NewsSt. Landry Parish


Former Grand Coteau Mayor Mary Murray has died

Mayor Mary V. Murray
Posted at 3:38 PM, Sep 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-19 17:15:32-04

Services will be held Saturday for Mary V. Murray, Former Mayor of Grand Coteau, who died September 12 at the age of 96.

Murray was the first woman to run and be elected in Grand Coteau as Alderwoman and as Mayor; the first African American female mayor in St. Landry Parish and the first woman from St. Landry to be appointed to a Louisiana State Board.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10:30 a.m. on September 24 at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Grand Coteau. Interment will be in St. Charles Cemetery in Grand Coteau. The Rev. Mark Kramer, S.J., of St. Charles Borromeo Church will officiate at the services. A rosary will be prayed at 6:30 p.m. Saturday in the funeral home.

The family requests that visiting hours be observed from 4:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. Friday at the funeral home and will continue from 9:00 a.m. until service time on Saturday. Melancon Funeral Home of Opelousas is in charge of the arrangements.

Here's her obituary:

Murray was the second of 16 children of Lawrence Murray and Mary Melancon Murray and a native of Grand Coteau. Known as “Sister” to her family and dearest friends, Mary lived a long, beautiful life in her “little serene historic town of Grand Coteau.” Her greatest life pleasures were spending time with her family and friends, eating good food, playing bingo, traveling, watching the “Young and the Restless” and listening to Zydeco music as a reminder of special times with her mother. Mary “V or Vivian” was a “lady” admired for her beauty, style, and grace, and to many, she was an inspiration and a role model. “Miss Murray was the one of the last of the Mohicans!’

An educated woman, Mary received her early education at St. Peter Claver Elementary and was a graduate of Holy Rosary Institute in Lafayette- Class of 1943. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education from Xavier University of New Orleans in 1947 and a Master of Education from Texas Southern University in Houston.

A nurturing woman, Mary became an educator at the former St. Peter Claver Elementary and Grand Coteau Elementary where she retired after thirty years of service with the St. Landry Parish School Board in 1977. She was affectionately known as “Miss Murray, my 5th grade teacher” whom former students as well as others still remember and comment on her stylish dress and good-smelling Estee Lauder perfume.

A praying woman, Mary believed in prayer and putting God first. She was actively involved throughout her life in her church community as a religious education teacher, a member of St. Charles Church’s first Parish Council, a lector, and a member of the Altar Society. For 70 years, Lady Murray was a member of the Ladies’ Auxiliary of the Knights of Peter Claver. She had served as Grand Lady of the K.P.C. Ladies Auxiliary Sophie Barat Court #34, was a member of the Ladies Auxiliary Third Degree, and was a Charter member as well as served as Faithful Captain and Faithful Navigator of the Meritorious Fourth Degree (Ladies of Grace Mother Katherine Drexel Chapter 7), the division in which she received the order’s highest honor, the Cartagena Award. Lady Murray was also a recipient of the Gold Medal of Merit Award, the highest award by the National Convention of the Knights of Peter Claver. From the Diocese of Lafayette, she received the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Award. Yet, her greatest religious honor- decades earlier- was receiving the Benemerenti Medal awarded by Pope John XXIII in 1961 for meritorious service to the church, school, and community.

A pioneering woman, Mary was the first woman appointed to the Town’s Planning Commission. She was the first woman to run for an elected position in Grand Coteau, as Alderwoman. She was the first woman to be appointed to a State Board- State Advisory Council on Employment Security- from St. Landry Parish by Governor Edwin Edwards. She became not only the first female mayor of Grand Coteau, but also the first African American woman to become mayor in St. Landry Parish.

A committed woman, she was on various advisory boards in the parish: St. Landry Parish Community Action Agency, T.H. Harris Technical Community College, Health Care Options, Inc., St. Landry Community Services, Thensted Outreach Center, Advisory Council of Project Care (Council on Aging) and the Acadiana Regional Development District. During her term as mayor, she started the Senior Food Program with support of the Archdiocese of New Orleans for low-income seniors which eventually extended throughout St. Landry Parish.

As a result of her achievements and service, Mary V. Murray has been honored by the St. Landry Branch of the National Association of University Women in its Black History Hall of Fame. In 2014, she received the St. Landry Democratic Parish Executive Committee Lifetime Achievement Award for outstanding performance and dedicated service. Last year in 2021, the Senate of the Louisiana Legislature commended her for many years of outstanding community service in St. Landry Parish.

Survivors include two brothers: Joseph Harold Murray of Houston, TX and Willie James Murray (Sandra) of Houston, TX; five sisters: Irma M. Charles of Houston, TX; Theresa Imelda Robinson of Hawthorne, CA; Augustine M. Wider of Colorado Springs, CO; Clara Ann Warr (John) of Inglewood, CA and Louise A. Debnam (William) of Inglewood, CA; one niece whom she raised, Stephanie Murray Stephens (Glenn) of Opelousas, LA; her beloved great-nephews/niece: Chase Stephens, Chante’ Stephens and Chandler Stephens, all of Opelousas, LA; her godchildren: Joseph Harold Murray, Jr. (Lillie) of Austin, TX, Thelma Ferguson of Tinton Falls, NJ, Angie Vallien Fields (Joe) of Missouri City, TX, and Cenece Dixon of Aurora, CO; and a host of nieces, nephews, relatives and friends.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Lawrence Ignatius, and Mary Melancon Murray; six brothers: John Herbert Murray, Lawrence Xavier Murray, Charles Ignatius Murray, Felton Francis Murray (infant) and a set of newborn twins, Joseph and Lawrence Murray, Jr.; and two sisters: Bernice M. Caesar and Dolores Murray.

A rosary will be prayed at 6:30 p.m. Saturday in the funeral home.

The family requests that visiting hours be observed from 4:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. Friday at the funeral home and will continue from 9:00 a.m. until service time on Saturday.

Melancon Funeral Home of Opelousas is in charge of the arrangements.