Frederick William Murkland, Jr., died peacefully May 22, 2012, in Golden, CO. He was 87. Mr. Murkland was a dedicated teacher; an all-around athlete, a baseball umpire, and coach; a World War II U.S. Navy veteran; a civic volunteer; a fun and funny friend; a loving husband; and a devoted father to his five children and to his many students, especially those he served in more than two decades at Bethel (CT) High School.
A Teacher is Born
Mr. Murkland was born Jan. 11, 1925, to Frederick William and Esta Murkland in Wakefield, MA. A first word was “Diana,” his English setter dog’s name — the start of a lifelong love of animals and the sciences of the natural world. As a young boy he especially loved outings with his grandfather Herbert Murkland and his uncle Buddy Melanson. He excelled in sports, playing football and baseball at Fryeburg Academy, ME, where more than 60 years later he was honored as distinguished alumnus of the year.
Immediately after his 1943 Fryeburg graduation Mr. Murkland joined the U.S. Navy and plunged into World War II. His service in Guam, 1943-46, included duties on two hospital ships where he was a pharmacist’s mate third class, and on a minesweeper. He earned the U.S. Navy WWII Victory Medal; USN American Area Medal; USN Asiatic Pacific Area Medal; US Navy Good Conduct Medal; and a letter of commendation. He was very proud of his USN service, of having earned his “dolphins” and of letters received after the war from Admiral James Forrestal and U.S. President Harry Truman.
Mr. Murkland continued his war-interrupted science and mathematics studies at University of Maine, where he lettered in junior varsity football (1946-47) and varsity football (1950). He met the love of his life and in 1948 married Doris Bourassa. A teacher, she inspired him to refocus his studies: He became a teacher. After graduating in 1950 from UMaine with a bachelors of science degree in education, Mr. Murkland spent the rest of his life learning and sharing science with others. He obtained a masters of science degree in education in 1962 from University of Connecticut and later pursued doctorate studies in marine biology at Bowdoin College and UConn.
Bethel on Ice
As a teacher, Mr. Murkland’s science classrooms included those at Putnam (CT) High School, where he also served as assistant football and basketball coach, and at Bethel High School, where he taught biology from 1966 until retiring in 1988. He always encouraged his students to follow their dreams. And while he always kept his classes laughing, his exams could be lethally serious to one’s grades.
At Bethel High School he formed and coached an ice-hockey club. His mother knit him a maroon-and-white cap emblazoned with COACH. After the small club beat everyone and tied the state champions, ice hockey became a sanctioned school varsity sport in 1973. The team won more than 100 games under Mr. Murkland’s leadership and he cherished wearing his maroon-and-white BHS coaching jacket for the rest of his life.
He was a civic volunteer; when Bethel High School was moved to the town Education Park in 1970, Mr. Murkland organized the donation and volunteer planting of 365 trees around the grounds on the first Earth Day. He also served town recreation needs, for example, often plowing winter snows off the town skating pond.
Mr. Murkland always worked hard at extra jobs to support his wife and five children, including memorable stints during summertime school breaks as a Ford mechanic, road-builder, and swimming lifeguard. He led Bethel’s adult education programs for years. He also was a baseball umpire, officiating at high school and league games throughout Western Connecticut. He was the first assigner for what later became the Western Connecticut Umpires Association and later served as baseball commissioner.
He and his wife, Doris, frequently traveled in their RV during school summertime breaks to varied museums and parks around the United States where he often photographed native plants and flowers. They enjoyed MENSA activities together and after her death in 1989 he became a lifetime member.
In his retirement years in Venice, FL, Mr. Murkland was married to Pat Burt, a former Fryeburg schoolmate, from 2000-2011. He often surrounded himself with the sounds of Big Band and swing music. His lifelong passion for sharing science led him to volunteer as a docent for more than 11 years at the Mote Aquarium in Sarasota, where he punctuated his educational tours with jokes, just as he had during his teaching career.
In his final two years he lived with his son James in Colorado, where he was still active in the VFW Post 7563 and American Legion Post 166.
Mr. Murkland is survived by his children, Richard, Daniel, James, Patricia, and Margaret Murkland; two grandchildren, Jeffrey and Timothy Murkland; his sister, Evelyn Murkland; and his sister-in-law, Sister Rita Bourassa, OSU. Public memorial services are scheduled at 1 p.m. June 22 at St. Mary Cemetery, Turkey Plain Rd., Bethel. View his memorial book at