Survivors share their stories at Relay

Published 10:35 am Wednesday, June 7, 2017

When Catherine L. Murphy of Courtland learned she had breast cancer in 2000, her stoic reaction was ‘Why not me?’

“But my prayer was to live to see my daughter graduate,” said Murphy. She spoke briefly about her experience on Saturday morning after completing the Survivors’ Walk. This ceremony launched the start of the annual Franklin/Southampton Relay For Life, which took place on the Armory Field in Franklin.

Not only was the Sedley native’s prayer answered — Christie L. Murphy graduated in 2001 from Norfolk State University — but Catherine also continued her work as a school bus driver for Southampton County Schools, finally retiring in 2016 after 48 years of service.

In addition to having been active in Relay, Catherine is also involved in her church, St. Luke’s UCC.


Delma Morrell continued to do laps on the field following the initial walk.

A member of Pleasant Plain Baptist Church in Drewryville, Morrell said he’s been cancer-free since 2011. When the doctor told him that he had prostate cancer, Morrell said, “Let’s fix it.”

And they did. He only required one surgery to remedy the situation.

Even before, the Sussex County resident had been involved with Relay. He was caretaker to his wife, Wanda, who had developed breast cancer.


Next to the Keurig for a Kure tent, Frances McMenemy could be found seated on a beach towel soaking up the morning rays. The Florida resident has in town visiting her daughter, ErinColleen McMenemy, and decided to participate.

Frances doesn’t remember her doctor say that she had developed breast cancer.

“I didn’t hear him. I blocked it out. But I saw my husband’s reaction and I knew,” said Frances, adding that she prayed one day, and started fighting the next. Her positive attitude got her through surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

Today she’s 10 years free of cancer, and active with Relays back home.

Those three people were among the countless participants doing what they can to inspire other people who have been fighting their own battles against the disease in its myriad forms.

“I think it went wonderfully. We couldn’t have asked for better weather. It was just a really, really nice day,” said Cindy Cotton about the event. Serving in her third year as event lead, she’s been involved with Relay for about 10 years.

“It was something I wanted to do,” said Cotton. “Obviously, I have had family and friends who have had cancer. I felt led.”

Her first team was while working at Social Services, after doing that for several years, then Cotton also went on to committee work for six or seven years.

“There were a lot more young people and I’m very pleased about that. They’re the future of Relay,” she said.

Elaine Fenters, also doing committee work, agreed with Cotton about the turnout.

“I think thing went really well,” she said. “We’re hoping to make our goal of $80,000. Our deadline is in August.

Asked to recall a particularly memorable moment during the occasion, Fenters said, “I was very proud of Bryan Fenters, my husband, receiving the Chester Burgess Award.”

This was named for the man who helped to start Relay locally, said Glinda Jervey, who’s on the Survivor committee and involved with the event for 22 years.

“When he passed away, we wanted to carry on his memory.”

She added that the Pete Clark Award, named for the founder of radio station WLQM, went to Star Security and Investigations.

Whether individually or in teams, the Franklin-Southampton chapter has so far raised $78,000 to help finance treatments and research to better fight cancer and — one day, eradicate it.

“It’s not too late [to donate]. We’re very, very close,” she said, urging people to go online at People can also contact either Cotton at  or 617-9743; or Fenters at or 375-1998.