LIMA — At age 48, most of us would be far away from the counting-the-days-until-retirement attitude.
But Inspector Mark Murphy of the Allen County Sheriff’s Department is not most of us. In April, he’s retiring.
Said the 26-year law-enforcement veteran, “As a county worker, the Public Employees Retirement System is about to change the retirement requirements. Currently, workers can retire once they have 25 years of service and are at least 48 years old. But soon it’ll be 30 years service at any age or 60 years old regardless of service time.”
So, a logical question is why would Murphy make a decision like this in times of economic uncertainty? Why not continue with the department?
Call it the allure of Oahu, Hawaii. On May 14, it’ll be good-bye Lima and aloha Oahu, where Murphy will live full-time.
Murphy, who grew up on Franklin Street on the east side of Lima and attended St. Rose before graduating from Lima Central Catholic in 1983, remembers having only one career in mind from the time he was 5 years old.
“My brother Mike and I always played this game where we’d count to three and both shout out what we wanted to be when we grew up. He’d yell out, ‘Fireman,’ and I’d yell out, ‘Cop!’ Well, one of us got it right. Me!”
At 22, Murphy became a full-time member of the Sheriff’s Department, starting as a road deputy, where he remained for nine years.
Then, Murphy was pulled off the road and given a new assignment, teaching a program called GREAT. Similar to the DARE program, GREAT stood for Gang Resistance Education and Training, a program Murphy taught in all the county schools and in the summer to youth groups for four years.
“The program taught the kids the importance of making good choices and staying away from gangs. I was in schools and talking to kids basically every day and loved it,” he said.
While Murphy loved the daily interaction with kids, he also wanted to pursue other interests in law enforcement.
“Our polygraph examiner was retiring, and I wanted to go to polygraph school in Annapolis, Maryland, and become certified. But, to be considered for the opportunity, I had to have experience as a detective, so I accepted a transfer to our investigative division in 2000, and that’s where I’ve remained.
“A lot of people thought it was a promotion, but I consider earning the same pay for about three times the amount of work to be more of a lateral move,” he said.
During the second half of Murphy’s career, he became polygraph certified at the Maryland Institute of Criminal Justice and has administered many tests since 2006. He also was able to work on many interesting cases like assisting lead investigator Clyde Breitigan in the Mark Wangler murder investigation.
Over the years, Murphy feels he has been enriched by the experience of working with three sheriffs — Charlie Harrod, Dan Beck and Sam Crish.
“Listen, like anyone who works for a boss, I didn’t like everything my boss did at times, but each of these men taught me a great deal and made great contributions to the department as well,” he said.
In the latter part of his career, Murphy had to learn to juggle his duties with the county and taking over the day-to-day operation of the family business. His father, Pat, ran Murph’s Place.
“My dad opened the bar in 1985, but he became too sick to work, and so my brother Mike and I took it over in 2009. Since Mike lived in Toledo, he was our fix-it guy whenever something needed looked after with the physical operation, and I did the day-to-day.”
Following the deaths of his mother Diane in 2011 and his father a year later, the bar was sold. It was then Mark began positioning himself to make a dramatic change in both geographical location and lifestyle.
“I have a dear friend living on Oahu that I’ve known for over thirty years, Rowland Loeschke, who everyone calls ‘Ski,’ who’s been over there for the last 19 years after being transferred by the Air Force from Wright Patt in Dayton to Hickam Air Force Base on Oahu in ’94.”
Loeschke and his wife, former Lima native Cathy Rizor, have been after Murphy for years to join them on Oahu. Murphy plans to work to improve his golf game while there. The three-handicapper feels if he can shave three or four strokes off his game, he may be able to try out for the PGA Senior Tour when he turns 50.
“Ski has been after me to make the move,” Murphy said. “I’ve been to Hawaii eleven times to caddy in the Sony Open, which is the first full-field PGA event of the year. Finally, given the fact that Ski and Cathy are like family to me and that they became empty nesters when their son moved from the islands to Chicago to take a job, I said, ‘Why not? I’m going!’’’
While Murphy will take a room in the Loeschkes’ spacious four-bedroom home, he envisions eventually getting his own place, perhaps close to a golf course.
“Hey, in Lima, if I wanted to work on my golf game in the winter, about all I could do was go down in the basement and chip balls into the couch. In Hawaii, I can work on my game every day if I want to,” he said.
Aside from golf, Murphy is quick to point out why it makes sense for him to put about 5,000 miles between Lima and Hawaii in May.
“Look, I just hate the cold and, each year, I hate it even more. Who wouldn’t trade Ohio’s climate for Hawaii’s if he had a chance? Besides that, I’m looking for somewhere that’s more laidback than where I’ve spent my whole life.
“People find this hard to believe, but in all my times visiting Hawaii, I have never heard a motorist honk a horn in anger or frustration, even on the busiest interstate on the islands, Oahu’s H-1. Ski confirmed to me that it almost never happens. For the thirteenth most densely populated of the fifty states, that’s pretty amazing and pretty appealing,” he said.
So, to those with whom Murphy has felt blessed to have worked and his many friends, he has the same comment:
“Thank you for our time together, and thank you for standing by me when I had my struggles. I hope you know how honored I was to have you in my life. I do plan to get back to Lima once or twice a year — so I don’t want this to sound too dramatic — but I will miss so many who I know have made my life better.”
Inspector Mark Murphy