Verna Purdue
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Obituary of Verna Jean Purdue

Verna Jean Purdue (née Pehlman) lived her life spreading kindness.  She had an enormous heart, an infectious smile, and brought joy to those around her. She was born November 22, 1926 in Springfield, Illinois—the only child of Stuart and Kathryn Juanita (Smith) Pehlman.

She attended Blackburn College and graduated from Illinois State University with a BA in Education in 1948. She also met her husband, James Robert (Bob) Purdue, while studying at ISU. They met in the library, as she would later tell her grandchildren, and she had a crush on him from the beginning. They were married July 3, 1948 and proceeded to grow their family with three sons: Richard, Kenneth, and John. Verna was extremely proud of her sons and was a devoted and loving mother.

Verna taught history and current events at Morris Community High School for 27 years, impacting countless students. She was a vibrant part of the Morris community where she lived for over 50 years. Her belief in the power and importance of education was instilled in her family as well. Each of her sons went on to become doctors, all of her grandchildren are college graduates, and some grandchildren went on to become teachers themselves. Her legacy lives on through all of them.

Verna also loved to travel and see the world, venturing to Egypt, Israel, various places in Europe, the Caribbean, and elsewhere. She was often accompanied by her good friends Betty Ollerman Van Tassel, Nadine Springer, Doris Lueck, and Wayne and Lenora Hodgson on her travels. She remained close with Nadine and Doris since they met as children at church camp. Verna would many years later sing the songs she learned at camp with her own grandchildren during family trips with them.

She loved being surrounded by her family. Christmas was a particularly special time for Verna, when everyone gathered at her home. She baked a birthday cake for Jesus each year, bolstered her grandchildren’s belief in Santa, and tucked the grandchildren in, often wearing matching footie pajamas from her, with bedtime stories. She was a woman of faith and joyously belted out hymns and carols, even if sometimes slightly off-key, at the First Baptist Church of Morris, where she was a long-time member.

Verna died after a lengthy struggle with Alzheimer’s on Sunday, April 14, 2019. The family would like to thank the staff at Bethany Riverside Nursing Home in La Crosse, WI for her care over the years.

She is preceded in death by her parents, her husband, and son Kenneth. She is survived by her sons Dr. Richard Purdue (Nancy Walters Purdue) and Dr. John Purdue (Cindy Johnson Purdue); daughter-in-law Jane Haas Purdue (Kenneth), her grandchildren David Purdue (Dawn), Doug Purdue (Shayne), Christina Filip (Tom), Laura Coomer (Chris), Dr. Melissa Purdue, Katrina Purdue (Chris), Jason Purdue (Kasey), Eric Purdue, Christopher Purdue (Laura), and Jacquelyn Holman (Kevin); and great-grandchildren Abigail and James (David & Dawn), Jacob and Samuel (Doug & Shayne), Thomas, Clark, and Rosalie (Christina & Tom), Madison, Samantha, and Olivia (Laura & Chris), Maeve and Trent (Katrina & Chris), Indie (Jason & Kasey), and Calvin (Christopher & Laura). Verna would be thrilled to see how her family has grown.

Friends and family are invited to attend visitation at Fred C. Dames Funeral Home, 1201 W. Route 6 at Deerpath Drive, Morris, from 10:00 a.m. until a funeral service at 12:00 p.m., and burial at Evergreen Cemetery immediately following the service on Saturday, April 20, 2019 in Morris, IL.  Memorials in her name to The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, The First Baptist Church of Morris, or The Morris Community High School Education Scholarship Fund would be appreciated. For information, please call (815) 942-5040 or visit her Memorial Tribute at