A Tribute to Dr. Peter Murphy, former Tree Canada Community Advisor, Alberta

Tree Canada


Peter Murphy was often described as a humble and gentle soul, who was deeply loved and respected by those in both his professional and personal circles.

Born in Montreal in 1930, Peter began working for the Alberta Forest Service in 1954. A graduate of the University of New Brunswick, he eventually specialized in forest policy, forest fire behaviour and forest history. In 1960, Peter became the head of the Alberta Forest Service Training Branch (now the Hinton Training Centre) in Hinton, Alberta. In 1973, he moved to the University of Alberta as a professor in their newly created forestry program, and in 1975, became its Chair until his retirement in 1995. In 2018, the University established a scholarship in Peter’s honour.

It was upon his retirement from the University that Tree Canada had the honour of his presence as he accepted the position of Community Advisor for Alberta. Peter’s in-depth knowledge and deep connections in the forestry sector allowed him to coordinate the organization’s community planting programs. He worked with Chuck Geale, Tree Canada’s first President with whom he quickly became friends and accompanied on many cross-country ski adventures. During his time at Tree Canada, he developed similarly close relationships with many others including fellow Community Advisors Christian Walli, Gerard Fournier and others. Sponsors, municipal workers, academics succumbed to his humble nature, his intellect and his ability to listen.

Having completed an MScF at the University of Montana in 1963 and a PhD at the University of British Columbia in 1985, Peter was also a renowned historian, raconteur and the author or co-author of numerous books. He was a contributor to the Canadian Standards Association’s Sustainable Forest Management Technical Committee (1994-2005), President of the Canadian Institute of Forestry (1992-1994) and a member and President (1992-93) of the College of Alberta Professional Foresters (Member #2) and a founding member of the Forest History Association of Alberta.

His favourite place to be was in the forests and mountains of Alberta. A frequent presenter at the Jasper Museum, his book A Hard Road to Travel about the explorations of David Thompson (and others) was a thorough study of the history of the Jasper area. Even on the day of his passing, Peter was tending the seedlings he had planted in his beloved Grey Nuns White Spruce Park in St. Albert, a park established after the concerted efforts of Peter and others in his community to save it from becoming a highway.

There is a saying that the true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit. Peter was the epitome of this saying and we will be forever thankful for the shade he has given us all. We will miss you Peter.

Peter passed away at home in St. Albert, Alberta at the age of 90 on October 29, 2020, leaving behind his brother, Dr. David Murphy and his sister, Judy Murphy as well as four children: Sharon, Shelagh, Thomas, and Barbara, seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. He was pre-deceased by his daughter Bridget in 2009 and wife Joan Elizabeth in 2011.

To make a gift in memory of Peter, his family welcomes donations to the Dr Peter J Murphy Award in Forestry and to share memories, please visit his memorial page.


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