FRAMINGHAM – John J. Murtagh fought in World War II, and received the Purple Heart. Upon returning to the States, he served as Framingham’s Veterans Agent for 34 years. In 1995, he died at the age of 84.
This past weekend, 18 members of the Murtagh family participated in replacing the American flags at the Edgell Grove and Old Burying ground cemeteries in Framingham, to honor his memory.
Eleven family members of the Murtagh family, including three generations, traveled from Maryland for the tribute.
The tradition of placing of flags on Veteran’s graves in Framingham started in the 1940s with John Murtagh, and continues to this day.
Over the years, Murtagh’s six children (John E., Richard, Toodie, Susan, Kathryn and Rosemary) were drafted or maybe volunteered to help with the flag placement, said John E. Murtagh.
“We learned to recognize the different flag holders of different wars. My favorite was the WWII marker that was respectfully nicknamed the ruptured duck. At first my dad would walk between the graves carrying a bundle of flags and point in the direction of site to be decorated and we would race over with a flag. Later we knew the sites on our own,” he said.
Because there were so many volunteers to help with Edgell Grove this year, the Murtagh family was able to place flags at the Old Burial Ground on Main Street, too.
“It was very stirring to see Peter Salem grave a resident of Framingham and as a freed black man who fought in the early battles of the Revolutionary War from Bunker Hill to Saratoga,” said Murtagh.
Born in St. John, New Brunswick, Canada, John J. Murtagh worked as a manager at the former A&P stores in Saxonville and Natick and operated his own painting contract business.
Prior to World War II, Murtagh was in charge of ambulance and medical supplies for the Massachusetts Guard.
He was a decorated Veteran of the U.S. Army during World War II, having received the Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Clusters.
During the War, he participated in the historic D-Day invasion of Normandy, France, the Liberation of Paris, and the Battle of the Bulge.
Murtagh served as Framingham’s Veterans Agent from 1948 until his retirement in 1982.
He helped organize and run the 4th of July parades in Framingham for many years and was the Grand Marshal of the first Framingham Flag Day Parade Celebration in 1987.
He was also one of the organizers for Framingham ‘s 275th Year Celebration in 1975.
Photo by Susan Petroni/Petroni Media Company ©2017. All Rights Reserved.