Kathryn “Katy” Kamp Murphey has held — and continues to hold — many titles throughout her life. Mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, friend, business woman, substitute teacher and loyal church member, just to name a few.
“She is what motherhood is all about,” said one of her two daughters, Robbie Parrish. “I only hope that I can be half the person she is.”
“She is truly the epitome of what a family matriarch should be,” said her other daughter, Kathy Clark. “I am so proud to call her my mother.”
Murphey, 89, who resides in Itta Bena, has been selected as The Greenwood Commonwealth’s 2020 Mother of the Year.
She was nominated by her two daughters, Clark of Itta Bena and Parrish of Flowood.
“My mother neither looks nor acts her age,” Clark wrote in her nomination letter. “She is very proud of her 89 years and doesn’t mind anyone knowing it.”
The Senath, Missouri, native moved to Itta Bena with her family at 9 years old and has been in the same house ever since.
“I was raised in this house, and I raised my children in this house,” she said.
Murphey has many fond memories from her childhood in the Mississippi Delta.
“Living in Itta Bena and growing up here was wonderful,” she said.
Murphey grew up working in her family’s store, Kamp’s, and later ran the store when her parents became ill.
Her most memorable times during childhood were riding the train to Greenwood to attend the picture show.
“We would ride the train to go see the picture show, but before we went, we would go by the bakery and pick up cookies. Then, we would go to the grocery store and get dill pickles,” Murphey recalled.
She married Robert Young “Bobby” Murphey on March 5, 1950. They had two daughters — Clark, a teacher at Pillow Academy, and Parrish, a business systems analyst at Trustmark — and three grandchildren — Kathryn Kamp Scrimpshire of Cincinnati; Benjamin Parrish of Dauphin, Alabama; and Will Parrish of Starkville.
Since her husband’s passing, Murphey has gained two great-grandchildren, Brooke Allen and John Paul “JP” Parrish, both of Dauphin, along with a slew of granddogs.
Murphey loves spending time with her family, doing activities around her house and attending anything and everything that involves Mississippi State University.
“She is an avid sports fan and loves her Bulldogs and going to see them play,” Parrish wrote in her nomination letter.
Murphey rarely misses a women’s basketball game at Mississippi State, but her true love is for the football team. Murphey and her family hold season tickets for the home Mississippi State football games every year. At one point, she even considered herself the team’s lucky charm.
“When Nick Fitzgerald was playing at Mississippi State, we always had to see him before the games in the dog walk,” Murphey said. “I would always give him a hug so that he could win the game.”
The most difficult choice for her when she’s in Starkville is deciding where to eat.
“We plan everything around where we are going to eat that day. There are just so many options,” she said.
Clark and Parrish both mentioned how much fun their family has when they are with Murphey.
“Going anywhere with Mama is just fun,” Parrish said. “She always has a good time and is excited to be with us.”
“Quite often, whether it’s shopping together or eating out, people stop and tell us they’d like to join our family because we seem to be having such a fun time,” Clark said. “It’s because of Mama, who always has a smile on her face. She has such a positive attitude and an uncanny way of spreading it to whomever she is around.”
Not only is Murphey fun to be around, her daughters and grandchildren have said she is a role model to many because of her generous and loving character with everyone she is in contact.
“Mama is so very caring and nurturing,” said Parrish. “She always checks on anyone who is ill and does whatever she can for them. She will wear herself out trying to do for and help other people. It is just in her nature.”
“One of the things she taught my sister and me,” Clark said, “is the importance of giving, whether it be to the church, to the needy, to animals, or to friends and family. She is the one who is going to stop when we leave an event to give a few dollars to the person on the side of the road with a sign telling their need.”
Murphey has always been her children’s and grandchildren’s biggest supporter. She refuses to miss an event that someone in her family is part of.
“Whether it was far or wide, I never missed a thing of theirs,” said Murphey. “I didn’t care what they were playing or where it was, I didn’t miss a thing.”
Parrish said, “She came to watch my son play soccer, baseball and basketball all over the state, actually all over the Southeastern part of the country. And she never wanted to miss anything. She always wanted to be there.”
Even an injury could not keep Murphey away from supporting her grandson, Will.
“One day she fell and broke her arm, and the very next day she was at her grandson’s basketball game,” said Clark.
Besides supporting her favorite college team and her family, Murphey is also a big supporter of Pillow Academy. Her late husband was one of the original founders of the school.
“I am in my 60s teaching, and I am still watching my mother serve as a substitute at Pillow,” Clark said. “She loves the students, and they love and respect her.”
Murphey’s church life is also very important to her.
“An integral part of Mama’s life is her church. She was a member of the Itta Bena United Methodist Church, serving as its treasurer at the time it closed, and is now a member of St. John’s United Methodist Church,” Clark said. “She taught us the importance of having a church family.”
Murphey truly loves her family and spending time with them. She looks forward to their family vacations every summer.
“I’m not going to let them go any place without me,” she said. “We take a family vacation together every year, and we have fun and we don’t fuss.”
Murphey’s grandchildren think the world of her. Her grandson Ben described his grandmother as being “one of the most caring and loving people on the planet.”
Another grandson, Will, wrote, “My grandmother is without a doubt the best person I’ve ever met. She deserves to win every award possible.”
Murphey is also a role model to her granddaughter, Kathryn.
“I have said it for many years that when I grow up, I want to be like my grandmother. At the age of 40, I am still saying that,” her granddaughter said. “Katy Murphey has been one of the biggest influences in my life.”
Murphey’s advice for all parents out there is to always show up for your children and grandchildren.
“I’ll tell you what you’re supposed to do,” she said. “You are supposed to go to everything that your children and grandchildren are in, and don’t miss a thing. You just love them, love on them and spoil them to death.”
With her mother and grandmother as her influences, Murphey is known by her family as a prime example of what a mother should look like.
“I have had a wonderful life. I have enjoyed my children and grandchildren, and I still am,” Murphey said.