by Walter Fox
C. Donald “Don” Murphy, 81, a barber in Mt. Airy for 60 years, died Aug. 2 at Einstein Medical Center of injuries sustained in an automobile accident earlier that day. Mr. Murphy, who lived in Roxborough, was on his way to his shop at 7149 Germantown Ave., when his car struck a tree near West Walnut Lane and West Cliveden Street in Mt. Airy.
Mr. Murphy had many loyal customers in the Northwest Philadelphia area who came to his shop not only for haircuts but also for the free-flowing conversation and humor that went along with the barbering. He said often that he had given haircuts to four generations of some families and – in one case – five generations.
Although he had several health issues in recent years and at times was forced to close his shop, he always came back as soon as he felt well enough. In an interview with the Chestnut Hill Local in 2008, he said he planned to keep cutting hair until he was 85.
“As long as my health stays reasonable, I’m going to work,” he added. “Sitting home is not for me.”
A lifelong resident of the Roxborough-Manayunk section of Philadelphia, Mr. Murphy attended St. Mary of the Assumption Parish School and Roman Catholic High School. In 1949 he lied about his age to join the National Guard at 16. Two years later he was sent to Korea for 13 months during the Korean War.
After the war, he went to barber school on the G.I. Bill. While still in school, he was hired by Raymond McFarland in 1954 to join four other barbers at the shop on Germantown Avenue opened by McFarland’s father in 1903. When McFarland retired, Mr. Murphy took over the business in 1986.
Mr. Murphy recalled that when he started at McFarland’s Barber Shop, a haircut cost $1.50 and a shave, 50 cents. He still charged only $9 for men’s haircuts when other barbers had long since raised their prices, and he often would make house calls for elderly or infirm customers who were unable to come to the shop.
Asked why he did not hire a second barber to handle the customer volume on Saturdays, Mr. Murphy replied, “If I hired someone else, then folks wouldn’t be able to talk to me.”
Mr. Murphy is survived by a son, David; a daughter, Suzanne; a brother, Jack Murphy; sisters Kay Bender and Rosemary Biles; and five granddaughters. A son, Donald Jr., preceded him in death. Mr. Murphy’s wife, the former Mary Closson, died in 2011.
A funeral Mass was celebrated Sept. 8 at St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Manayunk with interment at Calvary Cemetery. Memorial donations may be made to the Gift of Life, 401 N. 3rd St., Philadelphia, PA 19123.