Thurman Pittman

Thurman Murray “Monk” Pittman, 83, of Jacksonville, formerly of Merrimon, passed peacefully Friday, July 10, 2020, at Lower Cape Fear Life Care in Wilmington.

His graveside service is at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 17 at Carteret Memorial Gardens. Friends are welcome to attend the graveside service. For those unable to attend, the family invites you to view the webcast of the service through his obituary page on Munden Funeral Home’s website. In keeping with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines pertaining to the novel coronavirus, those who are ill or at-risk (elderly, immune-compromised) are encouraged to stay home. Additionally, those who attend will be asked to bring and wear a protective mask. Help us honor the family while practicing safe measures. Friends are also encouraged to leave words of comfort to the family through the website.

Murray served 29 years in the U.S. Army as a Medical Service Corps officer, eventually reaching the rank of and retiring as a colonel. He is a veteran of the Vietnam War, having served two tours as a medivac “dust-off” pilot, where he earned several medals for his dedication and heroism, including the Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star(s) and 27 Air Medals. There are numerous individuals still walking this earth today who owe their lives to him and other “dust-off” pilots who were willing to come get them after being wounded in combat when others wouldn’t and take them to a medical treatment facility.  

Murray was born Oct. 3, 1936, and grew up in Merrimon, a son of Thurman and Beatrice Mason Pittman. As a child he excelled at sports, enjoyed being outdoors and minimized his time in the family garden by “fluffing up” his bushel basket of mustard greens. Working alongside his father, they enjoyed much success commercial fishing, as his father was well-known for catching shrimp on Adams creek. As Murray grew older, his ability at sports resulted in him being a Beaufort High School All-Star athlete in football (the Merrimon Mustang), basketball (starting guard on the 1955 state championship team) and pitcher on the baseball team. Murray graduated from Beaufort High School in 1955 and attended Wake Forest College, now Wake Forest University, in Wake Forest and then Winston-Salem, when the college relocated after his freshman year.

Prior to graduating from Wake Forest College, Murray made the best decision of his life by marrying his high school sweetheart, Ms. Shirley Piner. With Shirley by his side, a graduate of Wake Forest College with a business degree and commissioned a 2LT in the U.S. Army, Murray began his Army career in 1959. Over his military career there were numerous assignments (Washington, Hawaii, Thailand, Texas, Georgia, Vietnam, North Carolina and Alaska) and school attendance, such as flight school, where he graduated No. 1 in his class and the Army’s Command and General Staff College. While in Alaska, he also began a side career as a sports official, calling high school basketball and football games for numerous years afterwards. As a sports official, his motto was “maybe not always right but never in doubt.”  After graduating from the Army’s Hospital Administration Program at Baylor University in Texas in 1971 with a master’s of heath administration, he focused on hospital administration, culminating his military career as the administrator of Madigan Army Medical Center at Fort Lewis, Wash.

Upon retiring from the Army in 1988, Murray worked for Onslow Memorial Hospital in Jacksonville, eventually becoming the administrator. After numerous years of service with Onslow Memorial, he decided to work for the Joint Commission accrediting hospitals in 1993. This enabled him to put to use his 22 years of hospital administrative experience, ensuring that medical treatment facilities met specific standards. This also allowed him and Shirley to travel all over the continental U.S., combining business and pleasure. His attention to detail was legendary, but his assessments were always fair and informative. Murray’s success in the military and during his post-military career as a hospital administrator and while serving on the Joint Commission accrediting hospitals can be directly attributed to his strong work ethic, competitiveness and desire to succeed.

After Murray retired from serving on the Joint Commission in 2000, he spent numerous hours back on the family farm in Merrimon, keeping the fields mowed, commercial fishing for shrimp, hunting ducks and deer and chasing king mackerel off Cape Lookout National Seashore. In between all that “retirement work” in North Carolina, there was plenty of time for numerous cruises with his wife Shirley and their life-long friends, an annual stint working as a marshall during the Masters Golf tournament in Augusta, Ga., trips out west chasing pheasants with his beloved Labrador retrievers and fishing adventures in Alaska. Murray had a sharp wit and could always be counted upon to have a funny saying or comment for any situation. His competitive spirit was unparalleled and lasted throughout his life as friends, competitors and family members will attest. Whether at work, on a fishing stream, playing golf or hunting, he was always competing to be first…except when it came time to pick up the check. Given a life well spent in public service, as well as the outdoors, he will be honored and remembered for his mentorship, support of those with whom he served and by those who were fortunate enough to spend time with him in the outdoors.  

Murray was a member of Brookwood Baptist Church in Jacksonville.

Mr. Pittman is survived by his wife of 63 years, Shirley Piner Pittman; and son, Thurman M. Pittman Jr. and wife Valerie of Pinehurst. He also leaves behind a son-in-law, Rick Vick of Kenly; a grandson, William Noe and wife Emily of Raleigh; sisters, Betty Brock and husband Lloyd of Tampa, Fla., Shirley Moore and husband Dicky of Jacksonville and Fran Boswell and husband Fred of Richmond, Va.; and numerous sisters-in-law, brothers-in-law, nieces, nephews and friends who he bestowed with special names.

He is preceded in death by his parents; daughter, Wyndi L. Vick; and brother, William “Billy” Pittman.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations in memory of Murray may be made to Lower Cape Fear Life Care in Wilmington or to the Brookwood Baptist Church building fund.

Arrangements are by Munden Funeral Home & Crematory of Morehead City. Family and friends are welcome to submit online condolences at www.mundenfuneralhome.net.

(Paid obituary)

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