T Eileen Murphy, a prolific queer activist, has died. She is remembered as an inspirational champion for Ottawa’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans community, and as someone whose positive influence will be dearly missed.
Gary Leger, community co-chair for the Ottawa Police Service’s GLBT liaison committee, announced in an email message that she passed away on the weekend of May 9 — Murphy was a member of the liaison committee since its inception.
“I last spoke with Eileen at our monthly meeting in April. She had suffered a series of health problems in recent years and had found this past winter more difficult. Nevertheless, she gave me a hug and said that she would see us in May,” Leger said in a prepared statement. ”“A [pillar] in our community, her passing with no doubt leave a void. She will be sadly missed by her liaison committee family.”
“Eileen supported every committee in the community and was often our greeter at our monthly meetings,” he added.
In a statement to Daily Xtra, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson described Murphy as a “kind person who lent a great deal of her time” to Ottawa’s “GLBT community for whom she was a key champion.”
He also pointed to the “important work” she undertook as part of the Ottawa Police Services’ GLBT liaison committee, which helped to “ensure that our police officers and the public are more sensitive to the issues of GLBT people in our city.”
“Eileen was ubiquitous at events held by and for the GLBT community and I always enjoyed speaking with her and seeing that big smile of hers,” Watson said. “She will be greatly missed and her positive influence on our city will be felt for many years to come.”
Murphy’s involvement with Ottawa’s queer community commenced almost as soon as she arrived in the city in the late 1960s to attend Algonquin College.
In addition to co-founding Dignity Ottawa, an organization for queer Catholics, Murphy worked with an array of well-know community groups such as Bruce House, Pink Triangle Services, Egale and the Ottawa Women’s Centre.
In 2010, she was awarded Daily Xtra’s Heroes Lifetime Achievement Award, and she was grand marshal for the Capital Pride parade in 2012.
Murphy’s partner of 29 years, Kathi Sansom, received the same award in 2006. Sansom died from kidney disease in 2008.
Local trans activist Joanne Law said Murphy was a “fixture” at fundraisers, the police liaison committee, SAGE, the Senior Lesbian Breakfast Club and many other organizations, where she was often seen in her signature outfit of suspenders, ball cap and striped shirt.
Murphy and Sansom also served as a personal inspiration, she noted.
“I have known [Murphy] forever and it was because of her and her late partner Kathy that I got involved too,” Law says. “She will be missed by her friends and her community. A loss for everybody.”