Seattle Bartenders Rally To Aid One Of Their Own (Updated)

Like many people today, Seattle bartender Murray Stenson is without medical insurance. But now, with a heart condition and an impending surgery, Stenson needs some help, and Seattle's bar community is rallying to help defray his medical costs — and it's going viral. 

Stenson, a bartender with nearly 40 years of experience in the biz, was named America's Best Bartender of the Year at the 2010 Tales of the Cocktail. He's worked at a number of Seattle legends, including Zig Zag Cafe, Il Bistro, and Canon. He first began tending bar in 1976 in Bellevue, Wash., at Benjamin's, according to a ShakeStir profile. "When I started back in the '70s, the only things you needed to be a bartender were a pen, a wine opener, and a cigarette lighter — and maybe a basic knowledge of cocktails," Stenson said in an Imbibe profile with Paul Clarke. And he's been a big influence to drinkers, bartenders, and cocktail enthusiasts; wrote Clarke in a Stenson tribute on his blog, The Cocktail Chronicle, "If you're at all interested in cocktails and bars...  then he's given you a lot, too, because this story I'm sharing about how Murray's influenced me can be echoed by dozens of bartenders, bloggers, cocktail enthusiasts, and others who enjoy relaxing in a bar, not only in Seattle but around the world, as well." 

Within 24 hours of the MurrayAid page being set up, the PayPal donations have totaled more than $11,000, and growing. While the MurrayAid Facebook page has noted that there is no set goal for donations, there are still a lot of factors for Stenson: medical insurance, bills, and the assessment of his condition. Plus, Seattle bars, like Zig Zag Cafe, are holding fundraisers in Stenson's honor to raise the money. Seattle drinkers, you know what to do. 

UPDATE: After Evan Wallace set up the MurrayAid Facebook page and website on Saturday night, the donations have kept rolling in: to the tune of $25,000 in just a few short days. "[Stenson] was overwhelmed by the response," Wallace said in a phone interview. "He's the most loved person I've ever met, and he seemed to be completely unaware of it. He's guinely baffled at the outpouring of concern for him." Wallace said Stenson is one of the most revered and beloved bartenders in Seattle; he and Stenson met about 25 years ago at Il Bistro. "I and probably 100,000 other people took an immediate liking to him," he said. "We all became his determined accolades to learn his skills." Wallace said those concerned can keep tabs on his progress, including a possible surgery today, on the MurrayAid Facebook page for updates.