Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

No Such Thing as Too Late for a Love Story and Song

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

No Such Thing as Too Late for a Love Story and Song

Article excerpt

F. Scott Fitzgerald lied. The Jazz Age author said there are no second acts in American lives, but he never met John Murray or Marjorie Smuts.

Both widowed and in their 70s, they married on Dec. 28, but that's not the half of it.

I met the newlyweds in their Shadyside home on a recent afternoon after hearing about their first week of marriage from Mr. Murray's son, Tim. She served tea, and her husband played the piano, but again, I'm getting ahead of this tale.

Mr. Murray's former wife, Liz, died peacefully in November 2010 after a long illness. They'd been married 55 years. Mr. Murray, 79, the chancellor of Duquesne University who still teaches two classes in its law school, was at her hospital bedside every day for months. The months after her death are a blank, he said. "I don't know what I did."

He snapped out of it when he decided despair wasn't what Liz would have wanted. One day last January he arranged a dinner with Ms. Smuts, a widow since 1984. She was an old friend of the Murrays, having served with John on the board of Federated Investors for more than a dozen years.

The dinner was just to be two old friends talking. They met in a crowded French restaurant in Shadyside and "four hours later we looked up and nobody was there."

Each of them drove home, Ms. Smuts said, asking themselves, "What the hell was that?"

Eleven months and a day after that dinner, they were married in the Duquesne University chapel. Only after they picked a wedding day was Mr. Murray reminded that he'd chosen the same date on which his own father remarried, at 86. (Those Murrays -- they never tire of marriage.)

Anyway, falling in love got John Murray behind a piano again. He'd learned to play as a boy in a Northeast Philadelphia rowhouse, the neighborhood most of America later saw in "Rocky." The young Murray was pretty serious, but he forgot all about Mozart and Bach once he discovered there was real money on the cocktail circuit.

He had his first musical payday at 14 and, as a high school and college student, he led quartets on the Jersey Shore, playing for singers from Judy Garland to Al Martino. …

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