Thomas James Purcell was born May 14, 1926 to Anna and Raymond Purcell in Auburn, Washington, and raised in St. Paul. He got his first job at age 12 as a waiter – 19 ¢ an hour – at the Carling cafeteria in downtown St. Paul. He had never been to a restaurant in his life.
Active participation in sports began early, with midget baseball. His team’s sponsor was a funeral home, and the youths went to out-of-town games in a hearse.
Tom left for WWII at age 17, needing his parents’ signature to enlist. His active service in the 9th Air Force resulted in interdiction sorties from Reims, France to Germany on an A-26 Invader.
Upon his release and return to St. Paul, he enrolled in Hamline University, where he pledged the Theta Chi Brotherhood. In addition to playing on the football and track teams, Purcell was a forward for the 1948 Hamline hockey team, who overcame great difficulties – poor equipment and motley uniforms borrowed from the team from football – to win the conference championship, a first for the University. Purcell was then inducted into the Hamline Athletic Hall of Fame.
After graduation, he was hired by Hamline as the director of public relations.
Rounds, pucks, sets and putts marked his life: Purcell played baseball with the Excelsior municipal team, hockey with the Austin municipal team, as well as tennis and golf.
As an alpine ski instructor he met Patricia Ochs in 1950 and took her wherever there was a ski slope in the Twin Cities. In 1952, he took her to the altar. They were married at St. Raphael Catholic Church in Springfield, Minnesota. The newlyweds moved to Austin, where Tom had been hired by the Hormel company. He retired as director of marketing and advertising in 1989.
Purcell served on the Austin Planning Commission and in 1992 was elected a member of the city’s general council.
His three terms on city council were highlighted by urban renewal projects in Austin that included scourge elimination, construction of a new public library, the downtown building, two large apartment complexes. from downtown, residential housing and the walking and biking trails along Mill Pond. .
He taught business in an evening class at Riverland Community College.
The theater was particularly close to his heart and he performed, danced and sang in 26 Summerset plays and musicals.
He served as Eucharistic minister to the men and women incarcerated at Mower County Jail and was a devoted member of the Carmelite Brotherhood at the Hermitage of the Annunciation.
He was a true supporter of the palliative care program, calling it “living and visible proof of God’s mercy”. He volunteered in a hospice for 17 years with the Austin Hospice of the Mayo Clinic Health System.
His participation in the 2011 Flight of Honor in Washington DC was very meaningful to him. And now he’s going home for his final victory.
Thomas Purcell died on October 3, 2021 in Austin. He was 95 years old.
He reunites with his parents and his brother, Jack. He will live in the heart of Patricia, his loving wife for 69 years; her children, Pat, Tim, Mary, Peggy, Ann; and her grandchildren, Katie, Mary and Theresa (Marc).
Christian Burial Mass was celebrated on Friday October 8, 2021 at St. Augustine Catholic Church in Austin, with Father James Steffes officiating. Interment with full military honors followed at the Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery in Preston.
Memorials in memory of Tom can be donated to the Austin Hospice of the Mayo Clinic Health System or the St. Augustine Catholic Church in Austin. The Clasen-Jordan mortuary is taking care of the arrangements.