Daniel J. Murphy Jr. of Highland Beach, Florida, and Mashpee, disability activist, and actor with roles in films including “There’s Something About Mary” and “Me, Myself, and Irene,” died on August 6. He was 58.
Mr. Murphy was born and raised in Jamaica Plain and attended Boston Latin School, where he played hockey and golf.
Growing up, he spent his summers in Mashpee. He started caddying at the New Seabury Country Club at the age of 8, and won his first caddy championship when he was 13. He also was greenskeeper at the club later in his teens.
Following his freshman year at Stonehill College in August 1974, Mr. Murphy became a quadriplegic when he broke his neck while diving in shallow water in Oak Bluffs Harbor. He spent a year in rehabilitation before returning to Stonehill, where he graduated with a degree in criminal justice in 1979.
Despite his injury, Mr. Murphy continued to visit Mashpee over the years.
“My life changed, but my love of Cape Cod never did,” he told the Enterprise in May 2011.
After college, Mr. Murphy worked for Liberty Mutual Insurance Company from 1979 to 1984. He then worked for Lotus Development Corporation from 1984 to 1992.
After moving to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, from West Roxbury in 1992, Mr. Murphy became a disability activist, starting two companies and serving on many boards in Florida. He also became heavily involved with the Americans with Disabilities Act. In 1997, he sent a letter to Christopher Burden, owner of the Popponesset Marketplace in Mashpee, asking that the marketplace be renovated to be handicapped-accessible in accordance with the ADA.
Later in 2010, Mr. Murphy filed suit against the marketplace alleging its failure to make the property ADA compliant. Of particular concern to Mr. Murphy were the marketplace’s shell walkways, which were difficult to navigate by wheelchair.
The lawsuit threatened to close the marketplace for the 2011 summer season and evict its nearly 20 tenants. Despite strong local opposition from elected officials, shop owners, and residents in Mashpee, Mr. Murphy went forward with the suit.
“I’m not a litigious person,” Mr. Murphy told the Enterprise in 2011. “The closing of the marketplace is the last thing that I want to happen. It breaks my heart, and I feel for the shopkeepers, but the management has not been reactive. They do not have to take this route.”
The suit was eventually settled in May 2011 after it was agreed that the marketplace would increase signage, provide for more wheelchair-accessible parking, update bathrooms to be handicapped-accessible, and install handicapped-accessible ramps.
“I am relieved,” Mr. Murphy told the Enterprise following the settlement. “Something like this takes a lot out of you. Now I know why many disabled people don’t speak up or get involved.”
In addition to his work as an activist, Mr. Murphy was an actor. A longtime friend of filmmakers Peter and Bobby Farrelly, Mr. Murphy played small roles in a number of Farrelly Brothers films including “Kingpin” (1996), “There’s Something About Mary” (1998), and “Me, Myself and Irene” (2000). After moving to Los Angeles in 2000 to study acting full time, he appeared in the films “Osmosis Jones” (2001) and “Shallow Hal” (2001), in which he played able-bodied characters despite his disability. He also co-hosted a TV pilot, “Disability Speaking,” in 1999.
He continued his activism while pursuing his acting career, and turned his attention toward supporting disabled actors and performers. He worked closely with the Media Access Office to help performers with disabilities break into acting. Later, he was appointed national vice chairman of the Screen Actors Guild Performers with Disabilities Committee. He also helped start I AM PWD, an international public relations campaign for disabled actors.
In 2008, Mr. Murphy co-founded Blue Zone Productions, a theater company for disabled actors. He starred in and produced the theater’s first play, “The History of Bowling,” which received positive reviews. He also co-founded a film production company, Options Entertainment, LLC.
In 2011, Mr. Murphy moved back to Florida, where he remained busy with numerous projects until the time of his death.
He leaves his mother; Elizabeth (White) Murphy of Jamaica Plain and Mashpee; his siblings, Mary Lou Halloran of Mashpee, Betty Ann Murphy of Naples, Florida, Barbara Barron of Falmouth, Mark Murphy of Holliston, Nancy Murphy of Highland Beach, Florida, Margo Andrews of Naples, Florida, and Eleanor Lynch of Tequesta, Florida. He also leaves many nieces and nephews.
He was the son of the late Daniel J. Murphy.
Mr. Murphy married in 1988. He and his wife divorced in 1995.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Thursday, August 14, at 11 AM in Parish of Christ the King in Mashpee.
Internment will follow at 12:45 PM at the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne.
Donations in Mr. Murphy’s memory may be made to the Danny Murphy Scholarship Fund, c/o Mark Murphy, 780 Marshall St., Holliston, MA 01746.