The beloved 54-year-old grandmother, known simply as “Miss Ida” to her close friends in the Fillmore Avenue neighborhood where she lived, was remembered Sunday night by nearly 100 mourners who held a prayer vigil in her memory at the site where she died tragically Thursday night at the hands of a suspected drunken driver.
Those gathered along Fillmore Avenue – across the street from Antioch Baptist Church, where she was a devoted parishioner – stood with umbrellas in damp, unrelenting rain and talked fondly about Miss Ida as a guiding force in their tight-knit neighborhood.
Many wept as they stood at the spot where Murphy died. She was killed when a driver accelerated his SUV, then hit three light standards on Fillmore near Riley Street. One of the felled light poles struck Murphy.
The driver, Issac C. Parker, 48, of Briscoe Avenue, was shot shortly before the crash by one of two Buffalo police officers who, according to police officials, were trying to prevent Parker from driving off after being stopped for suspicion of drunken driving. Parker sped off as the officers were trying to remove the keys from his car.
Parker and Murphy both were declared dead at the scene.
“I’ve known her my whole life. Ida brought us together,” Veronica Woods, 46, said of Murphy, with tears in her eyes. “I knew her from the time I was in diapers. If there was a fight in the neighborhood, she’d try to bring us together. She was always very visible. It was a shock.”
Trying to make sense Sunday night of Thursday’s bizarre sequence of events was next to impossible for those who knew Murphy. Some were still in a state of disbelief that a traffic stop three nights earlier for a minor violation on Fillmore by Best Street, along the southern edge of Martin Luther King Park, somehow had come to this.
It’s believed she was on her way to Pikes Peak Market at 1318 Fillmore to buy juice, or had just left the store, when she was killed.
By Sunday night, a wooden peace dove was perched at the chain-link fence at the spot where she died. Flowers and teddy bears were covered in plastic to protect them from the pelting rain. At the end of the vigil, mourners and friends sang “Lean On Me.”
For some mourners, frustration with the Buffalo police also surfaced.
“I’m looking for the truth to come out. The police should be held accountable,” said Demetrius Moore, 31, in an interview with The Buffalo News inside the market after the vigil. Moore said he’d known Murphy for most of his life.
“There’s a lot of anger in the community with the Police Department [and how this happened],” Moore said. “We believe the car struck her and then hit the pole, which came down on her. Nobody from the city came here tonight, but there are two human lives that have been taken and cannot be recovered.”
Moore, who said Murphy knew Parker, described the woman as a “tremendous, lovable person.”
“I was shell-shocked when I heard the news,” he said.
“Ida reached out and literally tried to help everybody,” Moore added. “She was an asset in this community.”
Murphy volunteered at her church’s food pantry and also at True Bethel Baptist Church’s clothing pantry.
Some of Murphy’s family members attended the vigil but were too upset to talk.
Mod Bellamy, owner of the Bird Cage bar at 475 Northhampton, couldn’t believe it when she heard about Murphy’s death, since Murphy had just stopped by to chat with her only a few hours before the accident. “She was not drinking but she came by to chat about an upcoming Christmas party and how she could help,” Bellamy said Sunday.
Fredean Honeycutt, who held a T-shirt bearing a picture of Murphy in a summer dress that read “God Has His Arms Around You,” helped organize the vigil with the group PEACE and Murphy’s church.
“Ida was always in our family and helped my dad do his gardening,” Honeycutt said. “She was a woman who loved the neighborhood children and would take them to MLK Park and the wading pool.
“She was a lovely woman, and will be missed.”