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May 17, 1956 – Jan. 4, 2013

Don Morris says people will never know what Mike Murphy did for kids.

After 35 years as a volunteer baseball coach at Shoshone Park in North Buffalo, and later as a coach at Seneca and City Honors high schools, Mr. Murphy did a lot and for a long time.

He died Friday at his home in Buffalo. He was 56.

“He started with us as a young guy and stayed even though he never had a kid in the league,” said Morris, president of the Hertel North Park Youth Baseball League. “He was always there for the kids. If a kid needed a ride to the park, Murph would give him one. If a kid needed a ride home, Murph would give him one.”

Ask anyone who knew Mr. Murphy, and they will tell you coaching was always at the top of his list of joys and passions.

“Ever since I’ve known him, he’s been coaching,” said Robert Hairston, a close friend and co-worker. “He loved sports, and he just loved kids.”

Mr. Murphy also was a fixture at the U.S. District Courthouse downtown, both the new one and old one, where he worked for 32 years as a maintenance worker for Phoenix Frontier Inc.

“I was probably the first person he saw every day,” said U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara. “He just had a way of making you feel good, feel positive.”

Even those who never knew about his lifelong love of coaching, or his interest in cars and computers, came to admire big Murph, the man who always had a joke to tell.

He was viewed by co-workers as a kind and gentle soul who always had a smile and friendly hello for everyone he came in contact with.

“He was in many ways the heart and soul of the maintenance crew,” said Chief U.S. District Judge William M. Skretny. “The entire court family feels a very, very deep loss.”

Monday, just three days after Mr. Murphy’s death, the courthouse was abuzz with stories about a man who many remember for being in the middle of everything, and for his insistence on decorating the courthouse Christmas tree each year.

“This tradition started about nine years ago, and I will truly miss those times,” said Donn R. Schubert, courthouse property manager. “Mike always knew how to make my morning a bright day.”

Born in Lackawanna, Mr. Murphy was a graduate of Burgard High School and a member of Resurrection Life Church in Cheektowaga.

“Everyone knew Murph,” said John Ortolani, one of his supervisors at Phoenix Frontier. “He was an ambassador. Wherever you would see him, he was always so proud of what he did.”

Survivors include his mother, Eunice Murphy, and a brother, Thurman.

A wake will begin at noon Wednesday in H. Alfred Lewis Mortuary, 968 Jefferson Ave., followed by a service at 6 p.m.

– News Staff Reporter Phil Fairbanks