Brenda N. Murphy, 76

Long-time Hyde Park resident Brenda Nelligan Murphy, died peacefully at home with her family on January 8, 2016 after an extended illness.

Brenda was born in Poughkeepsie, NY on July 21, 1939 to Thomas P. and Jean (Denzig) Nelligan, graduated from Oakwood School and went on to attend William Smith College in Geneva, NY. Postponing her studies, she took a position as Assistant to a Senior Tutor at Harvard University where she met her future husband, John, a student who found many excuses to visit her office.

Brenda and John were married on August 6, 1966, shortly after John received orders for Vietnam. After the Army, they moved to Hyde Park in 1968 so John could complete graduate studies at the University of Chicago where they would remain, raising their three children here.

While raising her children, Brenda supported her family with a variety of local administrative positions including at the University of Chicago Law School and Regenstein Library. She served as a college advisor at The American School of Correspondence. Eventually, her passion for social service and justice issues led her to become the administrator for Meridian Hospice, the first Hospice organization on the South Side. She then went on to work at The Night Ministry serving the homeless youth of Chicago. She retired in 2005 as Office Manager for Women and Children First Bookstore, which combined her love of reading with her advocacy for rights the of children and women, including the LGBT community.

Through her life, Brenda was deeply committed to a number of community organizations and social justice causes. In Hyde Park, she was a long-time member of the Ray School PTA, the Hyde Park Interfaith Council, and co-chair of St. Thomas the Apostle’s Social Justice and Peace ministry. She was a founding member of the Hyde Park-Kenwood AYSO Chapter, which is still going strong nearly 30 years later, and an active volunteer for Harold Washington in his historic first mayoral campaign.

More recently Brenda was concerned with the lack of affordable housing in Chicago, becoming a founding member of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Transitional Housing Project, Catholic Voices for Economic Justice (addressing the failure of CHA to provide for displacement of project residents), and the Coalition for Equitable Community Development. She was a member of the Friends of Lathrop Homes.

Brenda was a lifelong learner who stayed committed to completing her degree despite many interruptions. She earned an Associate’s Degree from Harold Washington College and eventually her Bachelor’s Degree, with Honors, from Northeastern Illinois University in 2003.

Brenda is survived by John, her husband of nearly 50 years, and their children, John James III (Margaret) of Seattle, Rebecca (Paul) Schmitz of Newton, MA, and Kevin (Kellen) of Chicago, and their grandchildren Leah, Finn, and Esmé of Seattle, Peter of Newton, and Mallory of Chicago.

A Visitation will be held at St. Thomas the Apostle Church, 5472 S. Kimbark, at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, January 30th followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at 11:00 a.m. Interment will be private. A Celebration of Brenda’s Life will be at the Hyde Park Union Church at 56th and Woodlawn from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Contributions to your favorite social justice cause, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (, or the Hyde Park Cats foster and adoption organization ( are appreciated.