Community mourns Wellman pastor and wife killed in crash

Couple leaves four children behind after accident near Tiffin

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Wearing her dad’s sweatshirt just hours after he and her mother were killed in a car accident near Tiffin on Saturday, 18-year-old Nicole Murray wrote down a prayer not just for her family’s grief but for an entire community of people who lost a pastor, mentors and friends.

“God, help us,” Nicole wrote in a Facebook message that she gave The Gazette permission to use. “i know I’m not the only one hurting tonight … i know Mom and Dad were sooo much more than just parents to us four kids.”

Mickey Murray, 47, and Julie Murray, 46, both of Wellman, died Saturday from injuries they suffered in a one-vehicle crash at 12:05 p.m. Saturday near 340th St. SW outside Tiffin. Mickey Murray, a pastor at Kalona Mennonite Church, was driving the family’s Toyota Avalon when he lost control, according to the Iowa State Patrol.

He died at the scene, and his wife and daughter, Nicole, were taken to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics where Julie Murray died, according to the state patrol. Nicole escaped the accident without serious injury.

The couple leaves behind four children, ages 20, 18, 16 and 14.

“I sit here before you all tonight, broken by tragedy,” Nicole wrote early Sunday in her Facebook post titled, “Joy Whenever.” “Yet, in the midst of it all, the pieces are being held together by love, support of every kind, lots of wonderful hugs, and most of all, by prayer.”

Trent Smoll, 37, of Greenfield, Ind., is Mickey Murray’s nephew and said he has been awed by the way the Murray children are gracefully grieving the devastation of losing both their parents.

“These kids are solid, they are great kids,” Smoll said Monday from the family’s  home in Wellman. “To have something like this happen, the way they are handling this, they were flat raised right. It’s that simple.”

Mickey and Julie Murray met in college at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., where their oldest daughter attended school for a year and where Nicole is headed when she graduates this year. The couple would have celebrated their 26th wedding anniversary in July.

“Mick was a leader, and with Julie, they were the ultimate couple,” Smoll said. “It was the case where you have a leader who is strong minded and strong willed and their partner, who is the supporting cast who keeps them level-headed.

“They worked everything out together,” he said. “It was a team.”

The couple moved to the Midwest, found a church and felt at home among the people, Smoll said. Julie Murray was a gardener, and Mickey Murray loved to hunt, according to Smoll. Julie Murray’s sister followed her here.

“That’s how influential they were,” he said.

Saturday’s tragic accident not only took the couple from their four children and extended family, Smoll said. The entire community is grieving their loss. On the Kalona Mennonite Church’s website, congregational leaders posted a message about the accident and an appeal for prayer.

“Our congregation is indeed saddened by this tragedy. We covet your prayers for their four children, their extended families, and the countless other people in our congregation and community who were impacted by Mick and Julie’s ministry.”

Smoll said the couple and their middle daughter were headed to their son’s wrestling meet on Saturday when the crash occurred. He said the roads were slushy and icy, and the car flipped into a culvert.

Chase Murray, 16, who was wrestling for Mid-Prairie High School at the time, told Smoll that he noticed his parents weren’t in the stands when the wrestling meet started. He initially wasn’t concerned, but as time passed, he became worried.

“He thought, ‘Alright, they should be here,’” according to Smoll, who was answering questions for the family on Monday.

Chase soon learned of the accident and was taken to the hospital, Smoll said. Their oldest daughter Brittany Murray, 20, is working in the area after attending college for a year. The couple’s youngest daughter, Jordan, is in eighth grade at Kalona Middle School.

Smoll said Julie Murray’s sister and her husband are now the legal guardians of the children, according to the couple’s will. But, he said, details about how and where the family will live have not been decided.

“That stuff is not going to be dealt with right now,” he said.

The family is focusing on Mickey and Julie Murray and celebrating their lives.

“This is the way our family looks at it,” he said. “God took them. We don’t know why. It was their time to go, and it wasn’t Nicole’s.”

What the family does know is that the couple was loved and will be missed.

“The funeral home is not big enough. The church is not big enough,” Smoll said. “They are going to the high school for the funeral. That tells you a lot right there.”

Smoll said the tentative plans are to hold two visitations on Thursday and Friday evening at the Kalona Mennonite Church and a memorial service at Mid-Prairie High School on Saturday.

Friends also have started a Murray Family Fund at Hills Bank and Trust Co. Donations can be made by going to any Hills Bank or calling a local baker at Hills and making a transfer over the phone.

More plans are in the works for a benefit dinner and auction. Carol Horning is coordinating auction items. She can be reached at 319-653-2480.

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