Grieving Pub Owner Offers Free Thanksgiving Meals to Honor His Dead Brother

Mark Murphy wanted to do something 'selfless' in honor of his brother, who recently died of cancer.

The thought of facing Thanksgiving alone was more than Mark Murphy could bear.

His brother, Rich, who was also his best friend, died three weeks ago when tumors from a fast-moving cancer ultimately crushed his heart.

"We were partners," Mark told "I don't know what I'm going to do without him."

So for Thanksgiving, Mark, 54, decided to do something that would emulate his brother's generosity. "He was selfless," Mark said. "My brother was all about that, being selfless."

On Thursday, at his Connecticut pub and restaurant, Mark will serve turkey dinners, and every meal is on the house.

He figured there were others like him in his hometown of Newtown. People who were lonely, or grieving, or down on their luck and had nowhere to go on this holiday — that is all about family and friends.

He's expecting about 40 people, he said. Regulars at Murphy's Pub had already dropped off three turkeys. Mark will provide the rest — stuffing, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, green bean casserole and plenty of pies.

Rich, his brother said, would have loved being present at such a gathering.

"Oh my God, he'd be there. Oh Jesus, I can just see him. I can imagine him loosening up his belt and just sitting back with a big old smile on his face, with his fingers laced behind his head."

Rich Murphy always thought of others on Thanksgiving. He retired from the Danbury Police Department after 44 years, but he still went down every holiday to make sure the folks on duty had dinner.

"He was a very kindhearted man," his brother said.

He was also Mark's protector against their father. "He was not a well man. He was a very, very abusive man," Mark said.

Rich was 12 years older than Mark. It was Rich who took him to see his first New York Yankees game. And it was Rich who took him to his first amusement park. Even after Rich moved into his own place, he brought Mark to stay with him.

"He was my hero," Mark says.

He learned how to play the guitar by watching Rich's fingers on the instrument. They began playing and singing together, calling themselves the "Murphy Brothers." 

"On his deathbed, I said, 'What do you want me to play you out on?' And he said, 'Folsom Prison Blues,' so I played 'Folsom Prison Blues.'''

Mark's brother was diagnosed with lymphoma a year ago. "Everybody thought he was going to beat it," he said. "He was going to Sloan Kettering and he was getting the best treatment.

"But his body rejected every treatment they tried to give him," Mark said. Even chemo had no effect.

"Cancer took him really fast," Mark said.

Even in the hospital, Rich expressed more concern for others than for himself.

Every time Mark visited, Rich wanted to know about the bar. "How'd we do last night?" he would ask. "He was always watching over the place."

And he lived a life as big as his heart.

"Most people wish they'd had a life like his," Mark said. "He was a seventh-degree black belt, he was a diver, he was a marksman."

He was also a gentle giant. "You just wanted to talk to him because he was such a nice guy," Mark said. "He had hands like baseball mitts."

There have been times, since Rich died, that Mark thought he'd never be happy again.

"I'd been crying every night since my brother passed. I started worrying I was going to lose my business because I was crying every time I walked into the bar," Mark said. 

But something passed over him on Saturday. Perhaps it was the knowledge that he was a planning a good Thanksgiving. Perhaps he'd just cried himself out.

When he walked into work, he smiled. "The whole bar lit up," he said. "That night, everybody was laughing and dancing. We had karaoke that night. It was something beautiful."

On Thanksgiving, Mark will lift a glass in Rich's honor. There will be more laughter and lots of stories about a big man with a big heart. 

"It's going to be real exciting," he said. "It's going to be real fun."