Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Remembering Patricia Murray Wood Ney

Looking upwards on the Upper West Side. Photo: JH.
Wednesday, April 18, 2018. Chilly day and night, yesterday in New York.

Patricia Murray Wood Ney died yesterday morning in Palm Beach. She was 98 on her last birthday, March 11.

Patricia Murray Wood Ney
She is survived by her daughters Robin Pickett and Hilary Geary Ross, her four grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

I first knew her in Southampton where she was known as Pat Wood and wrote the social “Beachcomber” column for the weekly Southampton Press. She had a warm smile and a gentle yet direct voice and manner. There was a grace about her that on contact always soothed the frenetic mind of this writer.  

Her column was that of a small town weekly many of whose readers were the rich, the celebrated and the social New Yorkers who also happened to be long time (even generations-long) members of the summer community.

Pat knew them all which gave her access and personal knowledge in chronicling the social lives and activities in the summer community.

She was born Patricia Murray on March 11, 1920, the daughter of Jeanne Lourdes Durand and John Francis Murray, a former commissioner of the Port of New York Authority. Her paternal grandfather Thomas Murray was an inventor and electrical engineer who worked with Thomas Edison. Murray and Edison were two of  the founders of Con Edison.
Arthur Williams, Thomas A. Edison, John W. Lieb, Nicholas F. Brady, and Patricia's paternal grandfather Thomas E. Murray, in the office of Mr. Murray, 1908.
She was one of the seven Murray siblings who grew up riding horses and spending summers on their 250-acre oceanfront family compound in Southampton, which they shared with their relatives, the McDonnell family (of which there were sixteen siblings) who were on Wall Street. It was known as the Murray-McDonnell compound. This was during the era of what Joe Alsop referred to as the WASP Ascendency when there were unspoken yet separate social worlds.

The Murrays and McDonnells were Irish-Catholics, very outside that “Ascendency.” But they were bright, hardworking, strong family people, and they prospered and brought their families up to “belong.” One of Pat’s cousins, Anne McDonnell, married Henry Ford II. An older sister, Jeanne Murray, married Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt Jr. (wife number two). The families’ number and presence forged a social prominence that naturally attracted friends and others to the beach town that became world famous as a popular society resort.
Pat’s cousin Anne McDonnell and Henry Ford II on their wedding day.
Jeanne and Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt at table with young Congressman John F. Kennedy and Herbert Bayard Swope at the Stork Club, circa 1947.
The large family was featured in two histories about the Irish Catholic clans: “Real Lace” by Stephen Birmingham, and “Golden Clan” by John Corry. So it was not unusual that Pat would be hired to write her “Beachcomber” column in the Southampton Press for  28 years — from 1972 to 2000.

Pat’s first marriage to author James Jeffrey Roche ended in divorce. She was pre-deceased by her second husband Sidney Burr Wood, former 1931 Wimbledon Champion, and her third husband Edward Ney, former Ambassador to Canada whom she married when she was 90; as well by as her daughter Deirdre Murray Roche. The memorial service will take place in Southampton this summer. In lieu of flowers please send contributions to The Southampton Hospital.
Patricia Ney with her third husband Ambassador Edward Ney and her daughter Hilary Geary Ross, 2012.

Contact DPC here.