Col. Purcell died Tuesday, April 2, 2013, at home surrounded by family and love.
Born Feb. 14, 1928, Col. Purcell was the son of the late Benjamin H. and Hattie Oliver Purcell. He also was preceded in death by his daughter, Clarice Purcell; brothers, James Evard Purcell and Howard Wheeler; and sisters, Ollie Ree Purcell Alley and Mildred Purcell Hill.
He was a career military officer who served in the United States Navy from 1945 to 1946 and in the United States Army from 1950 to 1980. Col. Purcell served with distinction in staff and command positions throughout the United States and Europe and during combat tours in Korea and Vietnam. He spent five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam and was the highest ranking U.S. Army POW held during the war.
After returning home, Purcell studied and taught at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., and earned a master’s degree in public administration at Shippensburg State College in Shippensburg, Pa. He served as 3rd Brigade commander at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and professor of military science and commandant of cadets at his alma mater, North Georgia College in Dahlonega. Col. Purcell was awarded the Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Legion of Merit with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Purple Heart and Parachutist and Combat Infantryman badges. He retired from the Army in 1980. After retiring, Col. Purcell served as a Georgia State Representative and member of the State Veterans Service Board. He owned and operated Purcell’s Christmas Tree Farm in Clarkesville and served on the board of directors for the Habersham Chamber of Commerce, was a former president of the Clarkesville Lions Club and Site Selection coordinator for Habitat for Humanity of Northeast Georgia. Col. Purcell was an active member and deacon of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Clarkesville. He and his wife, Anne, co-authored a book about their wartime experiences called “Love and Duty.” They spoke extensively about how the Lord took care of them during that difficult time in their lives. Col. Purcell was a soldier for peace and a warrior for the Lord.
Survivors include his devoted wife of 62 years, Anne Grant Purcell of Clarkesville; daughters, Debbie, Sherri and Joy Purcell, all of Clarkesville; sons and daughters-in-law, David and Xiomara Perez Purcell of Alexandria, Va., and Clifford and Lisa Pandres Purcell of Winston-Salem, N.C; granddaughter and spouse, Clairessa and Chinua Raine; grandchildren, Nace, Shayna, Grant and Daniel Purcell; and great-grandchildren, Isaiah and Tyson Purcell.
Ben is also survived by his brother and sister-in-law, Vernon T. and Catherine Taylor Purcell; and numerous nieces and nephews.
The family will receive friends at Hillside Memorial Chapel, 5495 Highway 197 North, Clarkesville, from 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. today, April 5.
Memorials may be made to the Bethlehem Baptist Church Missions Fund, P.O. Box 488, Clarkesville, GA 30523; or the Col. Benjamin Purcell Fund, University of North Georgia. Make checks payable to the UNG Foundation, P.O. Box 1599, Dahlonega, GA 30533.
Condolences may be sent to the family by visiting hillsidememorialchapel.com.
Arrangements by Hillside Memorial Chapel, Clarkesville.
The Northeast Georgian
April 5, 2013