Coming home: Murphey School celebrates Pat Boulden’s legacy with a statue

DOVER — Pat Boulden’s childhood blossomed inside the rooms and outside on the grounds of the Elizabeth W. Murphey School after she arrived at the nonprofit group home at the intersection of Division Street and Kent Avenue in Dover at the tender age of 3 and 1/2 years old.

Mrs. Boulden, who was born in Wilmington, spent 14 years of her life at the Murphey School after she arrived there in June 1940 following the death of her mother.

She gave much of the credit for becoming the person she grew up to be to the school, which provides residential and support services for children in need in Delaware.

So, it was only fitting that Mrs. Boulden’s life be celebrated with a statue, unveiled last Friday in front of the campus’ Sanford Cottage, of two young girls happily dancing around a fountain surrounded by purple and white flowers.

David Boulden, her husband of 58 years, is one of the Murphey School’s benefactors and school officials thought the statue would be a nice tribute to Mrs. Boulden’s memory.

The statue evokes carefree memories of her earlier life, one that ended at the age of 81 on Jan. 11, 2018, in Bluffton, South Carolina, after a lengthy battle with cancer.

“It was just a nice thing to have happen,” Michael J. Kopp, executive director of the Murphey School, said of the statue dedication. “It was just a way of recognizing that Murphey School had made a difference in her life. All the school’s board members were there and had the opportunity to meet her family. It’s always nice to be recognized for your efforts.”

Mrs. Boulden’s daughter, Lisa Boulden Synnott, attended the statue unveiling and was quite impressed.

Mr. Kopp said, “and she recalled … that as she was growing up that she continually heard from her mother that had it not been for the Murphey School that she wouldn’t have had an opportunity to do well in her life. She said she heard those words from her mother over the course of her lifetime.”

A plaque on the base of the statue states, “In Loving Memory of Patricia Purnell Boulden. ‘Pat’ developed fond memories here. June 1940-June 1954.”

It seems as if Mrs. Boulden was just the type of individual that Sanford Sayre Murphey had in mind when he founded The Elizabeth W. Murphey School in memory of his mother in 1922.

On the Murphey School’s website, it explains why Mr. Murphey made sure to incorporate the word ‘school’ into the group home’s name.

“I wish it to be free from those unhappy associations which so often have been connected with orphanages and children’s ‘homes’; and furthermore, because I conceive the rearing of children in all aspects as an educational work,” Mr. Murphey said. “The purpose of the School, therefore, is nothing less than a plan to meet, in so far as possible, the needs of every child in its care to the end that these children will be well fortified to meet the problems of life in whatever manner they may present themselves.

“With splendid equipment to work with and an employee alive to its responsibilities, there should result a type of citizenry of whom all will be proud.”

Joseph S. McDaniel III, board president of the Murphey School, said Mrs. Boulden serves as a perfect example of a child who thrived in the school’s environment.

“She would work while she was in the Murphey School and had many odd jobs, including washing and ironing clothes for a nickel an item,” Mr. McDaniel said. “When she graduated Murphey School in June of 1954, she had saved $750. She was able to support herself to start with. That was a lot of money at that time.”

Mr. McDaniel said the school also will name a building on the back part of campus — an arts and crafts building — after Mrs. Boulden.

After graduating high school and her eventual departure from the Murphey School, Mrs. Boulden went to work for the Dupont Corporation in Wilmington, where she worked until she married David.

She credited the Murphey School for helping to mold her character.

Mrs. Boulden’s obituary states, “Pat is remembered for being a loving and supportive spouse and parent. Nothing was more important to Pat than family. While raising three children and caring for their home, Pat held many jobs to help support the family. She enjoyed her many friends she met through work, dance club, church, golf leagues and various other volunteer interests. Pat befriended many older neighbors, caring for them as she would her own family.”

While she didn’t have an immediate family as a child growing up in Dover, she did have a home at the Murphey School — and now she has a statue crafted in her memory.

“At 3-and-a-half years old, she was younger than most of the residents typically were, but the board approved it, and that’s why her years spent at the school were so meaningful for her,” Mr. Kopp said.

Mr. McDaniel said all the members of the school’s board of directors attended the statue unveiling and were quite pleased with the outcome.

“I think it’s great,” he said. “I think it’s indicative of what we are, and it looks great where it is. It was a great day and the family was just so excited about being there and it was a great feel-good day. We were proud of Murphey School, and they were proud of us.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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