Family of Queens County business pioneer makes $4-million donation to QEII Foundation

by Charles Mandel

The family behind one of the South Shore's most successful fishery companies, Mersey Seafoods Limited., has made a $4-million donation to the QEII Foundation.

The QEII Foundation announced February 26 that $3-million of the donation would help create an Endowed Chair in Palliative Care at the QEII Health Sciences Centre, while $1-million will provide funding for Nova Scotia's new hospice residence, Hospice Halifax.

The donation came from the Murphy family through the J & W Murphy Foundation.

Lisa Murphy, the daughter of Mersey Seafood's founder - William Murphy - and a Halifax lawyer for the foundation, said in a news release: "In just four years, my sister Karen, sister-in-law Holly and I lost three family members: our brother and Holly's husband, Jon; and our parents, Janet and Bill."

A release from the QEII Foundation said, that "in addition to igniting palliative care research and supporting the funding of Hospice Halifax, the Murphy family hopes their gift will help shatter some of the stigma surrounding palliative care and its importance in helping individuals at any point in their illness – whether they have two months remaining, two years or longer."

Endowed research chairs at the QEII are experts in their field who are appointed for a five-year term. These endowment funds are invested permanently, where only the interest from the investment is used to fund the long-term research position in perpetuity.

The QEII Foundation is currently on a $4-million fundraising campaign – of which the J & W Murphy Foundation has donated $3-million – to complete funding for the Endowed Chair in Palliative Care. Once the campaign is complete and the position is recruited, the Endowed Chair in Palliative Care will be crossed-appointed at the QEII, NSHA and Dalhousie University.

The Endowed Chair in Palliative Care will be dedicated to leading palliative care research at the QEII and, ultimately, translating evidence-based findings into best practices, policies and training that will be adopted here at home - and both nationally and internationally.

According to Dr. Drew Bethune, medical director of NSHA's Provincial Cancer Care Program, "this endowed chair and the research potential it offers will be critical in addressing one of our greatest needs in Nova Scotia."

Research conducted around the globe has already demonstrated that quality palliative care improves patient and family quality of life and well-being, reduces healthcare costs and in many instances, even prolongs life.

Lisa's father, William, was co-founder and president of Mersey Seafoods in 1964. At its peak the company employed close to 2,000 people.

William was a dentist in Liverpool, initially, but as the seafood business became more successful he gave up his practice to concentrate on the fishery.

From his base in Liverpool, William expanded Mersey Seafoods to include plants and wharves in Moose Harbour, Guysborough County, Petit de Grat, and Souris PEI. His son Jon joined the business in the early 1980s, and together they led the company to the forefront of the iconic northern cod and northern shrimp fisheries, according to William's obituary.

William and his son oversaw the building of three pioneering freezer trawlers – Mersey Viking (1980), Mersey Venture (1987), and Mersey Phoenix (2002) – and the expansion of markets for once-underutilized species.

In 2008, he and and his wife Janet quietly founded the J & W Murphy Foundation as a vehicle for their charitable giving.

William died at age 84 on September 28, 2016. His obituary asked that as expressions of sympathy and in lieu of flowers, donations to the QEII Foundation – Medical Day Unit (Halifax), the Queens General Hospital Foundation (Liverpool), or any charity of choice would be welcomed.

In recent years, the J & W Murphy Foundation has also made donations to South Shore Regional Centre for Education, Region of Queens Municipality and Friends of the Hank Snow Society.

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