Helen G. Purcell
June 22, 1919 – February 20, 2020
WELLFLEET — Helen G. Purcell, a longtime resident of Wellfleet, died on Feb. 20, 2020 after a period of declining health. She had resided at the Manor on the Hill, an assisted-living facility in Leominster, since 2015.
Born in Leominster on June 22, 1919, she was a daughter of Gardner A. and Annie (McDonald) Gibson. She grew up in Lunenburg, graduating in 1936 from Lunenburg High School where she excelled in academics and participated in athletics and school theatricals. She earned her education degree from the State Teachers College at Fitchburg (now Fitchburg State University) in 1940 and a master’s degree at Harvard University. She was working as a social studies teacher when she met her husband-to-be, fellow educator William D. Purcell. They married in 1943 in San Diego where Bill was serving as a naval officer.
After the war she taught in a several school districts in Massachusetts and other states. She retired from Lexington Public Schools in 1973.
In retirement she was a mainstay of the Wellfleet Historical Society and Museum, an avid gardener, and an enthusiastic advocate for the Cape Cod National Seashore. For many years she led walking tours focusing on Wellfleet history and was a key organizer of the Historical Society’s annual house tours. As a curator at the Historical Museum, she helped organize the Society’s collections and advocated for the recent expansion of the Society’s Main Street quarters. A room in the renovated museum was designated as the Helen G. Purcell Room in recognition of her service.
The Purcells were inveterate travelers, enjoying long stays in France, England and Portugal, and at one point taking a round-the-world tour. For many years they maintained a winter home in Ocean Springs, Miss.
Helen leaves five nephews, Michael Gibson of Walnut, Calif.; Paul Gibson of Topock, Ariz.; Thomas J. Kane of Winchendon; Dennis A. Kane of Pepperell, and Peter J. Kane of Wellfleet; and six nieces, Kathleen A. French of Lunenburg; Joanne Huse of Fitchburg; Helen M. Kane-O’Connor of Groton; Patricia M. Cormier of Milford, Ohio; Margaret I. Oliver of Wellfleet, and MaryJo Lomax of Los Altos, Calif.; as well as cousins, grandnephews and grandnieces and great-grandnephews and great-grandnieces. Besides her parents and husband she was predeceased by her brother, Richard H. Gibson, and her sisters, Margaret R. Gibson and Mary G. Kane.
Her family is grateful to the staff at Manor on the Hill for the loving care and many kindnesses shown to Helen over the past five years.
An hour visitation will be held at 9 a.m. March 7 at the Nickerson Funeral Home, 340 Main St., Wellfleet. A funeral Mass will follow at 10 a.m. at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Route 6, Wellfleet.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Helen’s memory to the Wellfleet Historical Society and Museum, 266 W. Main St., Wellfleet, MA 02667; Our Lady of Lourdes Church, 2282 US-6, Wellfleet, MA 02667; or Activities Fund, Manor on the Hill, 450 N. Main St., Leominster, MA 01453. For online condolences, please visit www.nickersonfunerals.com.
- William Purcell, Husband (deceased)
- Helen leaves five nephews, Michael Gibson of Walnut, Calif.; Paul Gibson of Topock, Ariz.; Thomas J. Kane of Winchendon; Dennis A. Kane of Pepperell, and Peter J. Kane of Wellfleet; and six nieces, Kathleen A. French of Lunenburg; Joanne Huse of Fitchburg; Helen M. Kane-O’Connor of Groton; Patricia M. Cormier of Milford, Ohio; Margaret I. Oliver of Wellfleet, and MaryJo Lomax of Los Altos, Calif.; as well as cousins, grandnephews and grandnieces and great-grandnephews and great-grandnieces.
- Visitation Saturday, March 7, 2020
- Funeral Mass Saturday, March 7, 2020
- Burial Saturday, March 7, 2020
Helen G. Purcell
March 5, 2020
Helen was one of the most important people in my life. We met Helen and Bill in the 60's. They introduced us to Wellfleet, sold us their house and treated us like family. She was a wonderful role model. Gracious, loving, kind, with a good sense of humor. We always looked forward to seeing her when we arrived in Wellfleet for the summer. She was a great lady and will be sorely missed.
Helen Ronald and family
March 1, 2020
We met Aunt Helen on a trip to Cape Cod in September 2012 with Randy and Mary Jo Lomax. She was a mere 93 back then and sharp as a tack. Aunt Helen made a lasting impression on me. Her posture was erect and her strides through her garden were hard to keep up with. She took time to show us her house in detail including her most recent jigsaw puzzle. Her pride in the Wellfleet Seal wall hanging prompted the attached photo. She looks regal. My memory of her aging with grace is motivation to do the same. And my vision now is not of a woman resting in peace. I see a woman standing tall and taking great strides to keep check on life ever after.
February 28, 2020
What an amazing person Helen Purcell was to everyone that she came in contact with in the Wellfleet community. I met Helen in 1994 when I managed the Nickerson Funeral Home and through our mutual friend, Alice Kenny. When Bill died I handled his funeral and spent many days sitting with Helen looking over the marsh toward Uncle Tim's Bridge. Helen was gracious, kind, and loving. I will cherish those memories forever. Sleep easy, Helen.
February 24, 2020
In my thoughts and prayers during this most difficult time. Enjoyed working with her and listening to her many historical stories.