Late Great Falls historian and civic activist Kathleen J. Murphy brought her intellect and passion to initiatives that improved the community, friends said.
Murphy, who died Jan. 2 at age 71, was president of the Great Falls Historical Society from 2011 to 2017 and was “absolutely dedicated to preserving the history of Great Falls, which is a very historical area,” Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesville) said at the Jan. 22 Board of Supervisors meeting.
Murphy also served on the Long-Range Planning and Development Committee of the Great Falls Citizens Association (GFCA), Foust added.
“She had a true passion for trying to find out what the citizens really wanted in that community and then figuring out how to ensure that they accomplished that,” he said.
Foust in 2016 bestowed Murphy with the Fairfax County Volunteer of the Year Service Award for Dranesville District. Her proudest accomplishment, and the one for which she will be remembered most, was resurrecting Great Falls’ farmers’ market and serving as its manager since 2012, he said.
“It was not an insignificant fact to get that thing up and running and running very successfully,” Foust said. “I hope that we’re able to keep it going without her energy and commitment.”
Born in New York City on March 24, 1947, Murphy earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Marymount Manhattan College in 1968 and a master’s in the same field from New York University in 1971.
She worked for three decades as a management consultant and held executive positions with McKinsey & Co. and Andersen Consulting. While at McKinsey, she oversaw international-business-practice development and worked in Amsterdam, New York and Mexico City. From 1984 to 1989, she ran an independent consulting practice specializing in macro-project development for large corporations and foreign governments.
From 1989 to 1996, Murphy worked in New York for Andersen Consulting. She came to Virginia in 1996 to serve as corporate officer and vice president at Hagler Bailly Inc. in Arlington, where she remained until 1998. From 2000 to 2002, she was partner in charge of products and emerging markets at CSC in Falls Church.
Murphy since 2012 had served as manager of the Great Falls Farmers’ Market. She also served on the Dranesville District Task Force and in 2006 worked on the Great Falls Vision Project and Great Falls 2020 Vision Plan.
She authored 14 publications, including “NASA in the 21st Century: A Vision of Greatness” for the agency’s Space Resources Journal in 1992. In 1983, she published a book, “Macroproject Development in the Third World: An Analysis of Transnational Partnerships,” which later was translated into several language for inclusion in curricula of universities abroad.
Jennifer Falcone, who runs Jennifer’s Pastries LLC, met Murphy through the Great Fall Historical Society and GFCA, but came to know her better through the farmers’ market.
“Kathleen was always gathering . . . information and support for her causes and committees because of her desire to make everything she worked with a success for everyone involved,” Falcone said. “She was selfless, and helped so many people and businesses. I will miss her, and her dedication to our community.”
Jacque Olin, a former president of the Great Falls Historical Society, in 2010 chose Murphy as her vice president. Murphy, who became the group’s president the following year, helped persuade the Board of Supervisors to pass an ordinance establishing the county’s resident-curator program, she said.
“We worked well together and I enjoyed and appreciated her ability and enthusiasm,” Olin said. “Kathleen worked diligently to provide important leadership to the Great Falls Historical Society. She communicated with me often as I was GFHS’s president pro tem and she was always thoughtful in her efforts.”
GFCA member Glen Sjoblom, who knew Murphy for about 10 years, said she was an “excellent writer” who had worked to preserve Salem Baptist Church and helped nominate Colvin Run Road as a historic district under the National Historic Preservation Act.
“Kathleen Murphy was a highly motivated and energetic person with a lot of talent and drive,” Sjoblom said. “She made many useful contributions to our little town of Great Falls and worked tirelessly to make it a better place.”
Murphy is survived by her husband, Konstantine Tsombikos; sons William and John; daughter Marika; and siblings Pat, Fran, Bob and Ginny.
Services for Murphy were held Jan. 5 at Christ the King Lutheran Church in Great Falls and she was buried Jan. 7 at Holy Cross Cemetery in Brooklyn, N.Y.