PEABODY — Heather Murray doesn’t believe she deserves an award.
She hasn’t done anything remarkable in her 42 years, she says, and was shocked to learn she would be this year’s Mary Upton Ferrin Award honoree.
The award, bestowed by the Peabody Area Chamber of Commerce, is in its 22nd year and recognizes local women who are community leaders, role models and champions of humanitarian efforts in the same spirit as Peabody’s famous suffragette Mary Upton Ferrin.
Someone disagrees with Murray.
Deanne Healey, CEO of the chamber, says Murray meets all the criteria. She has weathered many challenges and worked hard to improve life for her family, first as a young mother seeking help from Citizens for Adequate Housing and tirelessly pursuing job training and further education before becoming owner of a Gloucester hair salon and a real estate agent.
Healey said in an announcement that Murray is a strong role model for her daughters, an active volunteer and board member at Citizens for Adequate Housing, and provides free salon services to mothers living in shelters. She also helps out with Locks for Love. The Ferrin Award ceremony is tonight at City Hall.
Murray grew up in Lynn, attended Lynn English High and left home when she was 16. She lived with friends and then with her aunt in Marblehead her senior year. Two days before graduation, she learned she was pregnant. At 18 she had a high school diploma and a baby girl.
“I really wanted to be a forensic scientist, but I got pregnant, so that wasn’t going to happen,” she said. “My options obviously were limited ... but my surroundings and what I grew up around, it wasn’t really different than anyone else.”
Murray and her daughter, Kyla, lived with different friends or family members as she embarked on a career in hairdressing. She obtained degrees from three different Boston cosmetology schools and spent several years working in Boston salons while holding down bartending or waitressing jobs to pay the bills.