Helen G. Purcell
1919 - 2020
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Helen G. Purcell
a longtime resident of Wellfleet

WELLFLEET - Helen G. Purcell, a longtime resident of Wellfleet, died on Feb. 20, 2020 after a period of declining health. She had resided at the Manor on the Hill, an assisted-living facility in Leominster, since 2015.

Born in Leominster on June 22, 1919, she was a daughter of Gardner A. and Annie (McDonald) Gibson. She grew up in Lunenburg, graduating in 1936 from Lunenburg High School where she excelled in academics and participated in athletics and school theatricals. She earned her education degree from the State Teachers College at Fitchburg (now Fitchburg State University) in 1940 and a master's degree at Harvard University. She was working as a social studies teacher when she met her husband-to-be, fellow educator William D. Purcell. They married in 1943 in San Diego where Bill was serving as a naval officer.

After the war she taught in a several school districts in Massachusetts and other states. She retired from Lexington Public Schools in 1973.

In retirement she was a mainstay of the Wellfleet Historical Society and Museum, an avid gardener, and an enthusiastic advocate for the Cape Cod National Seashore. For many years she led walking tours focusing on Wellfleet history and was a key organizer of the Historical Society's annual house tours. As a curator at the Historical Museum, she helped organize the Society's collections and advocated for the recent expansion of the Society's Main Street quarters. A room in the renovated museum was designated as the Helen G. Purcell Room in recognition of her service.

The Purcells were inveterate travelers, enjoying long stays in France, England and Portugal, and at one point taking a round-the-world tour. For many years they maintained a winter home in Ocean Springs, Miss.

Helen leaves five nephews, Michael Gibson of Walnut, Calif.; Paul Gibson of Topock, Ariz.; Thomas J. Kane of Winchendon; Dennis A. Kane of Pepperell, and Peter J. Kane of Wellfleet; and six nieces, Kathleen A. French of Lunenburg; Joanne Huse of Fitchburg; Helen M. Kane-O'Connor of Groton; Patricia M. Cormier of Milford, Ohio; Margaret I. Oliver of Wellfleet, and MaryJo Lomax of Los Altos, Calif.; as well as cousins, grandnephews and grandnieces and great-grandnephews and great-grandnieces. Besides her parents and husband she was predeceased by her brother, Richard H. Gibson, and her sisters, Margaret R. Gibson and Mary G. Kane.

Her family is grateful to the staff at Manor on the Hill for the loving care and many kindnesses shown to Helen over the past five years.

PURCELL - An hour visitation will be held at 9 a.m. March 7 at the Nickerson Funeral Home, 340 Main St., Wellfleet. A funeral Mass will follow at 10 a.m. at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Route 6, Wellfleet.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Helen's memory to the Wellfleet Historical Society and Museum, 266 W. Main St., Wellfleet, MA 02667; Our Lady of Lourdes Church, 2282 US-6, Wellfleet, MA 02667; or Activities Fund, Manor on the Hill, 450 N. Main St., Leominster, MA 01453. For online condolences, please visit www.nickersonfunerals.com.

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in Sentinel & Enterprise on Feb. 24, 2020.
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2 entries
February 25, 2020
Having built a home in Wellfleet in 1995, you opened and welcomed your life and home to both Jan and I. We could listen for hours about the history of Wellfleet and your involvement with the historical society has left that history for generations to come. You were truly the Grand Dame of Wellfleet and as Bob Hope once said, Thanks for the memories. God Speed.
Charlie Rutz
February 24, 2020
We wish to extend our deepest sympathies at this difficult time.
The Staff of Nickerson Funeral Home
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