Michael Murphy retires from Piedmont Recreation Department

Michael Murphy and a few of his thousands of Havens’ kids

The popular saying holds that it takes a village to raise a child. It’s more accurate, at least in Piedmont, to say that it takes a few very dedicated, caring, selfless individuals to help raise many, many children. Michael Murphy, who retired from the Recreation Department on April 25 after 37 years, is one shining example of this kind of dedication.

A celebration of Michael’s career is planned for Sunday, May 5, from 1-3 p.m. at Hampton field.

Murphy grew up in San Francisco. He attended St. Ignatius High School, where he played baseball and basketball. He graduated from St. Mary’s in 1979, and bar-tended on the Blue & Gold cruise line in his pre-Piedmont days. He responded to an ad for part-time work at Havens in 1982, and the rest is Piedmont history. He recalls starting at the old Havens in room 16; then moving to portables on the Havens site and at Beach school during the big construction project in 2009; and finally into the spacious facility at the new Havens.  

Michael and friends at “Beach” Havens

The part-time job quickly became full-time, and the number of kids and families expanded over the years. Despite the increased size, Murphy says that Schoolmates has stayed largely the same over the years, with his role focused on supervising, nurturing, and, in the end, just having fun with almost countless Piedmont kids. He did venture a rough estimate of about 150 per day, and 500 children in total per year. “I always felt so lucky to have a job where I could come to work every day in shorts and get paid to play wall ball and jump rope,” Murphy said. “It was perfect for me, and I hope it worked out for the kids too.”

Murphy’s humility and community spirit permeate everything he does. He’s served as Recreation Coordinator for the last few years, supervising youth sports, facilities, contracting, and senior programs. But he readily shares attention and credit with those he’s worked with, in many cases for decades. “I’m really grateful for the amazing people I’ve worked with over the years,” Murphy said. “From David Hopkins and Sena Weidkamp at Schoolmates; to Mark Delventhal, Sara Lillevand, Erin Rivera, Cora Wood, Katrina Morris, and Jessica Pomey at the Rec Department; and Cheryl Vaughn and George Sterling at Havens, it’s always been a team effort to help all of these kids and families.”

Michael on the Havens playground

Lillevand, the current director of the Recreation Department, deflects credit back to Murphy: “It’s hard to have a bad day when Michael’s around. His unfailingly positive presence brings out the best in everyone, from staff to parents and, especially, kids.”

When asked to reflect on his long career, Murphy emphasizes how welcoming the community has been over the years, and the friendships he’s made with families. He expresses amazement that many of the kids at Havens are now the children of parents from his early years there. John Tulloch, Piedmont’s City Clerk, was in his first class of kindergarteners, and Murphy has recently helped take care of Tulloch’s two children.

There have been challenging times too, of course, especially when he’s called roll and a child wasn’t there momentarily, or when he or Hopkins had to escort kids to the hospital after an injury. But these have been few and far between all of the fun and growing up.

Murphy says he has no specific retirement plans. He wants to continue coaching, which he’s done over the years in baseball, basketball, soccer, and lacrosse. He does intend to become certified as an instructor with the Positive Coaching Alliance (www.positivecoach.org), and help out with Piedmont’s MVP basketball program. He’ll also get to spend more time with wife Elaine (whom he met on one of those Blue & Gold boats); daughter Shannon, a first year student at St. Mary’s; and son JoJo, a freshman at Piedmont HS.

Tributes to Michael

We’ve compiled additional tributes to Michael below. Please feel free to add your own comments about him and his impact on your family in the comments section below.

Erin Rivera, Recreation Department Supervisor

I first met Michael in August 1993, before my Wildwood Site Coordinator interview. We both arrived early and immediately made a connection while discussing being native SF kids! I remember that he was warm, funny, and friendly from the beginning. After my interview, I mentioned that I had met Michael to my mom. She knew his parents, told me she had met Michael when he was an infant, and said “he was the cutest baby she had ever seen!”

In 1996, I became the Supervisor of the Schoolmates program. Michael was a fantastic teammate; we consulted on every decision, and on the few occasions we might not see things the same way, there was always respect. Michael was always willing to help and say Yes: Working the Haunted House during the World Series when the Giants were playing, coaching a team when the regular coach bailed, working every Santa Breakfast and Egg Hunt.

