Ruth Murphy is one of the three finalists for the 2018 Vermont Mentor of the Year Award, a statewide competition hosted by Mobius.   

Murphy said being paired with her mentee, Maddie, is a “lifetime gift.”

When they are spending time together, Murphy is never distracted. The two keep the channels of communication open, no means no, yes means yes, and you always follow through.

Murphy said mentoring is not about spending money, or going on extravagant adventures. 

“It’s more the quality than the quantity of the time,” she said. “If it can’t last for more than a year, that’s just the way it is. No drop of goodness will be wasted.”

Murphy, who will turn 64 next month, said there are no requirements or age limits to be a mentor. She said you don’t have to be special in any way.

“The only thing that I had going for me was that I would follow through,” she said.

Last week, at the Milton Community Youth Center, Maddie scrolled through old photos of her and Ruth on the phone.

“Oh my goodness!” Murphy exclaimed, looking at one of them.

It was Maddie in third grade, tucked snug under Murphy’s arm and smiling a full grimace-y kid smile. Both of them wore green shirts with the words “Milton Mentors!” across the front, the name of the MCYC program that paired them together.

Maddie remembered it as the day she found out Murphy was going to be her mentor, on Halloween in 2011. Murphy said the photo was made into a poster that she believes is still hanging in the entryway of the Milton Diner.

Another photo was of Murphy and Maddie in 2014, Maddie sporting a bowl cut at the top of Jay Peak. 

“I remember it was the first time we were at Jay, and all the stairs were hard for me because I had Achilles surgery in March of 2014,” Murphy said.

She submitted the photo to a Milton Mentors photo contest and won tickets for the two of them to a cruise on the Spirit of Ethan Allen.

For the next 45 minutes, Murphy and Maddie rehashed the experiences they shared, building off one another’s stories, trying to pin down dates and remembering odd details that would make them laugh.

“Remember the time we left the country by accident?” Murphy said at one point.

They had their seasonal traditions – Jay in the summer, Mazza’s corn maze in the fall and Maple Fest in St. Albans in the spring – as well as going to plays at the Flynn and Lyric theaters and movies on the weekends.   

Sophie Duncan, who started as MCYC’s mentoring coordinator last September, nominated Murphy for the award. She said Murphy and Maddie are unique in how long they’ve consistently met and how comfortable they are with one another.

After posting Murphy’s nomination on Facebook, there was a “huge outpouring of support from people,” Duncan said, which confirmed she made the right choice. 

The winner of the award will be announced later this month and receive recognition at Mobius’ annual mentoring celebration on January 31 at the Vermont State House.

Murphy was surprised by the votes and thinks the voters’ sentiment is not “I voted for Ruth” but instead, “I voted for us. I voted for Milton,” she said.

Murphy said there was no doubt she would be at Maddie’s wedding someday, and Maddie, without hesitation, agreed.

They left to fulfill another one of their traditions – going to a local diner for a bite. Maddie was already looking forward to her vanilla milkshake.

As for the competition, Murphy said they’ve already won.