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John W. MacMurray, 81, financial analyst who led SEPTA board

Mr. MacMurray's father was a former Philadelphia streets commissioner and Fairmount Park director. His son also became a civic leader.

John W. MacMurray
John W. MacMurrayRead moreCourtesy MacMurray Family

John W. MacMurray, 81, of Newtown Square, a financial analyst who was active as a civic leader in Haverford Township and served on the SEPTA board of directors, died Oct. 7 of Alzheimer's disease at Dunwoody Village.

Mr. MacMurray began his career in 1959 at Bell Telephone Co. of Pennsylvania. He took a hiatus from the firm to get experience in investment management, and when he returned in 1974, he was a financial analyst and then a pension fund administrator. He earned a Chartered Financial Analyst designation in 1977.

In 1988, Mr. MacMurray joined the management team of RJR Nabisco in Atlanta.  The firm moved to New York a year later, and he worked there as vice president for pension and investments.

Although he retired from full-time employment in 1999, he came out of retirement in 2002 to spend the next nine years as the part-time independent trustee for the National Railroad Retirement Investment Trust.

Joel Parker, his colleague on the railroad trust, said Mr. MacMurray was "critical to the trust's formation and success."

"His efforts there greatly contributed to the retirement security of hundreds of thousands of railroad retirees," Parker wrote in an online condolence book. "John was an inspiration to all who worked with him. Words cannot do justice to his generosity of spirit, his enthusiasm and optimism, and his commitment that went well beyond what was expected."

In Haverford Township, he was president of the Coopertown Civic Association, Republican leader of the Fifth Ward, and township commissioner from the Fifth Ward from 1983 to 1987.

In December 1983, when he chaired the police committee, some township residents and Democratic commissioners asked why more than a third of the municipality's $8.8 million budget was spent on police. He replied that candidates with higher education garnered higher salaries.

"If you want an increase in professionalism, you basically must pay for what you get," he said. "We're having to pay for the college degrees and the people who have master's degrees."

In 1977, while on the SEPTA board, he pushed for higher rail fares as one way to lessen fiscal problems.

In March 1978, he was appointed to a one-year term as chairman of the 11-member board, which had members from across the Philadelphia region. When the appointment was announced in late February, the Inquirer hailed the move as "a fresh start."

When asked by the public why SEPTA's vehicles were dirty and poorly maintained, he promised to spruce them up. "But it is going to take two or three years to turn the situation around," he told the Associated Press.

He was credited with creating the Gateway Fare on the former Red Arrow Division. Riders making a connection at the 69th Street Transportation Center to the suburbs did not have to pay two full 50-cent fares. Instead they paid only 80 cents. "People remembered him for that," said his wife, Joy.

In February 1979, Mr. MacMurray announced that he would not seek reelection as SEPTA board chairman.

Born in Wilmington, he was the son of Paul and Mary Jane MacMurray.  His father was a Philadelphia streets commissioner, Fairmount Park director, and director of the Delaware River Port Authority.

He grew up in Philadelphia and graduated from Central High School in 1955 and Lehigh University in 1959 with a bachelor's degree in finance.

In 1962, he married Joy Herman. The couple had three sons, whom they raised in Haverford Township.

In retirement, Mr. MacMurray enjoyed horseback riding, traveling with his wife, and doting on his grandchildren. He also provided pro bono investment management advice to the Presbyterian Board of Pensions, Lehigh University, and Rosemont Presbyterian Village.

Besides his wife, he is survived by sons John Scott, Joel C., and James C.; five grandchildren; and a brother.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 24, at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, 625 Montgomery Ave., Bryn Mawr, Pa. 19010. Burial is private.

Memorial donations may be made to the Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church Endowment Fund at the address above, or to Lehigh University, Office of Development and Alumni Relations, 306 S. New St., Suite 500, Bethlehem, Pa. 18015.