Dr. Frederick Murray, a beloved figure in the stuttering community, passed away last week on January 24 at age 92. Fred was a person who stuttered and an admired speech-language pathologist. He is also the author of A Stutterer's Story, about his own struggle to overcome stuttering. Carolina Ayala, a woman who stutters with long ties to the Canadian Stuttering Association, met Fred almost thirty years ago and writes about how he changed her life.
I met the man I call Grandpa in August of 1991 when I was filming a documentary about children who stutter called Speaking of Courage. We met at the very first Canadian conference for People Who Stutter in Banff Alberta. This was the first time I met successful adults who stuttered like me, and had wonderful lives with fulfilling careers. I did not really know how much of an impact he would have in my life.
We filmed for the documentary on a beautiful Alberta mountain. I remember my attire being more for Sunday church than for a nice hike, so I held on to Fred for dear life as we walked and he was sweet enough not to mind. We came to a long log and sat down for a chat. He said he knew life had not been easy but he wanted to encourage me that things would get better. He also reminded me that yes, I did stutter, but stuttering should not hold me back. I needed to press forward and reach for my dreams. He then gave me his world renowned book A Stutterer's Story. He was a charming man with high intelligence and skill. He spoke many languages, among them Spanish. Fred loved talking to myself and my parents in Spanish because he wanted to master the language as much as possible and boy did he!
Every time I saw Fred at NSA conferences, he lighted up the room! He made me smile and laugh. All I wanted to do was soak in his stories. When Fred saw me, he would smile and make me feel loved, loved like a granddaughter. I never had a grandfather growing up but he exuded that for me.
On Thursday January 24th, 2019, Fred left this Earth and got his heavenly wings. It broke my heart because he had been on my mind to call but I did not. I was worried he might not be able to hear me but now I wish I had.
Grandpa, I love you and miss you so much! Thank you for all the wise words and wonderful moments spent together. You are gone but not forgotten. You hold a very special place in my heart--yesterday, today and tomorrow! Sweet dreams till we meet again sweet soul!