Iconic Former Printing Industry Leader Robert 'Bob' Murphy, of Japs-Olson, Passes at Age 91
Robert 'Bob" E. Murphy, the former chairman and CEO of St. Louis Park, Minnesota-based direct mail printing powerhouse Japs-Olson, who also served as a former chairman of Printing Industries of America, died at age 91 on St. Patrick's Day, March 17, following a four-year battle with complications from a stroke. He is survived by his wife of 64 years; Judy; six children, 12 grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.
In recognition of a 54-year professional career of service to both his company and numerous leadership roles that advanced the graphic arts industry as a whole, Bob was deservedly the recipient of numerous printing industry accolades. Among them, he received the Outstanding Graphic Arts Industry Leader Award by the Printing Industries of Minnesota in 1991, was inducted into the Printing Impressions Printing Industry Hall of Fame in 1993, garnered the Lewis Memorial Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998 from the former Graphic Arts Monthly, was named the Graphic Arts Leaders of the Americas in 2000, and was recognized with the Harry V. Quadracci VISION Award by the Web Offset Association in 2011.
At the time of bestowing the VISION award upon Bob Murphy, Larry Miller, then-chairman of the Web Offset Society, said, “I have personally worked with Bob — on the association side as a board member and on the business side as an equipment supplier. I found him to be straight-forward, very involved, and an honest individual. I can only believe that Bob has not already been the VISION award recipient due to his humble demeanor and open willingness to state his successes were due to the strong belief in teamwork.”
Upon hearing of Murphy's passing earlier today, Miller expressed to Printing Impressions how sad he was, noting although they hadn't seen each other in person for several years, he would call and talk to Bob on his birthdays. "Bob was a most generous man. As a new salesman in a new industry, he took time to explain his operation and the services our organization needed to provide," Miller recalled.
Through the years, Murphy and Miller worked together on numerous CapEx projects as Japs-Olson continued to flourish. "I remember distinctly his call noting that his move to a new, larger plant that would require special efforts to continue production. We went to the roof of the new building to lay out where the new air pollution equipment would be placed, the timetable, and dealing with environmental authorities. Bob was a very 'hands on' leader and entrepreneur. And, lastly, I recall how his annual Christmas picture card ensemble showed his love for his family."
Other printing industry individuals also weighed in upon hearing of his passing.
"It's an end of an era," Brad Thompson, president of Inland Press, noted. "Bob was always an amazing friend and gentleman ... one of PIA's giants."
"This is truly sad news for a very special man and friend of our industry," agreed Ed Young, VP of national account sales at Heidelberg USA. "Bob will be remembered with respect and admiration always."
June Crespo, director of affiliate relations at PRINTING United Alliance, pointed out that Bob was also the founding chairman of the Ben Franklin Honor Society and had a long service record with PIA well beyond his role as chairman of the board from 1995-1996. He also served as chairman of the Government Affairs Committee for decades, was always a maximum PrintPAC donor, and served on countless other PIA committees.
"Bob was always ready to serve the industry when called upon," Crespo praised. "He was a consummate professional and a fine gentleman, and will be sorely missed by all his industry friends. Bob touched many lives in a positive way."
Industry veteran Ray Hartman shared similar sentiments: "We all had great respect for the leadership and vision that Bob Murphy shared with the industry organizations, which brought great ideas and expansion of the Printing Industries of America conferences. Bob was a very generous and kind man, willing to help all of us as we were growing up in the printing industry together!"
Bob Murphy: A Man of Humble Roots
Bob Murphy was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth; in fact, his remarkable accomplishments were the result of a strong work ethic, integrity and a sense of humility, and great interpersonal communication skills. He was born in 1931 to Edward and Irene Murphy. The oldest of three children, Bob grew up on his family's modest dairy farm in Georgetown, Wisconsin.
He dreamed of becoming an architect. But tragically his father died of cancer in 1948 at age 45, and everything suddenly changed for the then-16-year-old. After graduating top in his class from high school, Bob dutifully set his dreams aside and took over the family farm to provide for his mother and help send his two younger siblings to college.
But staying on the farm had one good outcome: it put him on a path to meet Judy Beddor, whose family vacationed on nearby Bone Lake. Married in 1958, the couple lived on the farm, and the young entrepreneur found fulfillment in meticulously managing his herd and experimenting with new farming techniques.
Perhaps a good training ground for his later leadership roles within printing industry associations, Bob also got involved in local politics. Serving on the Georgetown Town Board, he helped clear the way for local roads to be paved. He also became chair of the local Democratic Party. His political activism culminated in efforts to help elect John F. Kennedy President. During Kennedy's first campaign, Bob and his wife Judy even hosted Bobby Kennedy at their farm home and at a local supper club.
Not long after, a life-changing career opportunity presented itself. In 1965, Judy's father, Frank Beddor, offered Bob a job at Japs-Olson. He started in in the production department and worked his way up through the organization, serving in various roles. By 1990, he was named chairman and CEO of the privately-held company and continued to grow the company.
Today, Japs-Olson — led by CEO Michael W. Beddor — employs more than 600 workers and was ranked No. 35 on the 2022 Printing Impressions 300 ranking (click here to access the complete PI 300 list) of the largest printing companies in the U.S. and Canada, reporting most recent fiscal year sales of $170.8 million.
Strong Sense of Family Commitment
But it wasn't all about work for Bob Murphy. He deeply valued and adored his large family. As outlined in his obituary, his Irish eyes were always smiling as he spent virtually every waking moment outside of work with his wife, children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren at their Bone Lake home. "He experienced great joy from seeing the kids in his family have fun. He made sure the lake house not only had boats, jet skis, inner tubes, water skis and wakeboards, and plenty of gators and ATVs — not to mention the family's infamous row of lakeside trampolines," his obituary pointed out.
"Whenever his wife Judy would dream up an idea for a family event or gathering, he would make it reality – no matter how outrageous," his obituary also noted. "Convert the family's pontoon into a replica of Noah's Ark for the yearly boat parade? No problem. Clear an ice rink on a frozen lake with three feet of hard-packed snow? He'd enlist an army of grandchildren and have a regulation-sized hockey rink ready the next day. Coordinate the logistics of a 40-person 4th of July bike ride with two support vans stocked with snacks and supplies? He did it every year."
At 91 years of age, as Bob Murphy slowly lost ground physically, he maintained his same life-long sense of dignity and calmness to inspire and help bring consolation to those around him. Up until his last day on earth — which was St. Patrick's Day — his Irish eyes were smiling.
Burial Arrangements, Including Live Streamed Service
Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10 am, Thursday, March 23, with visitation beginning at 9 am at St. Olaf Catholic Church, 8th St. & 2nd Ave. S., Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Please park across the street at The Minneapolis Club.) A reception will follow the Mass at The Minneapolis Club, 729 2nd Ave. S., in Minneapolis. Interment will be at 3:30 pm at Holy Rosary Cemetery in Balsam Lake, Wisconsin.
The service can be live streamed at: http://www.youtube.com/user/SaintOlafChurch/ live.
Memorials can be made to St. Olaf Catholic Church or an organization of the donor's choice.