Katherine Bye Murphy

katherine murphy

September 20, 1926 ~ June 6, 2022

Born in: Duluth, MN
Resided in: Fargo, ND

Katherine Bye Murphy, 95, of 1222 4th Avenue North in Fargo, died Monday, June 6, 2022.

Katherine was born in Duluth, MN on Sept 20, 1926 and reared in a multi-generational household, which included her Grandmother Kit (Katherine S Lister), Uncle Franklin (Lister), parents Gladys L and I Richard Bye, and brother Dick (Richard L Bye). She was proud to acknowledge that throughout her childhood and the war years all the women in her family held jobs, which contributed to the household’s livelihood.

Katherine graduated from Denfeld High School in 1944 and went on to attend the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, where she pursued her passion for speech and the theater arts, becoming a lead actress in the noted drama department headed by Robert Moulton. Among her many roles, she received the University of Minnesota Senior Acting Award for her role as Lady Macbeth in 1948, along with recognition throughout the Twin Cities. She went on to earn a Master’s Degree in Theater Arts.

Katherine married Vincent R Murphy in August, 1948, and moved to Felton, MN, site of the Murphy family farm, where she taught high school at the Felton Consolidated School in 1948 and 1949. Vincent and Katherine moved on for a brief sojourn in Hibbing, MN in 1950-51, where they welcomed their first-born, Timothy.

From 1951 on, a period spanning seven decades, Katherine resided in Fargo-Moorhead, where, as an educator, administrator and board member, she was a pillar of the cultural community. She taught in the speech and communications departments of both Concordia College and Moorhead State, specializing in creative drama. She graced the stage at the Fargo/Moorhead Community Theatre over many decades enjoying notable last roles in On Golden Pond (1982) and Blithe Spirit (1983). She served as 3-term Chair of the Minnesota State Arts Board from 1982-85. She then became Director of the Moorhead State University Performing Arts Series, and was especially proud to champion world-class female artists, such as concert pianist Alicia de Larrocha, Scottish vocalist Jean Redpath, and actress Claire Bloom. Katherine also served on the Board of Arts Midwest, Minneapolis, as President of the Fargo-Moorhead Junior League, and as a longtime member of Chapter O-PEO and the Fine Arts Club of Fargo.

Katherine enjoyed reading, swimming, skiing, collecting regional art, genealogy research, needlework, bridge, and extensive travel throughout Europe, Asia, Tibet, Mexico, the United States and Canada. She had a flair for beautiful clothing and design. She loved the earth, its soil, trees, rivers, lakes, oceans, mountains and skies. Her final weekend, before succumbing to a stroke, was spent listening to loons and watching wild swans at the Murphy cabin, summer residence since 1955, on Floyd Lake Point.

In 2020 at the age of ninety-three, Katherine’s personal trainer in Scottsdale, AZ, where she wintered for some thirty years, asked her what her favorite role had been. “Raising her six children” was her unequivocal response. She is survived by Claudia, Ann, James, Mary, and Margaret (Molly) Murphy, (Timothy deceased); their spouses, John Rowell, Mark Rosenzweig, Meg Nei, Skip Jones, Greg Rigdon; her five grandchildren Jesse & Matthew Jones, Sean Gunner, Hugh & Claire Rigdon; and her sister-in-law, Janet Bye.

Katherine kept a photo of herself, age ten, ready to head off to girl-scout camp, on her dresser throughout her adult life — a reminder to always be prepared for that next, big adventure.

Services private. Memorials can be sent to Emergency Food Pantry, Fargo or Minnesota Public Radio.

Katherine’s Video Tribute can be viewed below:


Private service.:

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The family greatly appreciates donations made to these charities in Katherine Bye Murphy 's name.

Emergency Food Pantry, Fargo

1101 4th Ave N
Fargo, ND
(701) 237-9337

Minnesota Public Radio

480 Cedar St
St. Paul, MN

Memories Timeline


  1. Kathy was a life long friend of my mother and of all the Rostads. My mother cherished her friendship and her creativity. Kathy was a strong influence in my life too. I held her up as an example of how to live a full and meaningful life. She was a class act!
    I am so sorry for your loss and for the loss of such a marvelous woman. May you find peace in nature as your mother certainly would have.,
    With love and prayers, Ann Haggart

  2. I read the forum and was so very very sad to read of of Kathy’s passing. I have known her and all the Murphys since childhood. She is the loss of one of the great ones of her generation. My most sincere sympathy for the loss of a truly wonderful woman and class act
    Mary Tallmsn

    • Kathy was an important person in the history of the arts in Fargo-Moorhead. Her support of the MSUM Theatre spanned decades. Many people were positively impacted by Kathy and Vince’s support.

  3. Sending thoughts and prayers to you, Molly, and all your family. I was lucky enough to spend a large part of my childhood at the Murphy house with your mom and family. She was a special, talented lady and will be missed, but what a wonderful life she led.

  4. What a moving tribute you produced. We have the picture of your mom and our dad in our guest room. She was also a Bye family historian and we have what she wrote about Grandpa Richard’s experiences during WW1 and about her family. I always felt that we Byes took traditional paths but the Murphys were creative and artistic. Your mother’s influence I am sure. And all of the Murphy women have such a strong resemblance to her. I really think she made her final exit so fittingly. She was surrounded by family love and apple blossoms and didn’t create a lingering farewell for those she loved. I am hoping she is with Vince and Tim and Dad celebrating a life well and fully lived.

  5. The tribute was beautiful. Your mom had a very rich and full life and It was an honor to meet her when she came back east last year….!
    Sending thoughts and prayers to you and your family.

  6. On behalf of my class at Dana Hall School I send sincerest sympathies to the Murphy family. Kathy and Vince were dear friends of mine for many years. The Murphys ,the Ryans. the Broadbents and the Reynalds traveleled to Ireland together for a wonderful trip. With much love, Ginger O’Hearn Broadbent

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