Michael found the humor in everything and we laughed a lot about funny things kids would say or do. He once gave scissors to a crew of kindergarteners, which he thought were for an art project. They were actually for a barbershop the kids had set up, and about half a dozen kinders received unforgettable haircuts… including bald spots and bangs.

Michael is the consummate teammate, not only to thousands of Havens children but to hundreds of staff members who worked for the Recreation Department.

Erin Rivera, Rec Department supervisor

He built amazing teams, mentoring young staff who often stayed for many years more than expected because of the “family feel” that he and David Hopkins created at Havens Schoolmates. Whenever you arrived at the site, they always welcomed you home!

Michael honestly loved what he did every day. He truly found the joy in his work and was so gifted at communicating with the children. He always looked for the good in each of them, and was always cheering for the “naughty kids,” helping them find success on hard days.

Michael and David Hopkins (we think)

David Hopkins, Haven’s Schoolmates Site Coordinator

Michael Murphy has been my friend for a very long time. I think that this sentence can be said by a lot of people in Piedmont. Everyone who comes into contact with Michael feels his warmth and caring.

There are many positive words that would describe Michael. A few are: genuine, kind, energetic, honest, and caring. Another that I am sure he will love: Dad. He is one of the best Dads I have ever met.

But what it comes down to is Michael is a true man. He has always been an inspiration to me and an example of what a real man is. Stop for a second and think of how many years Michael has been in Piedmont working at Schoolmates.

Now think of all of the wonderful small people who have gone through our program. I know, from firsthand experience, that Michael Murphy was a positive influence, and friend, to every one of them, children and parents alike.

David Hopkins

To Michael, Schoolmates wasn’t a job. It wasn’t work. It was life. From my experience of him, Michael brings goodness and decency, joy and guidance to everyone he comes in contact with.

John Tulloch, Piedmont City Clerk

As a child, I was a Schoolmates kid. My mother worked and I would spend before and after school hours at Schoolmates. Michael made Schoolmates and other PRD programs fun. His friendly demeanor made Havens Schoolmates a great place to be.

One of the best memories of mine from Schoolmates was the day we transformed the classroom into a giant spider web. We took every bit of yarn we had in the room and push-pinned and taped it to the wall. It was virtually impossible to move through the room with all the yarn strung across the room.

Even after I aged out of the Schoolmates program and into Middle School, Michael let me “work” at Havens Schoolmates after school and during the summer. I don’t know how much help I was, but…

It was a great experience to learn from him as well as watch him work with the kids and parents.

John Tulloch, former student, Schoolmates helper, and now parent

With my parents’ permission, Michael once took me to a Warriors game. He told me that his seats were behind those of (49ers great) Ronnie Lott. When we got to the arena, I expected us to head to the floor. Rather, we headed up to the top-most row of the arena and sat down. Needless to say, I was disappointed. When I asked, he pointed down to the courtside seats directly in front of ours and, lo and behold, there was Ronnie Lott, and we were directly behind him! It made us both laugh.

As a parent, I wanted my kids to go to Schoolmates with Michael. Interacting with him as a parent was much like interacting with him as a kid. He was affable, direct, and straightforward. It was great to watch him teach some of the same lessons to my children that he taught to me. As a parent, Michael is among a small group of people from whom who I regularly seek advice. 

I am lucky to have known Michael for over 30 years and I’m lucky to be able to call him a friend.

Chris Hartford, counselor at Piedmont HS and parent of Justice (15) and Malea (13)

He is humble to the core. His generosity is a gift to the world.

Chris Hartford, PHS counselor and parent

Mike ALWAYS sees the good in all people. At the countless games he has attended, he recognizes the kid who is trying hard, despite not being the most talented player.  I have heard him say many times, “That kid is my new favorite player!”

Kate Faust, parent of Lucy (22), Gordon (21), and Margaret (18)

They say it takes a village to raise a child; we say it takes Michael Murphy to be an integral part of that village. From DAY ONE, Michael made our children and family feel welcome at Havens and in Piedmont. His positive attitude, humility, great humor and sarcasm combined for a unique, special person in an absolutely perfect role. Michael took care of us and our kids K-12 – his interest in their dodge ball and wall ball skills, arts and crafts activities, athletics and school interests, even their Catholicism, carried through PUSD and beyond.

