Former beachcomber columnist patricia murray wood ney dies april 17 – southampton – 27east

Patricia Murray Wood Ney, a member of the Southampton summer colony known for her graciousness and seemingly effortless authorship of the Beachcomber column in The Southampton Press, died at her home in Palm Beach, Florida, on April 17, 2018. She was 98. “Start with her beauty,” said Fernanda Niven, a childhood best friend of Mrs. Ney’s daughter, Robin. “She was so beautiful and so glamorous and so kind and she always had a sort of very twinkly smile about her face.” A successful Southampton real estate broker in the 1980s, she was a past chairman of the Southampton Hospital summer benefit party and a sculptor and prize-winning equestrienne in her youth.


The widow of the former ambassador to Canada Edwin N. Ney, whom she married in 2010 when she was 90; and of 1931 Wimbledon tennis champion Sydney Burr Wood, who died in 2009, she was the granddaughter of Thomas E. Murray, a businessman, engineer and inventor. Her first marriage to author James Jeffrey Roche ended in divorce. She is survived by her daughters, Robin Roche Pickett, whose husband John is former owner of the Islanders hockey team, of Southampton, Palm Beach and New York; and Hilary Geary Ross, wife of U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, of Southampton, Palm Beach and Washington, D.C.; four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Her daughter Deirdre Murray Roche predeceased her. “She was a fantastic lady,” said Evelyn Leonard, another close friend of Ms. Pickett. “She was just the happiest, most wonderful mother that Robin and Hilary could ever have had. I sort of considered her a second mother.” “A memory that stands out about her for me,” she added, “is we all used to creep over there” to the Murray-McDonnell family compound in Southampton “as teenagers and she would be sunning herself in a two-piece bathing suit and pig tails, which was very young—whereas my mother was sitting at home in her apron.” “Pat had an effortless dignity and poise,” said her friend, Dr. John Anton, a plastic surgeon whom then-Mrs. Wood introduced to friends when he moved to Southampton in 1989. There was “never even a hint of being aloof or condescending. She was a wonderful person.” She was “gracious and soothing and gliding in like she wasn’t of this world” and “always so sweet,” he added. “That was her, through and through, and I think Robin and Hilary both inherited that.” She wrote the Beachcomber for 28 years from 1972 until 2000. Former Southampton Press editor Peter Boody recalled the apparent ease with which she produced the lengthy column. “She’d come into the office like clockwork every Monday to deliver her column to me personally, handwritten on yellow legal pages. She was always elegant, always with a cheerful greeting and a kind word. Her column was dense with names and details, and yet in my decades at the paper we never had a complaint or a correction except for a mistake I recall we ourselves had made in typesetting.” “Pat Wood,” as she was known the years she wrote the column, “was one of the reasons the summer estate section picked up the paper,” said Biddle Duke, a former reporter for The Press who grew up in the Southampton estate section and is an owner of a group of weekly newspapers in Vermont. Covering the goings on at the Bathing Corporation, the Meadow Club, and the Shinnecock and National golf clubs, “She really worked at it,” he said. “Twenty to 30 percent of The Press market picked up the newspaper to see what Pat said, to see if they had been mentioned in the paper that week.” “She was an institution,” he added. “If Dan Rattiner could have picked her up, he would have.” Born on March 11, 1920, in Brooklyn, Patricia Murray was the daughter of Jeanne Lourdes Durand and John Francis Murray, a former commissioner of the New York Port Authority. Her grandfather, Thomas E. Murray, invented the dimmer switch and the screw-in fuse and developed power plants for New York City. With Thomas Edison, he helped found what became Con Edison. She and her six siblings grew up riding horses and spending summers on their 250-acre oceanfront property in Southampton known as the Murray-McDonnell compound. Two books about Irish Catholic clans, “Real Lace” by Stephen Birmingham and “Golden Clan” by John Corry, featured the family. One of Patricia’s cousins, Anne McDonnell, married Henry Ford II. An older sister, Jeanne Murray, married Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt Jr. “She had a warm smile and a gentle yet direct voice and manner,” wrote David Patrick Columbia on his website, The New York Social Diary, in a tribute to Mrs. Ney. “There was a grace about her that on contact always soothed the frenetic mind of this writer.” Her daughter, Robin, said she played tennis, “not well,” and claimed to have been a golfer. “We recently found a trophy that proved she was telling the truth!” she laughed. “She was a real sports fan,” Mrs. Pickett said. “She had New York Islanders license plates on her car. John, my husband, owned the team and he wouldn’t have dreamed of having them. But she did. And our son Johnny tried to stump her once about wrestling and she told him she knew more than he did.” A memorial service will be held in Southampton this summer. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Stony Brook Southampton Hospital.