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Relatives Hang Onto Hope for Loved One in Hijack Crisis

Times Staff Writer

As updates about the TWA hijacking trickled in from Beirut Monday, the relatives of a West San Fernando Valley man kept an anxious vigil in front of their television set for news about Thomas Wesley Murry, 58, of Newbury Park, one of the remaining hostages.

A tense but hopeful mood permeated the Murry home. The family was reluctant to talk to reporters for fear of reprisal by the Shia Muslim terrorists who hold Murry and several dozen others, but said they believe the U.S. government is doing its best to obtain the release of the hostages.

Four other Valley area residents who have been released were expected to return to Los Angeles Monday night.

A Thousand Oaks couple, Theophilos and Elizabeth Tartas, were making one of their annual trips to Greece when they boarded TWA Flight 847 from Athens to Rome, said a family friend, Mitch Schrader. A retired Burbank couple, Almeda and William Berry, were on the last days of a seven-week tour of Europe.

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But the Berrys did not arrive at Los Angeles International Airport as scheduled. “This is discouraging,” said Al Smith, Almeda Berry’s brother.

Wife Already Knew

In Newbury Park, Murry’s 57-year-old wife, Jeanne, first received a call from the State Department around 4 a.m. Friday informing her that her husband was one of the passengers aboard the hijacked flight.

But Jeanne Murry already knew, said her daughter, Marianne Robertson, 31, who arrived from Oklahoma late Sunday night to wait out the crisis with her mother.

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Jeanne Murry awoke around 3 a.m. Friday and heard on the radio that a TWA Boeing 727 jet had been hijacked on its way from Athens to Rome, the daughter said.

She knew her husband was on that flight, Robertson said. Thomas Murry, a field engineer for the Ventura Division of Northrop Corp., frequently traveled to Europe, the family said. He had been gone five weeks on this trip and was due back Friday, his daughter said.

‘We Can Wait’

Robertson talked briefly to a reporter from the front porch of the comfortable, two-story house overlooking open ranch land, where her parents have lived since 1964.

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Despite her exhausted look, Robertson was calm and composed. “Naturally, as every hour goes past it is more difficult,” she said. “But, if my father can wait in Beirut, we can wait in California. That’s what’s holding us together.”

Jeanne Murry said she wants her husband home safely.

“We’ve been married 35 years. He’s a fine father, a wonderful husband and he’s a good man. I just want him back,” she said.

Murry’s brother, Frank, 66, of Pismo Beach, said the most emotional moment came when he watched the hijacked plane land in Algiers for the second time and he realized his brother was aboard, he said.

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Physically, Mentally Strong

“The cameras were already there and the plane landed,” he said. “The lens zoomed in on the plane as it was coming in . . . so close. . . . I could see these windows going by, knowing that my brother was probably in one of those things . . . “

Robertson described her father as a hard-working man, active in the community and dedicated to his family. She said he is a strong individual--both mentally and physically.

She added, “It sounds so trite to say, but he is a wonderful family man.”

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According to family members, Thomas Murry holds a high rank in a Masonic Lodge and attends Monte Vista Presbyterian Church. For 20 years, he also has worked with the Conejo Players, a community theater group.

Father’s Day Wish Waiting

“He did everything but direct,” Robertson said. “Sometimes he’d be (acting) on stage and he’d have to run offstage to do a sound effect,” she said.

Frank Murry said his brother was “winding down his career” and had expressed interest in moving to a Pismo Beach trailer park after his retirement.

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Robertson said the first thing she would tell her father when she saw him again was “Happy Father’s Day.”

“My only concern is that my father be returned to the United States safely,” she said.


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