A Stowe man was killed when his car crashed into a tree and a utility pole Saturday morning.
Brian Murphy, 34, of Stowe was pronounced dead at the scene.
Police said on June 22 Murphy was driving on Route 100 toward Morrisville, away from Stowe, when his car went off the right side of the road at about 8:30 a.m. and hit a utility pole and a tree. Police say Murphy was not wearing his seatbelt.
Murphy had been a Stowe firefighter for two years, said Chief Mark Sgantas, and received the Rookie of the Year Award about two weeks ago.
“He’s one of those guys that came along that learned how to do what we all do, juggling a job, training every other weekend, coming to fire calls, just working on showing up and coming to calls and being a part of the team,” Sgantas said. “He did that well. He was good. He also was involved with the Sushi Yoshi cooking challenge about a year ago, and he kind of headed that up because he had cooking experience, so that was neat. He kind of spearheaded that for us.”
Sgantas didn’t respond immediately to the call about the crash, because other firefighters were there, but when he learned Murphy was in the car, he went immediately.
“He was just way too young, and just starting in his career. He was with us a short time but definitely made an impression on the guys in the department,” Sgantas said. His death “surprised and shocked” his fellow firefighters.
“He was really a go-getter,” Sgantas said.
“He will be missed,” said Willie Noyes, Stowe Select Board chair, who honored Murphy at Monday’s meeting.
Murphy was originally from the White Plains area, according to Stowe blacksmith Richard Spreda, who met Murphy in the spring of 2017, shortly after Murphy moved to town. Murphy needed a place to stay for the summer, and Spreda needed some help around the house and the shop, so it was a good tradeoff.
Murphy was a trained chef — he studied at Johnson & Wales and worked in kitchens in Stamford, Conn., and New York City — so he did a lot of cooking at Spreda’s place. They cooked dinners together at home, and fired up the grill at the blacksmith shop.
Spreda is 70 years old, and Murphy was a ball of energy, strong and unflappable, and always willing to help Spreda with tasks Spreda couldn’t do by himself.
“We became good friends and cooked a lot of meals together,” Spreda said. “He was a great friend. I loved him, he was always upbeat, never down.
After Murphy found his own place, he and Spreda made a point of getting together for lunch on Wednesdays.
Steve Sayce, Murphy’s boss at Lamoille Valley Chevrolet in Hyde Park, said Murphy was, above all, “a dear friend and a teammate, more than anything.”
“He was a gentle guy with a great heart who always looked out for the best in people,” Sayce said.
Sayce said he met Murphy over a pint somewhere in Stowe, maybe Tap25. When Sayce visited his friend Spreda one day, he was pleasantly surprised to see his new friend.
“I was like, ‘I know that guy. Murph!’”
As full-time kitchen work turned into car sales, Murphy kept a foot in the kitchen with his venture Murphy Hospitality Group. Sayce gets a kick out of the name, and its similarities to the Murphy Group set up by one of the guys in the HBO show “Entourage.”
“Big, loud Irish guy,” Sayce said of Murph. “You’ve got to live up to that name.”
Another Steve from the car business, Steve Raff, is Lamoille Valley’s team trainer. He trained Murphy, and on Tuesday sent an email to the trio of dealerships he works for.
Wrote Raff, “Brian Murphy was a man of integrity, tenacity and honesty. He understood shortcomings and helped others to understand them as well. He was a gentle man with a good heart and always looked for the good in every situation. He left his mark on a lot of people and we are all better for having the opportunity to know him. I will miss him greatly, and I will do my best to be my best every day as my way to show others the impact he had on me. He left his mark on me and I am a better man because of it.”
Sayce said he might have snapped the last photograph of his friend. The two were playing golf Tuesday evening at Stowe Country Club, “trying to squeeze in nine” after a day selling cars.
There’s Murphy just after he teed off on the ninth hole, hand over his brow to follow the ball, the clubhouse lights glowing in the distance. In an email along with the photograph, Sayce wouldn’t say whether they found Murphy’s golf ball after that tee shot.
“But if anyone found a ball with ‘BM’ in blue marker on it,” Sayce said, “I’d love to have it.”
This story was updated July 2.