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Sewickley Herald Man of the Year's reach goes beyond his official role

| Wednesday, March 25, 2015, 6:27 p.m.
The Sewickley Herald's 2014 Man of the Year Wayne Murphy stands for a photo inside the Sewickley Public Library on Wednesday, March 18, 2015.
Kristina Serafini | Trib Total Media
The Sewickley Herald's 2014 Man of the Year Wayne Murphy stands for a photo inside the Sewickley Public Library on Wednesday, March 18, 2015.

Like plenty of others, Wayne Murphy has spent many hours of his retirement walking his dog.

But what would simply be an act of leisure for most has served a pivotal role in Murphy's nine years as the mayor of Edgeworth.

For Murphy, 73, his time pounding the pavement with his dog at his side has acted as a public forum of sorts, making him visible and available to the people he serves.

This visibility has extended beyond the few hours per week that he spends on his mayoral duties to volunteer efforts throughout the Sewickley Valley.

It's for those other volunteer efforts that Murphy is being honored next month as the Sewickley Herald's 2014 Man of the Year.

In the 30 years that Murphy and his wife, Mary, have lived in the Sewickley Valley, he has spent time on the board of the Sweetwater Center for the Arts as treasurer, secretary and vice president and currently serves as the president of the advisory board.

He currently serves as the board president at the Sewickley Public Library and volunteers at Sewickley Presbyterian Church, serving on the hospitality and nominating committees, and preparing meals for the Center for Hope in Ambridge.

In his role on the church's nominating committee, Murphy has used his own visibility as a chance to showcase the talents of others who might not be naturally seen as leaders.

“When you think back to school, there was some guy who was the king of this and the quarterback, but that doesn't mean he did everything the best,” Murphy said. “What I think is particularly good is to find folks who maybe aren't in the limelight but are very talented and to help get them into positions. I find that very satisfying.”

The Murphys lived in Moon when they were married in 1970 before Wayne's job with Westinghouse took them to London for a few years. When they returned to the states in 1985, they settled in Edgeworth, as it held a similar allure to the English village they had grown accustomed to.

“When we came back here, we looked all around Pittsburgh, but (the Sewickley area) seemed to be the place for us,” Murphy said. “It's obviously proved to be so.”

Murphy wasted no time in diving into volunteer work, but it wasn't until his retirement in 2003 that he had the time to be involved everywhere he wanted to be.

Sweetwater board member Barbara Cooley-Thaw said that it's obvious why so many people have trusted Murphy as a community leader.

“There have been a couple things in the last six or eight months where I've picked up the phone and talked to him because I feel his advice is very practical and it comes form a space of knowledge from our town,” Cooley-Thaw said.

“He's a great listener, and I just know that he's very calm in his response and well thought out. He's not harsh and he doesn't act in haste. It's going to be something reliable.”

Murphy sees himself as being much more than just a leader.

While he has enjoyed each of his leadership opportunities, he said that his favorite volunteering efforts have been ones in which he can just be another participant, such as Sweetwater's “Let the Men Cook!” or making seafood chowder for the Lenten soup supper and study in his church.

“Sometimes, nonprofits need management, but a lot of times, they just need someone to help,” Murphy said. “I've enjoyed doing that helping stuff a lot more.”

Recently, Murphy has spent the most time in his role at the library, a place where he has made a sizeable impression on the people he has worked alongside and come in contact with.

“If I'm in a meeting or going somewhere with Wayne, he's always stopping to talk to someone else,” said Library Director Carolyn Toth, who nominated Murphy for the award. “He just makes people feel better after talking to them. I can't think of one person in the library who doesn't enjoy Wayne's company, even if it's just for a couple minutes.”

He expressed pride in the work the library has done of late to reach children in particular.

“If you can get kids that age to see reading as important, that's like getting a rocket shot off in your life,” Murphy said.

“When I see little kids at the library — even three-year-olds — listening to reading, that's just tremendous to me.”

This will be Murphy's final year serving as library board president, but he doesn't see a reason to stop volunteering entirely.

The same goes for the rest of community, he said.

“I think that the people today have an obligation to make certain that this town will continue to be what it is, that it will grow and improve, so that 30 years from now, people will still look and say, ‘Boy, Sewickley is a really wonderful place to live.' ”

Gary Horvath is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at ghorvath@tribweb.com or via Twitter @GHorvath_Trib.

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