SOUTH PORTLAND – Michael A. Murphy was remembered by the city’s firefighters this week as a dedicated colleague who had a passion for fire service. Murphy died Wednesday after a brief battle with cancer. He was 62.
Murphy retired in 2008 after being a city firefighter for 35 years. He worked at Central Station for about 10 years, but spent most of his career manning the station at Cash Corner. In addition to his full-time job, Murphy also was a volunteer firefighter at Willard Engine and Ladder Company No. 2 for 46 years, beginning when he was just a teenager. There, he rose through the ranks to first lieutenant.
“He lived it and breathed it,” said Fire Chief Kevin Guimond. “Any time of the day or year, he was there.”
A large turnout is expected Saturday at Hobbs Funeral Home for Murphy’s funeral service. Guimond said Murphy was a mentor to many young firefighters, including Guimond. He said Murphy stressed the importance of training and education.
“Many of us wouldn’t be where we are today without his help,” Guimond said, noting that Murphy was his “senior man” when he was hired in 1987. “He was the guy that everyone looked up to. If there was something wrong, he would tell you. If there was something you needed to learn, he taught you. Mike showed up every day and did his job. He came in the door for all the right reasons. He loved being a firefighter.”
Firefighting was in his blood. Murphy joined the volunteer department at Willard Square when he was 16 years old. His great-grandfather was a volunteer there, as was his grandfather. Friends say Murphy idolized his grandfather. Now, his son, Michael W. Murphy, is following the rich family tradition of fire service at Willard.
Murphy received numerous commendations for his service to local schools and the community. On May 22, 1986, he rescued six citizens by aerial ladder from a burning apartment building. On July 15, 2012, he was honored as an employee of the month by the city of South Portland for his dedication to the department. In 2011, Murphy made it to 97 percent of Willard call company responses.
“He was my right-hand man for many years,” said Steve Doyle, captain of Willard Engine and Ladder Co. No. 2. “He was forward looking. He was a great pump person and did a lot to try and keep the newer people involved and trained. He would dedicate the time to them.”
Murphy is survived by his wife, Deborah Murphy, and their two children. His wife shared a story Friday of the day her son first brought his girlfriend, now fiancee, to their home for dinner. Partway through the meal, the Murphy men abruptly got up and left the table to respond to a fire call.
“He was very dedicated to the fire department. In many ways, it was the love of his life,” his wife said.
When he wasn’t working, Murphy enjoyed watching NASCAR races on Sunday afternoons. He also enjoyed camping at Sebago Lake with his family and taking summer vacations to Pennsylvania’s Amish country. The Murphys were supposed to visit there early last month, but he was too sick to go.
About a month ago, Murphy developed a backache. His doctors believed he had a bladder infection, but the pain got much worse. On Nov. 9, he had a CAT scan that showed cancer in his lungs, liver, bladder, spine and brain.
“It was devastating for both of us,” his wife said. “We were shocked. He retired a few years ago and we were just planning things to do. He loved life. He loved to have fun. He loved to joke around. I’ll miss him. I’ll miss his companionship.”
At Murphy’s request, Saturday’s funeral service will be informal. Visiting hours will be held from 1 to 2 p.m., followed by a funeral at Hobbs Funeral Home, 230 Cottage Road in South Portland. The South Portland Fire Department will hold a formal burial service in the spring.
Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at: