemic,” she says. “We’re digging up the invasive things that choke Stella D’oro lilies because we didn’t work last year and there’s a lot of weeding to do.” She throws a clump of weeds into a garbage barrel and goes after the other.

Beth Scanlan, walking her dog Colby, stops for a chat, then begins circling the park along the paved path with stunning views of Hingham Bay and Quincy Bay, from the Boston skyline to Peddocks Island, Hull and Hingham. “She’s a real community activist and very persistent,” Scanlan said, “and she knows everyone.”

Murphy, who turns 90 on July 8, is in his element, working with his assistant, Jeanne Healy, from Braintree, who also grew up here. “It’s the kind of thing we do every day,” she says. “There has been no cutting of honeysuckle and other invasive species choking roses and beach plums.” Over the next few months, the blooming show will feature lupins, Queen Anne’s lace, California poppies, coreopsis, cone flowers.

One of the oldest employees in the state, she works 20 hours a week from mid-May to the end of September and has been in the job for 21 years. Watching her work, few would guess her age. Hearing her talk about her passion for this peninsula at the end of the Houghs Neck, where she was born and lived all her life, no one would doubt that she loves her job.

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Bobby Johnson, a supervisor at the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority in Chelsea, calls him. “We will be back tomorrow morning and at 8 o’clock sharp,” he said. Johnson, who grew up in Pembroke, leaves the park in his truck after working with a crew that turned the soil in the flower beds, laid down new soil, and leveled it before new wildflower seeds set in be planted.

“She does a great job of keeping the property beautiful for the residents of the city,” he says.

Lois Murphy, a staple at Nut Island Park in Hough's Neck, is back to tend the gardens after a year off due to COVID restrictions.  She has the help of Jeanne Healy from Braintree on Wednesday May 19, 2021 Greg Derr / The Patriot Ledger

Murphy works vigorously at all the tasks she undertakes – weeding, trimming bushes, raking, edging a planting bed – and drives an electric vehicle around the property. Her nearby house has a view of the park from her kitchen and back patio. Despite the hard physical work, it is here more than anywhere else that she finds fulfillment, perspective and a sense of giving back to the community.

“This is salvation for me, my special spiritual place,” she said.

Lois Murphy of Houghs Neck, Quincy, cooking freshly picked beach plums for jam, Friday, August 28, 2020. Tom Gorman / For The Patriot Ledger

In 2018, the Water Resources Authority awarded Murphy a Special Service Award “for his tireless and dedicated efforts in making Nut Island a beautiful place to be enjoyed by all as a steward of the grounds and steward of the land. wild flowers”.

She was born just around the corner on Great Hill, graduated from Atherton Hough Elementary School and Quincy High School, married William Murphy, a Quincy Police Captain who died in 2005, raised two sons and two daughters and worked in the Quincy School Department for 20 years. In her later years, she learned to paint in watercolors and acrylics, bake sourdough, and took piano lessons with a neighbor, retired music teacher Gay Carbonneau, 91.

In a life filled with adventure, civic engagement, appreciation for beauty, and joy in the company of others, she has also experienced tragedy. Her son, Kevin, and daughter, Pam, passed away long before their time. His son William II lives in New Zealand and his daughter Laura lives in New York and visits him regularly.

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Murphy began working in the park at the age of 69, shortly after his citizen’s involvement in the $ 4 billion court-ordered Boston Harbor cleanup. This led to the establishment of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, a new treatment facility at Nut Island, and the establishment of the park in 1998. Nut Island State Park, which is part of the National Park area of Boston Harbor Islands, is state-run.

For decades, Nut Island had been plagued by foul smells of sewage; her mother couldn’t have Sunday guests because of the smelly processing plant. Murphy was passionate about preserving the new Nut Island as a beautiful and refreshing place and volunteered for seasonal gardening work.

Lois Murphy, a staple at Nut Island Park in Hough's Neck, is back to tend the gardens after a year off due to COVID restrictions.  She has the help of Jeanne Healy from Braintree on Wednesday May 19, 2021 Greg Derr / The Patriot Ledger
Lois Murphy, 86, from Hough Neck takes a walk with her son Bill Murphy, 63, at Nut Island State Park at Houghs Neck in Quincy.  Thursday May 3, 2108 Greg Derr / The Patriot Ledger Thursday May 3, 2108 Greg Derr / The Patriot Ledger

The original vision for the park came from Mary Smith, a former landscape architect from Quincy, who designed the park and other Quincy projects. Smith said Murphy played a key role in maintaining the landscape as she had designed it, rather than being broke.

With seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, Murphy loves watching children walk through the park. At home, she paints stones collected from the beach with happy messages like “Be kind”, then places the stones around the park in flower beds and tells the children they can keep or hide them for them to use. another child finds them.

“It makes me happy, so I keep painting them and hiding them in the park,” she said. “This is my happy place.”

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