Neighbors, friends and local elected officials gathered on South Ocean Avenue today to wish a happy 97th birthday to World War II veteran Rev. Eugene Purvis.
“We’re honored to be commemorating a great Freeporter today,” said Mayor Robert Kennedy, who, along with State Assemblywoman Judy Griffin, presented Purvis with a citation of recognition for his heroism and commitment to the local community.
Purvis, who described himself as a “simple country boy,” was born in South Carolina in 1923.
He joined the U.S. Military right before his 20th birthday,, where he was enlisted into the 435th Aviation Squadron, a unit of African American soldiers within the 20th Army Air Corps.
His unit served on the Pacific front on the island of Saipan, where they were under constant fire from Japanese bomber planes.
Although Purvis and his fellow black soldiers faced discrimination during his time in the military, he said he never held any hatred towards anyone.
He said that it was his faith in God, love for others and commitment to following the rules that led him to live a long and happy life despite any of the hardships he faced.
“I never got angry at anybody,” Purvis said. “When you live long enough, you find the truths in life… and I do feel sorry for those who hate others.”
After the war, Purvis moved to New York in 1946, and a few years later, he settled down in Freeport with his wife, Dr. Sylvia Purvis.
The couple has spent their lives in service to others, including founding the Children’s World Montessori School, a local, private montessori school for students in grades Pre-K through three.
Purvis is also an active member of Freeport Cares, a community group that works with the school district and village to promote programs and activities for Freeport families.
Freeport Cares President Kishore Kuncham, a long-time friend of Purvis, added that Purvis has yet to miss a single meeting of Freeport Cares in more than 20 years.
“He is an inspirational presence and a great source of positivity,” Kuncham said.