Dr. Elmer M. Purcell. He was a man tall in stature, principles and compassion, a doctor beloved by his patients as a physician who was more than just a doctor. They knew him as a friend, a counselor and advisor as well. His family remembers his gentle nature, his love of storytelling, his pure delight in, and unwavering devotion to, them. Dr. Elmer M. Purcell, Jr. died peacefully at his home on June 18 at the age of 92. (See more below)
Born to Gurtha (Randleman) and Elmer Purcell in Rector, Arkansas, on January 16, 1925, he attended Rector High School, graduating with the class of 1941. Thereafter, at age 17, he joined the Naval Reserve. Because of World War II, his education at Hendrix College was accelerated. He completed his studies there in just two and a half years and then entered Arkansas Medical School. By 1946, at the age of 21, he received his MD degree and was told to report to San Diego to board the USS General William Mitchell to serve as ships doctor. During his naval service on the USS Mitchell he was in charge of the ambulatory officers ward, where one of his duties was to grant permission to go ashore, making him a popular man. In July, 1948, the ship left San Diego to bring military families to Pacific bases and to bring servicemen back to the States. A true southern gentleman and born raconteur, Elmer loved to tell stories about his naval adventures in ports around the Pacific, including riding around Pearl Harbor in an admirals jeep, partying on Guam, attending war trials in Tokyo and, in 1949, evacuating Americans out of China ahead of Maos revolution. Following his stint in the Navy, he went to Dallas to study pathology. From there Elmer went to McKinney, Texas, where, in 1952, he was invited to study with Max Finland, a renowned authority on emerging antibiotics, at the Thorndike Lab at Harvard University. Himself intrigued by the new antibiotics, Elmer was eager to work with Finland. Fortune smiled on Elmer in another way in Finlands lab. It was there he met Marguerite (Peggy) Lundgren whom he married in 1953. Soon thereafter, the couple moved back to Elmers native Arkansas. He taught in the University of Arkansas Medical School in Little Rock while becoming certified in internal medicine. Elmer quickly realized he preferred working with patients to teaching and conducting research. He and his growing family moved to Springfield, Missouri, so that he could join a private practice. After four years in Missouri, the Purcells made the decision to return to New England and moved to Concord. While constructing his own office building, he rented space in a nearby medical office and went to work. His internal medicine practice grew steadily through the early 1960s. He served on the medical staff at Emerson Hospital and was Chief of Staff from 1977|79. For 35 years Elmer practiced medicine in Concord, eventually closing his private practice in 1989. At that time he became a part-time staff physician for the Veterans Administration Clinic in Lowell, Massachusetts, retiring in 2007. During his lifetime, Elmer was an active member of the Concord Rotary Club, serving as its president in 1976|77. He loved traveling with his family and was an extraordinary father to his son and four daughters. His wry sense of humor and quick-witted storytelling enchanted both family and friends. He could be as supportive, generous and kind as he was amusing. Among his lifelong pleasures were black coffee, vanilla ice milk (not ice cream ice milk) and his daily Manhattan cocktail. But foremost among his joys was the treasure of his family. Elmer was predeceased by his wife of 46 years, Peggy Purcell and by his son John. He is survived by his wife Rebecca Sheehan Purcell and his daughters Elizabeth (Betsy) Purcell, Melinda Byrd, Laurie LaConte and Amy Vorenberg, each of whom firmly and accurately believed they were his favorite. He is also survived by his sons-in-law John Byrd, Mark LaConte and Tom Vorenberg as well as by six devoted grandchildren and their spouses, Nicholas and Katherine Dreckshage, Emily Dreckshage, Kristin (LaConte) and Asa Curry, Stephen and Jenna LaConte and Ella Vorenberg. Visiting hours will be held on Tuesday, June 20th from 4 to 8 pm in the Dee Funeral Home, 27 Bedford Street, Concord Center. Funeral will be held on Wednesday, June 21st from the Dee Funeral Home at 9 am followed by a funeral Mass in Holy Family Parish, Monument Square, Concord Center at 10 am. Burial with military honors will follow in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord. Concords town flag will fly at half-staff on Wednesday in recognition of Elmers service to his country in the U. S. Navy. Expressions of sympathy may take the form of donations to the Emerson Healthcare Foundation, Emerson Hospital, 133 ORNAC, Concord, MA 01742. Arrangements are under the care of Susan M. Dee and Charles W. Dee, Jr., Dee Funeral Home of Concord. To share a remembrance in Elmers online guest book visit www.deefuneralhome.com.