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Henry PURCELL

Obituary

PURCELL, Lt. Col. Henry PhD MBA US Army (Ret.) 84, our "Man of Honor", West Point Graduate 1953, of South Tampa, passed away peacefully Jan. 6, 2014, holding the hands of his daughters, Emmy and Jenny, as they prayed and sang his favorite songs with him, while resting in the warm and loving family home of the mother of his three children and grandmother of his four grandchildren, Judy. Dad was affectionately known as The Colonel, Hank, Henry, Grampa, Sir, Doctor, Harry, and Speedy by his family, friends, colleagues, clients, and tenants. Henry was a true patriot and honorable man from the time he was a Boy Scout and Eagle Scout to the time he went to be with the Lord to joyfully be reunited with his son, Will. Born in Watertown, NY, in 1929, Col. Purcell was predeceased by both his parents, John and Elizabeth, when he was a very young boy. His siblings joined the Military or were sent to live with his aunts. Young Harry was raised by his loving Aunt and Uncle, Emma and William Price. Henry graduated from Waverly High School in Waverly, PA and lettered in Basketball as Captain. He received his appointment to West Point from U.S. Senator Warren G. Magnuson, who later entered into the Congressional Record "a sincere record of patriotism," a letter written by our father to the Senator, thanking him for the West Point appointment, calling it the "greatest opportunity of his life." The letter was dated July 4, 1970, as Col. Purcell was being sent back to Vietnam to command an infantry battalion in combat. Our Dad lived by the West Point and Boy Scout mottos, instilling in us his strong sense of faith, honor, loyalty, and respect. After graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, his life-long education included studies at The Army Language School at the Presidio of Monterey, Princeton University, Turkey's Command and General Staff College (the 1st American officer to graduate), the U. S. Command and General Staff College, a Master's Degree in Business from the University of Utah, Arabic at the University of Tampa, and finally earning his Doctorate in Business at the age of 72. His 21-year history in the Army led his family all over the world with 19 moves, including being stationed in Germany, Ft. Benning, Ft. Bragg, Ft. Ord, Ft. Dix, Ankara, Izmir, Istanbul (Turkey), Ft. Leavenworth, Bradenton, Mac Dill AFB, the Pentagon, and retirement in Tampa. Col. Purcell was a decorated, disabled combat veteran serving during Korea and two combat tours in Vietnam. He was a recipient of many awards for Valor and Heroism, including the Bronze Star for Valor with two Oak Leaf Clusters, Cross of Gallantry, Gold Star, Silver Star (Vietnam), 10 Air Medals, Army Commendation Medal for Valor with one Oak Leaf Cluster with "V" device, the Distinguished Flying Cross, Meritorious Service Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, Army Commendation Medal with first Oak Leaf Cluster with "V" device, National Defense Service Medal with first Oak Leaf Cluster, Army of Occupation Medal (Germany), Vietnam Service Medal with Device 60, Vietnam Staff Service Honor Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge, Parachute Badge, Pathfinder Badge, and six overseas bars. He commanded more than 25 aerial missions over hostile territory. He personally rescued a downed helicopter pilot by jumping out of his command helicopter, pulling the pilot out of the flaming chopper, and carrying him back to his helicopter in active battle, just as the copter exploded in flames. As a Colonel in ground combat, leading his men to and from many ground night-time missions and aerial combat missions, he was revered by his battalion and honored by his superiors. Col. Purcell was very proud of his men and told his children that he "never lost a man" under his command. His studies at the Foreign Language Schools, Foreign Area Specialist training, Nuclear Weapons Training, Warfare College, Counterinsurgency, and Middle East Specialist training are just a few of his many completed programs. His proficiency in the Turkish Language led him to be appointed as the personal interpreter and Turkish translator for Lyndon B. Johnson. He was a Certified Middle East Specialist, Turkish linguist, Chief Translator U. S. Military Mission to Turkey, U.S. Strike Command, Tampa, Asst. Chief of Staff, G5 101st Airborne, Deputy Chief of Staff, Operations, the Pentagon, Middle East Specialist U.S. Readiness Command, and Nuclear Weapons employment division NATO. Upon retirement from his successful military