Long time Mountain Area businessman and community leader Rusty Murphy passed away Sept. 15 at the age of 70, from Atypical Parkinsonism.
Rusty and his wife Sara moved to Oakhurst in 1978 from the Los Angeles area, where Rusty worked in the movie industry.
The couple decided that Oakhurst was the place to raise their family (son Scott and daughter Kim), and were encouraged to make the move by Rusty’s parents, Mel and Maribeth Murphy.
At the time, there was no 6-and-under Little League, so Rusty and Sara worked with Mel and Meribeth and others in the community to start one, with Rusty and Sara coaching a team.
Rusty and Sara arrived in town with a dream of opening a much-needed movie theater. After overcoming many obstacles, the Murphys opened the two-screen MET Cinema on March 21, 1986, after volunteers helped install the seats and other equipment the night before. A third screen was added in 1989.
In 1994, the Murphys wanted to expand the building but county codes would not allow it, so they transformed the adjoining space into the MET Two, with two additional screens. That’s the reason for the two separate entrances at the front of the theaters.
The new theater featured Dolby EX Surround Sound and DTS Digital, something not available at the time in any theater in Fresno.
Rusty once said they were able to make that happen because George Lucas wanted people that live here, and work for him, to be able to see movies the way he wanted to show them.
A film and television major at University of Houston, Rusty was part of the team that produced what became a cult classic, “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes,” in 1978, and also worked on the original “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”
Murphy was the ultimate movie fan. People calling the MET for show times could always count on a short, honest and accurate review by Rusty of each film playing at the MET. He reviewed more than 10,000 movies during his ownership of the theater, where he and his wife called many moviegoers by their first name.
The Murphys owned and operated Oakhurst’s favorite entertainment center for 22 years before selling the business and retiring in late May, 2008.
In addition to owning and operating the theater, Murphy served as president of the Eastern Madera County Chamber of Commerce in 1987 and was the president of the Sierra Historic Sites Association for three years.
Soon after retiring, the Madera County Board of Supervisors presented the Murphys with a proclamation for all their years of service to the community while they owned the MET Cinema.
Then Madera County Sheriff John Anderson praised the Murphys for their tradition of posting Eastern Madera County Officer of the Year photos in the theater.
In 2006, Rusty and Sara were named the Grand Marshals for Mountain Heritage Days.
The award Rusty cherished most was when he was named the “Angel of the Year” by the Mountain Bear Fan Club at the 2000 Angel’s Amongst Us award dinner. Sara received the same honor in 2001.
Rusty once said Oakhurst was more than a community.
“Oakhurst is a state of mind and I hope it never gets spoiled by growth,” Murphy said. “We need to remember that it is a community of people and not a way station in route to Yosemite. Oakhurst residents have to work hard to maintain that.”
An Irish Wake/Open House in Mr. Murphy’s honor will be held noon - 2 p.m., Oct. 12, at the MET.