About Gary

Gary Murphy

YA’AT’EEH, my name is Connie Silversmith, I knew Gary back when he was a student at St. Michaels Association for Special Education. I just wanted to tell you how thankful I was and still am for you and your kindness to Gary.... I honestly believe he lived a better life because of you and your friendship.

Back when I graduated from high school, I was a reading teacher for one summer for the mentally disabled children here in Window Rock. I came across this one Navajo boy, Garrison. He was a character, and I took to him right away. His mentality was slow and he had the genuine heart of a young, young child, far younger than his 10 years, but he and I would walk, hand in hand, to the cafeteria, to the playground and just out walking with the rest of the class. We had to keep a close eye on him, because he was known to eat bugs... We nick-named him Ashki Choosh, “Bug-Boy” in Navajo. He had this inquisitiveness about nature, “Teacher, how does this grow big? Teacher, how does this make this color? Teacher, how do the choosh run? Teacher, Teacher!!!” He was... SPECIAL.

Well, I left after that summer, but he was destined to remain at this school... Along with the other children there. When I left on my last day, I was sooo sad. I wanted to do something, anything to ensure that these children didn't fall by the way side and become forgotten... Well, I went on to college and marriage, and motherhood and life in general. When I moved back to the area and refamiliarized myself with Gallup, one day I was walking downtown and there he was... He was diggin’ in a trash can... dirty, filthy, talking to himself. At first I was afraid, I thought he was a disturbed or dangerous transient, but as he was examining something he got out of the trash he had this look... A look I’d never forget. He had that same look when he was gettin’ ready to eat a bug as a young child... I stood there on the street watchin’ him for about 10 minutes... cryin’. He came walking toward me and I couldn't move... This man, standing over a trash can was the same young Navajo boy I taught who loved bugs... Although he looked older, and he had a receding hairline... he still had his young innocent smile and he asked me... “Hey lady, are you ok? Why are you cryin’?” I just looked at him and I smiled and I said, “Hello Gary. How are you?” He just smiled at me and said, “How do you know my name?” I told him I used to be his teacher at his school in St. Michaels and I remembered him. He laughed and stood there a bit then he said, “You were my teacher!! I remember! Yeah! You used to hold my hand! Yeah! You were my teacher.” I couldn't stand it and I could feel a flood gate gettin’ ready to open and flow with my tears, and my heart was achin’ so bad... I gave him a few dollars and told him I had to go... I touched his shoulder and told him to take care... and he thanked me and he smiled. Well, he made a name for himself! He met an Anglo woman who took to him too and began takin’ his pictures with angels and he made a movie about himself and his disability and he even had his own billboards.... Even though I only knew him for one summer, this young man touched me and made a difference in so many other lives... There is purpose for everything. Thank you again and may you continue to spread beauty where you walk.

Gary Murphy memorial program He gave beauty for ashes

10/31/1976 – 2/12/2007

May he find comfort
'til dreams cease
and wakened minds
the brave angel
who donned
his mask
to walk the Earth.

How our pretty notions
of love
as we scratch
our reactions
to this young man
born to us
on Halloween.

Margo Manaraze Wagner