Peter Murphy, former co-owner of NeoKraft Signs, learns he is the recipient Tuesday night of the Auburn Business Association Citizen of the Year award at Martindale Country Club. The award is traditionally kept secret from the recipient until he or she enters the banquet. Sun Journal photoby Andree Kehn

AUBURN — The Auburn Business Association presented Peter Murphy, former co-owner of NeoKraft Signs, with its annual Citizen of the Year award Tuesday night at Martindale Country Club.

Friends, family, former business associates and board members from past and present gathered to honor Murphy, who served as the Auburn Business Association’s president from 2010 to 2012.

Murphy said he was “really touched” to receive the award and would “look back on this as a really special night.”

“As you get older, sometimes, your memory doesn’t work too well,” Murphy said. “I’ll remember this night for the rest of my life, and I appreciate that.”

Several people throughout the evening described Murphy as a generous, kindhearted and witty leader in the community.

Murphy’s youngest son, Mike, said he remembered years of skiing with his father and saw the chairlifts at ski resorts as an opportunity for them to open up to each other and have good discussions.

“I learned a lot about my father on those ski lifts, and I got a lot of my best advice on them,” Mike Murphy said. “I take great pride in calling him the ‘Citizen of the Year,’ but I have even more pride in being able to call him ‘Dad.’”

Auburn City Councilor Bob Hayes described Murphy as someone who “worked hard and played hard” throughout his career.

“I’ve always known Peter as a leader of the community,” Hayes said, “and as someone who hears what people have to say, digests it, and finds a way to make it happen.”

Chip Morrison, former president of the Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce and the master of ceremonies for Tuesday’s event, told those in attendance about Murphy’s long career in signs, whether it was designing T-shirts or serving as co-owner of NeoKraft Signs from 2000 to 2015.

Morrison said Murphy has volunteered on several boards throughout his career, including the Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce, the Auburn Business Development Corp. and Central Maine Medical Center’s Associate Program.

Murphy received a key to the city from Mayor Jason Levesque, a flag from the office of Sen. Susan Collins and a legislative sentiment from State Rep. Bruce Bickford.

Near the end of the evening, Murphy’s wit was on display as he told Auburn City Manager Peter Crichton, “I understand that one of the new things about receiving the key to the city is that it’s really a key to a new Cadillac Escalade, and that the money for it is coming from the School Department budget.”

As Murphy’s friends and families laughed, Crichton joked: “No, Peter. I think the Cadilliac you’re getting is a Matchbox-sized car.”

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