career, Hank became a licensed Florida real estate agent and broker, State Certified Independent Fee Appraiser, Building Contractor and Roofer, serving on the boards of these groups and selected for the City of Tampa Unified Construction Trades Board for over six years. Col. Purcell was a Mason and Shriner, and was President, National Sojourners, and Commander, Heroes of '76. He served as President of the Wilson Jr. High PTA, saving the historic school from demolition in 1977. Henry was a member of the Rough Riders, Hyde Park United Methodist church and American Legion Post 138. An Eagle Scout, he volunteered his time to his son's Boy Scout Troop 22 in Tampa and was Scoutmaster. Dad sponsored his girls' Bayshore Little League Softball teams (and, later, his grandsons' baseball teams), and happily carted them around in his well-known and loved 1967 Lincoln Continental convertible. Dr. Purcell concentrated his real estate business in Hyde Park, opening his own brokerage, Henry Purcell Inc. REALTORs, on Platt Street where he actively managed his business and properties until his retirement in 2012 at the age of 82. Harry was an avid tennis player, and also enjoyed his lunch-time squash matches at Mac Dill AFB with his Army officer friends. He was a wonderful musician, playing his trombone from high school, West Point, the Army, and the Shriners, to his final performance just a few weeks ago for his four grandchildren. Dad also played the Bass Fiddle and loved to sing his favorite songs from the 40's. Dad was an excellent artist, using sketches in his everyday life to illustrate a point or make someone smile with his happy drawings. He excelled in woodworking. Above all, Henry was a devoted, loving father and grandfather, using his mastery of the English language as a wonderful storyteller to teach us lessons, rules, manners, and wise words of wisdom. "Always do the right thing" was one of his favorite mottos. Dad is survived by many loving family and friends, including his two daughters, Emmy Purcell Reynolds and husband John, and Jenny Purcell Hawley and husband Ray, four grandchildren, Sarah and Thomas Reynolds and Claire and Eric Hawley, his sister-in-law Aune Beth Culp, the mother of his children Judith Diane Batson and future son-in-law Tristan Daly, Sarah's fiancé, and Noah Fatica, Claire's sweet soon-to-be Eagle Scout boyfriend, all of Tampa, and his brother-in-law Dr. Trent Batson of R.I. and Dr. Batson's daughter, Magin Urdanick of VA. He was predeceased by his son, Robert William "Will" Purcell, his sisters Col. Elizabeth F. Purcell, Jean Purcell Hendry, Helen Purcell, and brother John Purcell. Henry also was loved by Tampa relatives Nancy, Chelsea, Ron, Lillian, Evan, and Austin, and his long-time superintendants Ron and Chris. He formed a special bond with his 24/7 in-home nurses. These fine ladies helped to make our father's in-home care comfortable, peaceful, secure, and happy. A special thanks to Lifepath Hospice for their care and support. Our father survived the depression, being orphaned, the grueling demands of West Point, over 25 aerial combat missions, 44 military jumps, and encephalitis in Germany, so when he passed away peacefully in prayer, surrounded by his family, he was ready to be in the Lord's hands. Dad lived a long, rewarding life, full of wonder, excitement, heroism, joy, pride, and zest. He was a humble man who loved to tell a story to anyone who would listen. Thank you, Dad, for giving us so much to be thankful for and for always setting a good example for all of us. May Peace be with you. The Colonel's service and retirement earned him a full military honors service with gun salute at his choice of a National Cemetery. He chose Bay Pines VA National Cemetery in St. Petersburg, FL so we wouldn't have to travel far to visit him. A gathering for friends and family will be Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014 from 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM at Brewer and Sons Funeral Home, 3328 S. Dale Mabry Hwy. Funeral service at 11:00 A.M. in the Chapel at Brewer with Pastor John Debevoise of Palma Ceia Presbyterian Church officiating. A military motorcade with escorts from the Patriot Guard riders, American Legion riders, and family and friends will travel from Brewer Funeral Home to Bay Pines National Cemetery in St. Pete, with the Full Military Honors service at 2:15 PM Tuesday, January 21, 2014. www.brewerfuneral.com

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Published in the Tampa Bay Times on Jan. 19, 2014
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