A celebration of the life of Bruce A. Murphy, a former member of the Wellfleet Fire and Police depts., will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 18 at the Wellfleet Methodist Church at 246 Main St. A potluck reception will follow in the church’s fellowship hall.
Bruce died peacefully, surrounded by family, at his home in Port Charlotte, Fla. on Feb. 5, 2021. He was 73. The cause of death was prostate cancer, said his son.
Bruce was born on July 8, 1947 in Barnstable to Malcolm and Kathleen (Tinkham) Murphy. He grew up in Wellfleet in a house on Route 6 just below the Truro town line. He graduated from Nauset Regional High School, studied at Cape Cod Community College, and served in the U.S. Coast Guard from 1966 to 1972.
He started Murphy’s Oil Burner Service in the early 1970s.
Bruce and Lorrain Vail were married in 1969, and they had three children. They divorced when the youngest was seven.
His son, also named Bruce, recalled an edgy but positive bonding experience when he joined his father to provide oil service at the Wellfleet home of Anthony Perkins, who played the villain in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.
During his years in the oil burner business, Bruce also worked, from 1972 until 1985, as an EMT for the Wellfleet Fire Dept., attaining the rank of lieutenant. Four of those years included service as a part-time special officer for the Wellfleet police. Dick O’Hara, a former colleague and chief of police in Wellfleet, recalled how Bruce, always a reliably hard worker, was on call 24/7 as an EMT.
Even with those obligations, he squeezed in time to earn certification as a Merchant Marine.
With that certification, Bruce worked as a barge captain for Bouchard Transportation of New York City. When the company expanded operations from the northeast to the Gulf of Mexico, Bruce moved south to pilot barges and tankers from Miami to Brownsville, Texas.
Life as a barge and oil tanker captain meant being away from his family for weeks at a time. To ease the emotional strain of separation one summer, Bruce took his son on a barge trip for a month, a wonderful mix of fishing, observing dolphins, swimming in the middle of the Gulf, and even painting the barge. In later years, Bruce made similar efforts to be close to his grandchildren, never missing a graduation — until the pandemic.
Around 2000, Bruce left Bouchard and joined Crowley Marine on the West Coast, where he captained barges and tankers between Los Angeles and Vancouver and twice passed through the Panama Canal.
Bruce retired from the Merchant Marine in 2016.
He was a member of Port Charlotte’s Trinity Methodist Church, where he was on the governance council and served as the main maintenance person. He also traveled to Ireland twice in pursuit of his family’s history.
Bruce’s son and namesake recalled that he would do anything for his children. Even on distant travels, he would find creative ways to maintain communication. He credited his father with giving him the invaluable gift of patience.
Two weeks before his death, Bruce married his partner of more than 20 years, Sheila Marz of Sarasota, Fla., who survives him, as do siblings Jean Cook and husband Ralph of Falmouth, Malcolm Murphy Jr. and wife Barbara Henderson of Wellfleet, Thomas Murphy and wife Pamela of Florida and Wellfleet, Richard Murphy and wife Karen of Wellfleet, and Cathy Costa and husband Robert of Plymouth.
He is also survived by his children, Laura Lee and husband John of Shelton, Wash., Karie Olson and husband Eric of Carlsburg, Wash., and Bruce E. Murphy and wife Heather of Port Angeles, Wash.; his former wife, Lorrain; grandchildren James, Phoenix, Emma, Breanna, Clara, Marinah, and Troy; and great-grandchildren Colt and Hallie of Olympia, Wash.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Wellfleet Firefighters’ Relief Association and the Wellfleet Police Relief Association in honor of Bruce’s service to those organizations.