Jane Murphy, Possible Inspiration for Archie Comics’ ‘Betty,’ Dies in Haverhill at 100

The Archie Comics character, Elizabeth “Betty” Cooper, was introduced in 1941.

Jane Loretta (Donahue) Murphy. (Courtesy photographs.)

Jane Loretta (Donahue) Murphy, lifelong resident of Haverhill, passed away peacefully at the age of 100 on Feb. 10, at Penacook Place, Haverhill, where she was a resident for the last two years.

Jane was born July 30, 1921 to the late Charles and Mary (Heffernan) Donahue of Haverhill. She was a Haverhill High School graduate of the class of 1939 and married her high school sweetheart J. William “Buddy” Murphy also of Haverhill, a local pharmacist who predeceased her. She was also predeceased by her sister Mary (Donahue) Brooks of Haverhill.

Jane spent many happy winters with her husband at their Florida condo and summers at their Hampton Beach home where friends and extended family regularly gathered. Her activities included being a lifelong member of her HHS class of 1939 Reunion Committee, member of a local bridge club and sewing club and operated a Millinery Shop out of her home for many years where her skills were admired by many during the Jacqueline Kennedy years when women’s hats were in vogue.

Jane was one of the subjects of a film documentary, “Finding Betty,” the story of the filmmakers’ journey to discover the real identity of famed former Haverhill writer Bob Montana’s popular comic strip hero Archie and his girlfriend Betty. Archie depicts typical high school trials and tribulations of teenagers in that era and is still in publication today around the globe. The film had a grand opening at Northern Essex Community College and Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art, features Mrs. Murphy, and other classmates, as possibly the muse behind the character Betty. Mrs. Murphy was friends with Montana and accompanied him to his HHS prom. She was invited as a special guest at both film openings and was the last surviving member of the Haverhill classmates who inspired the Archie characters.

Jane and her husband “Buddy” volunteered in hospitals and nursing homes in Florida and Haverhill, including Penacook Place, where she spent her last years as a resident. They received numerous awards and citations over the years for their caring volunteer efforts. They were also avid dancers and regularly stepped out to dance whenever they could. She was especially fond of the Bee Gees and spent her 100th birthday on July 30, 2021 dancing in her wheelchair to “Stayin’ Alive” to the amazement and joy of a packed house celebration at Penacook. A video of the event and her dancing has currently captured a record 2,700 views on the Penacook website and gone viral from repostings.

A great story teller, she loved to tell her grandchildren about their family heritage and life lessons learned. She possessed a keen sense of humor, for example, telling nursing home staff how nice they looked then adding, “you know I can’t see well.” She is a true force and left a positive mark on everyone she met.

Jane is survived by her two sons and daughters-in-law, Robert and Christine Murphy of Atkinson, N.H., and William E. and Carol Murphy of Atkinson, N.H. She is also survived by her beloved grandchildren, Dillon Murphy of Derry, N.H., Lindsey Gagnon of Exeter, N.H., Erin Murphy, Washington, D.C., and four great-grandchildren, Amanda and Brady Murphy of Derry, N.H., and Shaelin and Quinten Gagnon Murphy of Exeter, NH. She is survived by several nieces, nephews and cousins.

The family wishes to give their appreciation and love to all the staff at Penacook for their devoted care of Mom and the special 100th Birthday celebration they organized; a truly happy event. Special thanks also go to the wonderful staff at Beacon Hospice who provided care, attention and weekly visitation on her final journey. These last two years were made most difficult by Covid yet the dedicated staff at both Penacook and Beacon never wavered and for that our family is very grateful.

Visitation will be held on Saturday, Feb. 19, in the Driscoll Funeral Home, 309 S. Main Street, Haverhill beginning at 11 a.m. Services follow at noon. Please note to wear face coverings. In lieu of flowers, contributions in Jane’s name may be made to Penacook Place, Resident Activities Fund, 150 Water Street, Haverhill MA 01830 or to Beacon Hospice, 290 Merrimack Street, Lawrence, MA, 01830. For guestbook, please visit www.driscollcares.com.

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