Contributed by Shannon (Murphy) Clay

To those in the Santa Ynez Valley who knew Pat Murphy, she was a kind person and had a talent for writing about people and places in the area. She passed away at 94-years-old on May 13, 2019. Her family already held a private ceremony for her, however they invite those who knew Murphy to attend an open memorial from 4 – 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 13, at the Santa Ynez Valley Historical Museum. 

Pat Murphy
Photo contributed

As a freelance writer for 47 years, Murphy wrote a column titled “Wool Gathering” for the Santa Ynez Valley News, and later one called Inside News. She also wrote a column titled “On The Social Scene” for the Santa Barbara News-Press. She wrote social columns for the Montecito Journal, and the horse oriented “Hoof Beats” for the Valley Journal. Her articles appeared in the Guest magazine as well as such national magazines as Western Horseman, California Thoroughbred, Countryside, Cowboys and Indians, and Das Tier in Germany and publications in England.

She was born in Waterloo, Iowa in 1925 and raised in California bu her aunt and grandmother after Murphy’s mother died.

Murphy graduated from Los Angeles High School and studied Interior Design and Architecture at USC where she pledged Delta Delta Delta Sorority. She married her husband Rex Murphy, and they designed and built their first home and had their daughter Shannon. 

In preparation for purchasing acreage in the Santa Ynez Valley, Murphy enrolled in Animal Science at Cal Poly Pomona and became interested in Suffolk sheep. Rex had his own successful business, Rex W. Murphy Engineering Company, and together they again designed and built their second home here in the Valley in 1970. Murphy established a registered Suffolk sheep business which she operated for more than 25 years. Shown at fairs and expositions, the Spirit Oaks Farm flock was known throughout the country. 

Murphy served on the Solvang Board of Human Services, founded Friends of Youth in Agriculture, and volunteered on various committees throughout the Valley, fundraising, preserving and championing agriculture and rural life. A Veterinarian Science leader for Lucky Clover 4-H, Murphy was also active in helping the local Santa Ynez F.F.A. program.  She was appointed to the Santa Barbara County Fair Board by the Governor and served for 12 years. Always a contributor of new ideas for raising Fair attendance and improving the fairgrounds, she suggested and designed the decorative gazebo that stands on the grounds. To encourage youth, Murphy established a competition for young exhibitors vying for Santa Barbara County titles for Cattle, Sheep and Swine Herdsmen.

Murphy was a founding member of the Santa Ynez Valley Equestrian Association and served on the Board for 19 years. She deeply loved horses of all breeds and was active in various Valley celebrations honoring them including the Horseshoe Crosswalks at the intersection of Edison and Sagunto Streets in Santa Ynez.

Murphy so enjoyed the Valley people and their history that it became her passion and her joy to celebrate them…a true labor of love. She was the author of Santa Ynez Valley Secrets, a book recounting the local history as well as the adventures of hundreds of Valley residents, which received wide acclaim, selling out with each edition.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Santa Ynez Valley Historical Museum & Parks-Janeway Carriage House, P.O. Box 181, Santa Ynez, CA 93460 or the Santa Ynez Valley Equestrian Association, P.O. Box 207, Santa Ynez, CA 93460.