We wish Michael the best in his next chapter, and thank him for being a caring member of our village.

Kate Faust, parent

We have great memories of Michael holding court at Havens Schoolmates, and giving us parent feedback when it was needed. Michael’s love and care extends to the whole family – he continues to get my 85 year-old Santa Clara Dad excited about any upcoming St. Mary’s rivalry games.

Don Eidam, parent of Maddie (22), Luke (20), and Josh (17)

My first reaction to meeting Michael in 2001 when I dropped my daughter off after kindergarten was, “who is this guy who gets to wear shorts and sandals every day and hang out with kids and play.” He has kept that playful sense with kids and adults since then, and that is rare.

Eileen White, parent of Chris (26), Matt (24), and Brian (21)

Michael’s many years of dedicated service helped make Piedmont the great community it is. Because of Michael’s leadership, positive attitude and his exceptional interpersonal skills in dealing with all the various kids and teenagers, our three sons spent every summer participating in the great camps offered by the Piedmont Recreation Department.

Our three sons truly had wonderful summers from the time they were five until they were in Middle School, going swimming at the Piedmont Pool, playing games in the school yards, and going on outings with Michael and the other Piedmont Recreation Department staff.

Michael also did a great job mentoring our three sons as they became Junior Counselors-in-Training and Counselors with the Piedmont Recreation Department while they were in Middle School and High School.

My husband Rob and I attribute our three sons’ strong leadership and interpersonal skills to the time they spent working with Michael at the Piedmont Recreation Department.

Eileen White, parent

We want to wish Michael and his family all the best in his retirement.

Matt White

Michael Murphy, along with David Hopkins, practically raised me from the time I was in Kindergarten until I was in Middle School and started working for the Piedmont Recreation Department.

Michael did a great job of instilling the importance of fun, teamwork and integrity.

Matt White, former student

He was as adept at organizing blacktop games as resolving a playground dispute between kids. His retirement will be a huge loss to the community.

Brian White

I really remember when I was in elementary school at Havens and after school going to my second dad to talk about things, and of course get a snack and have fun until 6PM rolled around. Michael was always pretty impressed by how my brothers Chris, Matt, and I would get picked up at the very end after all the other kids. We were dedicated to keeping each other and him company.

As a Counselor-in-Training and then Camp staff from 2010-2016, I can’t forget the level of confidence and friendliness I felt emanated from Michael’s wonderful soul when I worked in the different camps with him. Don’t get me wrong – I liked the other supervisors I worked with and they were amazing too, but at the same time I felt Michael’s aura. He’s an incredible man. It was an honor to be in camps with him and work alongside him.

Photos by Julie Reichle, Paul Kuroda & David Hopkins

6 thoughts on “Michael Murphy retires from Piedmont Recreation Department

  1. Michael ~ I am pretty sure there are lots of kids in Piedmont like my daughter.
    When she was in first grade at Havens, she insisted on staying for the after school program with her friends. From then on when anyone asked her about her favorite class at school…..she ALWAYS replied “Michael’s class.” You have been a treasure to our whole community. Thank YOU! The Sells family

  2. How is it possible that you, Michael, are planning your retirement? It truly seems like yesterday when one of us would stop by Schoolmates to pick up one of our daughters from your care. We still remember the time Joe Montana supposedly stopped by Havens and autographed a piece of scrap paper for our daughter (and we all believed your story). You will always have a special place in our hearts and we wish you the best in the years to come<3

    Mary & Eric Lindquist

  3. I am so sorry I cannot make Sundays event, but I will be with you in spirit. Congratulations on a job well done, you are “family” to so many. I will see you around the ”hood❤️

  4. Congratulations Mike! How exciting for you! We really enjoyed working with you with the summer camps!
    You a sweet heart just like your family.
    We wish you the best in retirement!
    Now you can come visit us in Texas 😉

  5. Nothing could make me feel older than seeing the kid that I babysat when I was in high school, is now retiring!
    Best wishes to you, cousin Mike; enjoy your time off!

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