Community loses Ann Purnell, and her ‘unwavering love’

Ann Kuhn Purnell was laid to rest in blue, a pretty pastel shade, her favorite color.

A proper lady throughout her life, she matched nail polish and lipstick to complement outfits, and not long before her death on Christmas Eve, motioned for her daughter to apply a fresh coat.

“I never had enough lipstick on for her,” Susan Kuhn Purnell said with a little laugh, three days after her 85-year-old mother died in her sleep.

Diagnosed with congestive heart failure and Alzheimer’s Disease, the Salisbury native remained polite and sweet.

The last time her daughter visited, the Sunday before Christmas, she asked, “Where are my children?”

“I said, ‘Well, Mommy. I am your daughter’ and she said, ‘Well of course you are.’”

Remembered as, “meticulous and beautiful,” Purnell was a former May Queen of the University of Delaware, where she studied, and “always the prom princess type,” her daughter said.

“She’s gorgeous, inside and out. I think she looked like Grace Kelly but her inside was just as beautiful as the outside. She was striking.

“When I was little and she came into elementary school all the guys said, ‘Oh, your mother.’ Everybody had a crush on my mother,” Susan Purnell said.

The child of John Kuhn, who bought the former Fisher’s Jewelry Store in 1923, Ann Purnell and her husband Jack were the second generation to own it. Now her daughter has it, and her grandson Ben, the fourth generation, is employed there.

“I kind of grew up there,” Susan Purnell said.

“I started making bows at age 12 on an old-fashioned bow machine. My mother worked seasonably, at Christmas, that kind of thing, because she was a homemaker and dad was the bread winner. But she was not one to stay home. She was very involved in the community. She worked at the Junior Board (at Peninsula Regional Medical Center). She was on the board and she was board president,” she said.

The elder Purnell was also involved with Children’s Home Foundation, a non-profit organization formed to give scholarships to children in need, through the Episcopal diocese.

Active in her church, St. Peter’s Episcopal, she was in the choir more than 50 years and undertook altar guild responsibilities. The church choir sang at her funeral.

She had taught at Pinehurst Elementary School before she and her husband moved to Cincinnati, where he worked in Major League Baseball.

They returned to Salisbury and joined the family jewelry business in the early 1950s.

“She was absolutely the best mother in the world. She had unconditional love for us. I never in my life doubted she loved me. She was my greatest cheerleader, my greatest supporter,” her daughter said, adding her mother was “completely dedicated to her two girls.”

“We knew our whole lives our mother was there for us. Her love was unwavering,” she said. She has one sister, Patricia Purnell Baum, of Severna Park, Md.

“My mother was the nicest person you’ll ever meet,” Purnell said.

“She doesn’t have a bad bone in her body. She had caregivers for 10 years and one of them asked her what she wanted for lunch. She said, ‘Well, what do you want for lunch?’ She turned everything around for the needs of others,” she said.

“After she died, I went out there. I talked to her and prayed with her. Her minister came and we had a very lovely little service,” she said, referring to the Rev. David Michaud.

“Her death wasn’t expected. She was fine. She was eating pizza on Sunday night before she died,” Purnell said.

The funeral was Monday at St. Peter’s.

“My mother went to her grave with no regrets. She lived the most perfect life. She was a delight,” her daughter said.

The most important lesson she taught her children was, “those who give have all things.”

“She gave all things all the time. She would give you the shirt off her back,” Purnell said.

“I will remember her beautiful smile and that wonderful lipstick that always left a little mark on my cheek every time she kissed me.”

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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