James Thornton Murray

January 21, 1924March 28, 2018

James Thornton Murray, age 94, passed away on Wednesday, March 28, 2018 at Catawba Valley Medical Center after a brief illness. Born January 21, 1924, in Catawba County, he was the son of the late Rolin Thornton and Floye Little Murray.

James was a longtime member of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Catawba, NC, and Riverside Masonic Lodge #606 in Catawba, NC. He had served in the United States Navy during World War II in the Pacific Theater. He received an architectural engineering degree from the Chicago Institute of Technology and worked his entire life in some sort of architectural engineering. Beginning work at Hickory Steel, he went on to start his own company, Conover Metal Products, where he worked until he was 75.

Upon retirement, he created a state-of-the-art woodworking shop in his huge backyard. A testament to his passion was a sign hanging inside: I LOVE wood. And he did, designing unique birdhouses, tables, benches, swings, and clever NC maps, using strips of various native NC wood.

James was a Master Gardener. People traveled from far and wide to get his tomato plants, declaring them to be the best tomatoes they had ever put in their mouths! The Saturday before he entered the hospital, he fertilized his yard to get ready for Spring!

James met life head-on. A confident leader with enormous willpower and a strength of character always on display, he remained vigorous, mentally and physically, to his last days.

In addition to his parents, James was preceded in death by his beloved wife of 75 years, Helen Rose Matthews Murray; son, David Murray; brother, Jack Murray; and sister, Martha M. Hill.

James is survived by his son, J. Richard Murray and wife, Boo, of Conover, NC; daughter, Rose Ann Pannell, and husband, Greg, of Salisbury, NC; grandchildren, Adam Pannell and wife, Jenna, and Maria Shomaker and husband, Helmut; sister-in-law, Carolyn Murray of Catawba, NC; and numerous nieces and nephews.

A memorial service will be held on Monday, April 2, 2018, at 2:00 PM at Redeemer Lutheran Church with Rev. Gregory Alms officiating. The family will receive friends at the church prior to the service from 12:45 to 1:45 PM on Monday.

Condolences may be sent to the Murray family at

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial contributions be made to: Redeemer Lutheran Church, “A Place at the Table”, PO Box 187, Catawba, NC, 28609.


  • Rolin Thornton, Father
  • Floye Little Murray, Mother
  • Helen Rose Matthews Murray, Wife
  • J. Richard Murray and wife, Boo, Son
  • David Murray, Son
  • Rose Ann Pannell and husband, Greg, Daughter
  • Jack Murray, Brother
  • Martha M. Hill, Sister
  • Adam Pannell and wife, Jenna, Grandchild
  • Maria Shomaker and husband, Helmut, Grandchild
  • Carolyn Murray, Sister-in-law
  • And numerous nieces and nephews


  • Receiving of Friends Monday, April 2, 2018
  • Memorial Service Monday, April 2, 2018

James Thornton Murray

have a memory or condolence to add?

Rose Ann Murray Pannell

April 4, 2018

Dad was a unique character with a fun personality. Love and laughter always filled his home. Dad's love of family and church was ever evident in his involvement and generosity. I am very thankful for the many years we had with him. Dad now has his wish to be with his soul-mate, Mom, who passed 4 yrs ago. He too will be sorely missed. Love you Pop!

Dianne Roth

March 30, 2018

Uncle James was a fine man, filled with lots of fun and good cheer. He was a wonderful brother to my mother, Martha, and those two always enjoyed teasing each other in the spirit of good nature! He will be missed by many. RIP, Uncle James. Love, Dianne Hill Roth