First Baptist Church of Covington recently honored Ralph and Gerri Murphy by establishing a scholarship in their name.
"Father Murphy" and his wife of 58 years were recently honored by the Sunday School class they grew from less than a dozen members to an all-time high of 120.
The Ralph and Gerri Murphy Scholarship has been announced by the First Baptist Church of Covington in honor of the couple who began teaching the class soon after they moved to Covington in 1987. The scholarship will be awarded to a graduating high school senior who is active in church and community activities.
"It was quite an honor and very humbling," Gerri Murphy said. "They surprised us on St. Patrick's Day at church and we were overwhelmed.
"(My husband) taught the class for a long time. He'll be 89 in October, so for the last three or four years we've divided it up and I've been teaching it too. We have just enjoyed the Sunday School class and all of them are such wonderful people."
The Murphys are former school teachers and even met each other in 1953 during a faculty meeting at Fulton High School.
Gerri Murphy, who graduated from Bellhaven Presbyterian College in Jackson, Miss., taught piano and voice for many years in Atlanta as she cared for the couple's two daughters.
Daughter Randi Schmitt lives in Alpharetta and daughter Charlotte Tedder is a resident of Covington. Both are graduates of Georgia Tech and Schmitt is the mother of the Murphys' grandchildren, Christopher and Stacey.
Ralph Murphy, who graduated from Emory University, left teaching after about eight years for a career in the insurance industry. He grew up in the Eastlake area of Atlanta and served in the U.S. Navy in World War II and Korea.
"I did a good bit of traveling with my business," he said. "I had about 15 states I worked and I have friends all over the South and I still hear from them. After a while they started calling me Father Murphy. I'm the only Baptist I know who is known as Father Murphy."
Reflecting on his past 89 years, Ralph Murphy said he has no regrets.
"If you try to serve your Creator and serve Him and do those things which are right, honorable and trustworthy, you wind up having a pretty good life and pleased with the way things go," he said.
"We all have some ups and downs, but if you believe in the Savior, He'll bring you through when things get tough."
While he enjoyed working in the insurance business, Ralph Murphy said he missed teaching.
"The first insurance year I had, my bonus was better than my teacher's salary for nine months," he said. "That's a shame because I enjoyed teaching. If I could have made enough money teaching, I would have kept doing it because I like kids."
Even with a thriving career, Ralph Murphy managed to find time to fulfill that passion by teaching Sunday School at Briarcliff Baptist Church for close to 15 years.
When he moved to Covington, he began teaching a class that would become known as "Murphy's Gang" at the First Baptist Church of Covington. It was that class that recently honored the Murphys with a scholarship named in their honor.
"It's been a good group," Ralph Murphy said. "About every two or three months, we'd get together with a picnic or barbecue. That's had a lot to do with keeping us together because we worship together and we play together."
The Murphys have formed lifelong friendships through their church and it was some of those friendships that brought them to Covington 25 years ago. The Murphys were friends with two other couples -- Robert J. and Esther Williams and Percy and Vicki Marchman -- in the Briarcliff area where they all raised their children and were members of Briarcliff Baptist Church.
After the Williams and Marchman families moved to Covington, the Murphys came too and immediately became active in the community and the First Baptist Church.
Gerri Murphy played the piano at FBC for many years and participated in a recital last May. Known for her many musical and teaching talents, she has been singing solos in church since the age of 13.
She also taught a women's class when the Murphys were members of Kirkwood Baptist Church. She is a member of the Covington Garden Club and has served organizations such as Choices for Children and Habitat for Humanity.
"You slow down when you get a little older," she said.
But her desire to share the Gospel has not waned. She wants the world to know about Jesus.
"That's what you want to tell everyone because this world has gotten so sinful in so many ways through the different mediums," she said.
"Movie stars and sports figures are idolized. Yet we need to keep our eyes on God and what He wants us to do toward others."
Her husband also remains a passionate teacher of the Word.
"You're not denied anything living a Christian life," he said. "It steers you in the right direction.
"When you get on the right track, it winds up at the end a whole lot better than if you go the other way ... I thank God I went the right way and am now appreciative of having done it."
Beth Slaughter Sexton is a freelance writer based in Snelville. If you have a story idea, contact Karen J. Rohr, features editor, at email@example.com.