In 1981, Ray Murphy bought a Reader's Digest book on home improvement. By 1993, he was buying a fixer-upper to turn into his wife's dream home. "When we saw the house in 1993, my kids and I were like, `Ray, this house is horrible,' " recalled his wife, Linda Murphy. "He said, `No, it will be beautiful.' And it is."
"Anything he latched on to he devoured intellectually or physically," said his brother Edward J. Murphy. "He didn't take to school as well as anybody else but he grew up to be the brightest person I ever met."
While he loved carpentry, his skills also helped him absorb the significant pay cut he took when he quit being a Perrier salesman and became a New York City firefighter. He rose to the rank of lieutenant. "We used to kid, `If you ever won the lottery, would you quit the Fire Department?' " his wife said. "He'd say, `Oh, no.' He loved it."
But for Firefighter Murphy, 46, and the father of two, it wasn't just about helping others while on the job, his brother said: "If anybody needed help, there he was in his truck, his ladder and tools in the back."
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on February 24, 2002.