BEDFORD - Capt. Kevin Murray had a five-year plan — work hard, save money, get his bachelor’s degree and retire.
Murray worked his way up the ladder at the Bedford Fire Department, held two other jobs, and now all his labor is paying off. On Dec. 19, Murray, 55, hung up his gear at the department, and will soon be traveling around the United States and Europe.
“I looked at where I was and where I wanted to be in five years, and I wanted to be retired,” he said. “When you first become a firefighter you don’t look that far ahead. Then, you come upon 15 to 20 years and you begin to plan for the future.”
The sudden death of Lt. Jim Clark at age 56 in April hit home for Murray and his five-year plan became more of a mission. Murray said most people choose a career and get caught up in the “hamster wheel of life” with work, family and everything that goes with it.
“We’re all in this predicament. He had talked all the time about retiring, and he should have been,” Murray said.
Murray has been a firefighter for 36 years, and has served two positions simultaneously — nearly 25 years in Bedford and 26 years as a firefighter and captain at the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport’s crash/fire/rescue division. Murray’s firefighting career includes the U.S. Air Force from 1976-80, the U.S. Department of Defense from 1983-89, and then at the New Boston Tracking Station. Murray joined the Bedford Fire Department in July 1989 as a firefighter and an emergency medical technician and was ranked the No. 1 candidate, he said.He was promoted to lieutenant in August 1991 and earned the rank of captain in 1996. As captain, Murray’s duties have changed over the years from training and education to operations, and then to administration, prevention and inspections.“I’ve been able to move up and do almost every position in the fire department,” he said.
Murray, however, lost his bid for chief in 2001 to Scott Wiggin, who has been serving Bedford for more than 40 years. Murray said it was a bit uncomfortable for him at the time but he supported the Town Council’s decision and the two men have worked closely together to ensure the safety of residents and businesses without skipping a beat.“I started when the call department had 40 members, and the two of us (full-timers) would sleep here overnight. We’ve come full circle and 25 years later we have six call and 25 full-time firefighters,” Murray said. “It’s been very rewarding for me, but it takes a lot to stay on top of things with training and the dynamics of managing.”Whenever Murray made up his mind to do something, he always gave it his best effort and taught other firefighters to do the same.
“Anything I did I would show them so they know exactly what I do, just in case I’m not around,” he said.
Since 1995, and even though he worked two jobs, Murray found time to run an embroidery business, KTM, with more than 200 accounts. He recently sold his inventory to his nephew.
Murray earned his bachelor’s degree in public safety and risk management, and the time had come, he said, to look forward to the future and scale back.
While Murray was making plans, fate stepped in and gave him something unexpected. Two years ago, he began dating his girlfriend, Judy Lavallee. Their first meeting in 2005, however, was not a happy one.
Lavallee’s boyfriend at the time was part of a Federal Emergency Management Agency convoy on their way to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina when his water tanker rolled over and crushed him to death in Virginia. Murray got a call from a friend at FEMA who asked him to receive the body so it wouldn’t be left in Virginia over the Labor Day weekend.“I made three phone calls to the U.S. Air station chief, the airport fire chief and cargo. Within four hours, the body was coming up, and me and some off-duty firefighters escorted the casket to cargo,” he said.
Murray brought an American flag to honor the veteran, and some members of FEMA and Lavallee received the casket. Murray went on with his life. For a few years, Lavallee traveled by herself, and her friends didn’t give up hope she would find someone new.“Her friends convinced her to move on, but she said, ‘Only if you can find this Capt. Murray. I’ll go out with him,’” he said.
Eventually, Murray and Lavallee began texting and emailing, and they’ve been together ever since. Lavallee owns 15 time shares around the world, and soon the two will travel to Hawaii, California, Georgia, Florida, and back to New Hampshire for the summer.
“I jumped in with both feet,” he said “Now my five-year plan is hers.”