For decades, Barbara Purcell was known as the first lady of Malverne, and eventually of Nassau County and the Town of Hempstead as well. Her husband, Francis Purcell, served as the village’s mayor, and later as county executive and town supervisor.
“Her husband was always known as a consummate professional and an excellent public servant,” Malverne Mayor Keith Corbett said. “Barbara was by his side all of those years.”
Barbara Purcell died in New Bern, N.C., on Aug. 15. She was 100. Francis Purcell died in 2014.
A graduate of Malverne High School in 1938, Purcell was a longtime village resident before she moved to Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., in the early 1990s, and later to North Carolina.
An avid golfer, Purcell was a member of the Rockville Links Country Club and PGA National, in Palm Beach Gardens, who enjoyed the game well into her 80s. To many village residents, Purcell was known as a lifelong volunteer and an active member of Malverne American Legion Post 44.
“When she was living here in Malverne, right after World War II, she was extremely active in the American Legion Auxiliary,” recalled Ladies Auxiliary President Dr. Carol Hassett. “She kept up her dues every year, like a good auxiliary member.”
November 2020 marked the 100th anniversary of the American Legion Auxiliary, and the Ladies Auxiliary had searched for a way to commemorate the anniversary. That’s when the group decided to honor Purcell, a past president of the organization. She was recognized during the village’s public meeting at Village Hall last year in November, at which the auxiliary unveiled a poster featuring a photo of Purcell to celebrate her 100th birthday. “That was our way of making a tribute to her and the auxiliaries,” Hassett said.
Malverne Mayor Keith Corbett noted that there has been a bronze bust of Francis Purcell in the mayor’s office for decades, which serves as a constant reminder of the Purcells and their decades of volunteerism.
“Barbara was someone who needed no introduction in this village,” Corbett said at the village’s Sept. 1 meeting. “She lived a good and fulfilling life. We truly want to recognize Mrs. Purcell’s service that she gave to this village. Our thoughts and prayers are with Barbara’s entire family.”
Purcell is survived by a son, Kim Thomas Purcell (Gail), two daughters, Patricia Harvey (Harold) and Diane Kohut (Stephen), and seven grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren and many nieces and nephews. “Mom lived a long and wonderful life giving us many memories to remember her by,” her children said in a statement.