Blueberries, Little Piggies and Maureen Murphy

I read in Illinois Review that my friend, former State Representative Maureen Murphy has died.

Although I didn’t remember when and where I met her until she reminded me after we were elected to the Illinois House of Representatives in 1992, it was in southeastern Chicago. Somewhere near the Indiana line.

I was running for State Comptroller in 1982 and her organization allowed me to speak. I think I remember a bar. I know I remember it seemed like the end of the world as I was driving home to Woodstock (360 S. Madison), where I lived then. I had arrived from somewhere Downstate and it may have been the night I was so tired that I missed the Route 47 exit and didn’t figure it out until the Marengo exit was coming up.

Maureen was funny, bold, caring, provocative, cunning, and proud.

She had me in stitches telling me how the family had gone blueberry picking in Michigan and how this mother pig and her ‘little piggies” had run across the road. As she was telling me next to her car, she bounced her hands up and down on the car trunk while drumming her fingers to demonstrate how they moved.

I laugh (not just chuckle) whenever I envision her demonstration of the little piggies that day.

I also just found this gem attributed to her:

The reason there are so few female politicians is that it is too much trouble to put makeup on two faces.

After Maureen got elected to the first Cook County Board of Review, she told me of going to a fund raiser where she talked to the Daley brothers’ mother, Eleanor. In her conversation, Maureen referred to John, who served as a socially conservative state senator while Maureen and I were state representatives, as “the good son.”

In 1995, after Republicans had achieved a majority in the Illinois House, Maureen took on a humanitarian cause involving AIDS/HIV. She introduced a bill to require HIV testing of mothers so newborns could be given a drug that would decrease the transmission rate from 26% to under 10%, assuming the mothers did not breast feed their infants.

We worked the Democrats and would have gotten the bill out of whatever the public health committee was called, but failed to figure out until it was too late that the socially liberal Republicans on the committee would sell us out. We incorrectly took it for granted that the evidence was sufficient to get their “Yes” votes.

How many babies got infected with HIV because of the failure of that bill?

Maureen got so much publicity that she was invited to be the main speaker at a seminar on the subject at the Milwaukee convention of the National Conference of State Legislators. (I went up to help out.)

Maureen lived in the same apartment building as Mike Madigan. Sometimes they caught the same elevator in Lincoln Towers.

Once she offered an elevator challenge to Madigan that, in retrospect, I suspect she wishes she hadn’t. I don’t remember the words she told me she used, but it probably led to Madigan’s crusade to get her out of office.

That or, maybe, a combination of that and the sponsorship of the bill to hurt Madigan’s property tax assessment appeal legal business.

Back in 1969, Governor Richard Ogilvie signed a bill to put all counties but Cook under the jurisdiction of a newly created State Property Tax Appeal Board. My guess is that Cook was left out in order to pass the bill. Got to allow the fixing of assessments in Cook County, don’t you know?

In any event, Maureen successfully sponsored the bill that gave Cook County property taxpayers the same rights as those of us outside of Cook County had had for almost three decades. (Indeed helping people in Coventry and Whispering Oaks and Cary win real assessment appeals and the resulting publicity as I, as McHenry County Treasurer, handed out checks of $500 helped me get elected state representative in 1972.)

“The Madigoons,” as she referred to the campaign workers Madigan assigned to campaign against her, took her out.

But, then, two years later, she ran for the suburban district on the Cook County Board of Review, created by the law she sponsored.

And, she ended up its first chairman.

How did that happen?

I told you she was cunning.

She put in the bill that the suburban member of the Board of Review would be the first chairman.

The last characteristic I listed above was that Maureen was “proud.”

It wasn’t pride in anything she did. It was in her kids. And of her husband, Jack, who took out the Democrats, when he was elected Worth Township Supervisor.

We met the twins when she brought the preteens on a family vacation to San Diego for the American Legislative Exchange Council convention. My wife and she had gotten on famously and the vacation merely improved the relationship.

But, as I said, Maureen’s part of the Chicago area is as hard to get to as Dwight on Route 55.

So, we’d fallen out of touch. I heard her name announced at Decatur’s Republican State Convention, but never caught sight of her.

Our loss.

Illinois had already lost her services when the Democrats managed to re-take complete control of the assessment process, something that is legally impossible in every Illinois county.

But whoever said Cook County taxpayers deserved checks and balances?

Family PAC’s Paul Caprio tells of these funeral arrangements:

There will be a 9:30am visitation on Saturday August 16th which will be followed by a memorial mass at 10:30am at:

Queen of Martyers R.C. Church
10233 S. Central Park Ave.
Evergreen Park 60805

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The photo was taken last year on the Family PAC Lake Michigan cruise.

I think it was 2007, but it may have been 2006.

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