A wound from the Battle of Britain left Hensley Murray unable to pursue his dream of becoming a pilot, but toward the end his life the Scottish-born auto mechanic and Korean War veteran was part of a crew flying over Jones Beach.
Murray, of Deer Park, died of a heart attack Sept. 20 with his son by his side. He was 82.
His friends and his son, Paul, remembered “Henny” as a gregarious Scotsman with a dry sense of humor, always on the hunt for a good “cuppa tea.”
“He was just very upbeat, very positive,” Paul said. “He made everybody feel good.”
Behind his smiles was a tough past. As a boy he lost an eye to shrapnel during a German air raid on his hometown of Glasgow during World War II.
“It was devastating to him because at a young age he’d always see those warplanes flying overhead and he always wanted to be a pilot,” his son said. Murray’s father served in the military and died during the war. After the war ended, he followed his mother and immigrated to the United States.
“He had a rough childhood and didn’t want to talk about it,” his son said. Murray served in the army in the Korean War where he was awarded a Purple Heart. Afterward he ran an auto-repair shop in Flushing, Queens. It was in Queens where he met Rosalie Ann Rocco at her family’s bodega. They wed in 1962 and six years later moved to Deer Park where they raised one son.
He never really retired, his son said, working at Chevrolet dealerships in Huntington and later driving vehicles to deliver them to new owners. A car enthusiast, he loved NASCAR and regularly attended the Indianapolis 500. It wasn’t just real cars that drew his attention; he loved to assemble model cars in his basement workshop.
A few years after the death of his wife, mother and sister in a car accident in 1995, Murray followed his dream of flying as a volunteer at the American Airpower Museum, which opened in 1999. He became the crew chief on a C-47 troop carrier plane that would fly over Jones Beach.
“He loved being on an airplane and being part of an aircrew made him smile all the time,” said his friend and fellow volunteer Miguel Moreno, 66, of North Babylon.
He is survived by his son, daughter-in-law Eunice J. Bandy, and two grandchildren who live in Deer Park.
A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday at the American Airpower Museum, 1230 New Hwy. in Farmingdale. He will be cremated and his ashes sprinkled over the Atlantic from the C-47 in which he flew.