TORRINGTON – When Don Murphy’s family thinks about his impact on the community during his 40-plus years in law enforcement, they think about how he always kept the county as the first priority.
In terms of his impact outside of being sheriff his family remembers how he was always there for them.
His sons Drew and Beau learned about honesty and integrity as well as respecting others.
His daughter Stacey Stroud remembers how he treated everyone fairly and their similar love for “The Lord of the Rings.”
His wife Margret remembers her best friend.
“He was my best buddy, we just did everything together,” Margret said. “He was just a really good guy.”
He served as Goshen County Sheriff for 25 years and was the longest active tenured sheriff before his retirement in 2018.
Despite being selected by the republican party on the ballot, Don made sure to keep everything non-partisan because he believed there was no room for a political bias in the sheriff’s office. Don attributed his extended time in office to his staff.
“He may have gotten to 25 years as sheriff, but it was always his deputies and coworkers that supported him,” Drew said.
“They kept him looking good,” Margret added.
It still had something to do with what he did for his team. Don made sure every deputy received the maximum training they could to do their best in the field. Along with the trust of his team came the trust of the entire community. They were also trained to think about liability first when taking action. It was how Don went about dealing with situations, and how he expected his deputies to think as well.
“You can’t just do what you want to do and what you think might be right,” Margret said. “It made them better deputies because they were thinking above their office.”
Along with the trust of his deputies came the trust of the entire community. Don was someone who could be depended on to find an answer.
“They knew if there was a problem it was going to get figured out. You may not get the answer you want but it’s going to get figured out,” Beau said.
When a solution was needed, Don didn’t hesitate to do it himself.
“He was doing stuff as a sheriff that tactically most people would’ve disengaged from,” Drew said. “Whether it’s disarming a gunman with a box of rocks or helping out with a tactical thing he’d be out to help.”
The respect Don showed others was something his family highlighted as a lasting part of his legacy.
“One of the biggest things that I always took from him is you never know what somebody else’s day has been like so always treat them with kindness no matter how they act towards you,” Stacey said.
It was a belief which had even more significance coming from a sheriff who often dealt with people who may have been difficult to be there for or even forgive. For Don it is just who he was.
“There’s people that he hated to arrest but he had to, and they have come to us later in life and say if it wasn’t for your dad, I wouldn’t be what I am now,” Stacey said.
The mindset her father taught her has prompted Stacey to always be available for someone in need.
While Don was caring for anyone in need, he also had a strict intolerance for dishonesty in the workplace.
“If you lied to him, you got fired,” Drew said.
Margret explained it was part of their job to always be honest.
“[Deputies] had to go to court and you had to be able to believe what they said in court and that’s where the integrity came in,” Margret said.
To go along with his integrity, Don never held a grudge. He was known to forgive and forget while at work and with his kids.
“I don’t think he ever held it over our heads,” Drew said.
It is one of the many characteristics from his father which he teaches to his kids today.
Don’s children recalled times when he had to miss events for work because he was doing so much for the county. Whether it was weekend patrols with Margret along the county roads to show the farmers he was looking out, or driving the transport vehicle to save money, Don always had the community’s needs at the forefront. Even still, he made sure to give his kids the best life possible.
“He was asked to be a marshal by [Governor Dave] Freudenthal in Cheyenne and he turned it down,” Margret said because he believed it was better for his family to stay in the county he loved.
The same love for Goshen County extends to Drew today especially when coming back after a trip.
“As soon as I get back to Goshen County, I feel like I’m home,” Drew said.
The feeling of home was established by all the work Don did for the community. There are physical accomplishments to show the legacy of Sheriff Murphy such as his work to get a county jail in the ‘90s, and then there was his fierce passion and love for the community which his family hopes to carry onward.
A celebration of life will be held on Monday, Oct. 4, 2021, from 2-5 p.m. at the Goshen County Rendezvous Center. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be sent to the Don Murphy Memorial at First State Bank in Torrington or to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.