Moderator, lawyer Sean Murphy dies

Sean Murphy, shown here moderating the 2019 Edgartown town meeting, has died following a battle with cancer. — Gabrielle Mannino

Updated April 27

Edgartown town moderator Sean Murphy died Friday, following a two-year fight with cancer.

Murphy, a well-known lawyer in Edgartown, was frequently seen representing clients at local zoning board, Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC), and select board meetings. 

In 2018 Murphy took up the mantle of town moderator, following the retirement of longtime moderator Jeff Norton. 

The Edgartown select board held a moment of silence for Murphy before its meeting Monday.

Fellow Island lawyer Ron Rappaport said that while Murphy was only town moderator for two years, he had all the qualities of an excellent moderator. “He had great judgment, he was responsible, he was decisive, and he had a wonderful sense of humor,” Rappaport said.

Murphy was raised in Scituate, and came to the Vineyard for summers during college. After graduating from Bridgewater State College and Suffolk Law School, Murphy went on to become a founding partner of McCarron, Murphy and Vukota in Edgartown.

“Sean’s favorite pastime, when not with his family, was playing golf at Farm Neck,” according to his obituary. “He often would say that he was headed to Our Lady of the First Tee! Sean was known for his quick wit and humor, and his dedication to his family and friends. He embraced life wholeheartedly, and lived each day to the fullest. His passing will be felt not only by his family and friends, but by the entire Vineyard community.”

While known as a lawyer and town moderator, Murphy was also a wastewater commissioner in Edgartown, and had many business ventures such as Hole in One, Fishbones Restaurant, MV Taxi, and boat rentals.

Robert Moriarty, a partner with McCarron, Murphy and Vukota, told The Times he left his job as assistant district attorney at the Cape and Islands District Attorney’s office when Murphy offered him a position at the Edgartown firm. “Sean Murphy was my friend, a mentor, and my partner,” Moriarty said. “We’re going to miss him dearly, and he was just an excellent lawyer with outstanding judgment.”

Martin (“Skip”) Tomassian, a fellow lawyer in Edgartown, said Murphy was excellent at his job. “He had a gift that could not be taught or learned. It was the gift of being able to ‘read the room,’” Tomassian said. “He was so good at it, he was probably one of the better lawyers who practiced administrative law.”

MVC executive director Adam Turner worked with Murphy several times, as Murphy appeared frequently in front of the commission. “Totally an honest and professional person to deal with,” Turner said. “The Island moves on, but we’re definitely diminished from his passing.”

Murphy is survived by his wife, Lisa Marie Murphy, and his daughter, Hannah Jean Murphy, 15.

In a statement, Robert McCarron, Marilyn Vuokta, Thomas Rapone, Moriarty, and the entire McCarron, Murphy, and Vukota staff said Murphy was a fierce advocate for his clients and a humorous coworker: “We are deeply saddened to announce the untimely passing of our founding partner and dear friend, Sean E. Murphy. Devoted to his family and the Island community, Sean led by example. He was a fierce advocate for his clients and the master of zoning issues large and small. Sean skillfully navigated land use permitting whether his client sought to construct a large-scale commercial project or a small home on a nonconforming lot … And while he approached work with a seriousness of purpose, he never applied that to himself. Indeed, you felt lucky to experience his quick, Irish wit. We know we did. Sean’s frequent, animated, storytelling always ended with our entire office doubled over with laughter. This is a profound professional and personal loss for us. Sean was so much more than a valued and trusted colleague. He was our friend, our mentor, our objective sounding board, and always a spirit and force that brought out the very best in each of us. We are forever grateful to have spent so much time around him, and will miss him every day.”


  1. I would be remiss if I did not mention Sean “Murph” Murphy’s contribution to adult hockey over the years. Murph will be missed by on the ice. He was always in the game and was a great teammate in the locker room, on the bench and on the ice. I believe I speak for the adult hockey crew, especially the EHL, in saying we will miss Murph up at the barn.

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