On Jan. 12, 2016, Don Murphy witnessed the first burial at Cape Canaveral National Cemetery in Mims. On Jan. 1, 2021, the day Murphy retired from his job as director of the national cemetery, the hallowed ground was the final resting place for 8,700 veterans and their spouses.

Murphy began his tenure at Cape Canaveral six years ago, just before construction began in November 2014. He directed a staff of 12 and the more than 100 volunteers known as the Cape Canaveral Ladies, a group whose mission includes having a representative at every burial.

“No one is buried alone at Cape Canaveral,” Murphy said.

Murphy’s civil service career, which spans 37 years, began at the Nashville National Cemetery and includes a tenure as deputy director of the Memorial Programs for the National Cemetery Administration in Washington, D.C. The Memorial Programs processes claims for headstones for veterans buried in private cemeteries across the nation.

On Feb. 1, Kevin Ridgeway assumed the duties of director at Cape Canaveral. Murphy could not be more delighted with his successor.

“I’ve known Kevin for many years, and I know he is going to be a great director,” he said.

Ridgeway, a 2017 graduate of the National Cemetery Administration, was cemetery director for Hampton, City Point, Cold Harbor, Fort Harrison, Glendale, Hampton (VAMC), Richmond and Seven Pines National Cemeteries in Virginia. He served as assistant cemetery director at the South Florida National Cemetery from 2017 to 2020.

Prior to his South Florida assignment, he was a program analyst with the Eligibility Verification Division of the National Cemetery Scheduling Office. He began his career with the National Cemetery Administration in 2008 as program support assistant. Prior to joining the Cemetery Administration, he worked as archive technician at the National Archives and Records Administration at the National Personnel Records Center-Military Personnel Records.

Ridgeway earned a bachelor of arts degree in philosophy and letters, with a minor in theological studies, from St. Louis University.

As Cape Canaveral’s second director, he will guide the 318-acre cemetery as it progresses through seven planned phases. The cemetery, still in its initial phase of development, is expected to serve the burial needs of 163,000 veterans in the next 100 years.

For his part, Murphy plans to relish retirement, helping his wife care for their four pets in his Port Orange home.

“I want to make it a little easier on her,” he said.