Gallery/lobby to honor parents of John J. Pucell and Harold W. Purcell
By Pat Wilson
The future gallery/lobby of the community arts center will be named in honor of prominent 20th century Louisa residents. The project is in conjunction with the restoration of the former high school on Fredericksburg Avenue into the Louisa Town Hall.
Pam Stone (center), chair person for the Louisa Downtown Development Corporation, thanks John Jerl Purcell and Harold Walton Purcell for their $130,000 donation to the town hall and community arts center. Also attending the ceremony on Saturday in front of the former school, now undergoing renovations, were LDDC board members (l-r), Shelby Millholland, Arabella Pettit Moss, Pat Purcell, Roland Carey, Claire Taylor, Ginna Cullen and Martha McIntire.
Photo and article by the Central Virginian
The late John Gerald Purcell and his wife, the late Mary McIntosh, along with his brother, retired Judge Harold Hidmore Purcell and his wife, Virginia Omohundro, are being honored by their sons, John Jerl and Harold Walton, respectively.
The cousins presented Pam Stone, chair person of the Louisa Downtown Development Corporation, and several members of the organization’s board of directors, with a check for $130,000 to cover the cost of the construction of the open space.
“My brother, Charles, and I, our cousins, John Jerl and Dicky, and all of the Purcells have been blessed to call Louisa our home,” said Harold Walton. “It is our hope that this arts center will further enhance the quality of life and opportunities for cultural enhancement that the citizens of Louisa County so greatly deserve.”
The former school holds fond memories for several generations of the Purcell family. “My father, his brothers and sister, Emma, all attended elementary and high school in the building. I, too, spent my elementary school years, grades one through seven [here],” said Harold.
John Jerl, who attended the school for grades one through seven, also shared the value of restoring the structure and providing a central location for cultural activities.
“This is a good way to give back to the community that has supported me and my family,” he said. In accepting the donation, Stone thanked the men for selecting the cultural center project as the means to remember their parents. A plaque in the gallery will acknowledge the families.
“It is very fitting that the Purcell family has taken this leadership role in sponsoring the art gallery as they have been leaders in the community for many generations,” said Stone.
Following the check presentation, the cousins and board members shared humorous and poignant memories of their principals, teachers and fellow students.“This is the right family to set the tone for supporting the community,” said Martha McIntire, an LDDC board member.
Under the auspices of the LDDC, members have offered several naming opportunities for the center, including the theater, classrooms and the kitchen area. The Purcell sons selected the 1,660 square-foot gallery/lobby addition planned on the northeast side of the existing building. Serving as the main entrance to the town hall, the gallery/lobby will also afford a well-lit open area where local and visiting artisans can display their work. The lobby can be used as a reception area for private gatherings or the social events of organizations, as well.
John Gerald and Mary McIntosh Purcell
A native and lifelong resident of Louisa County, Gerald followed his father as president of J. S. Purcell Lumber Corporation, along with serving on the board of directors of Louisa Land and Lumber Corporation. Gerald attended both elementary and high school at the Fredericksburg site. The businessman was the founder of the Louisa Preparatory Academy. Located on Ellisville Drive, the school offered a private elementary school education in a small class setting during the 1970s.
Born in the town of Orange, Mary McIntosh attended State Teachers College in Farmville (now Longwood University). Among her teaching assignments were several years as a first grade teacher in the former elementary school. “My parents met while my father was in high school and my mother was teaching in the school,” said John Jerl. Always known for wearing blue, Mary was an active member of the K. S. Club, a women’s organization dedicated to community service.
John Jerl recalled his parents’ appreciation of antiques, and the couple often attended auctions together. “Dad collected guns and clocks, while mother liked Hummell figurines,” he said.
The couple was active in the Louisa Christian Church.
Judge Harold H. and Virginia Omohundro Purcell
After attending Louisa High School and following graduation from Augusta Military Academy and then the University of Virginia Law School, Judge Purcell practiced in Newport News and Palmyra. His practice was interrupted by a tour of duty in World War II earning the rank of captain, and three years as a claims officer in Panama. The lawyer opened an office in the town of Louisa on a part-time basis, and later practiced exclusively from the Crank Building on the Louisa Courthouse lawn.
Purcell also served for 14 years as a judge for the 16th Judicial Circuit Court, accepting that appointment in 1966. Prior to his tenure on the bench, he represented Louisa and several surrounding counties in the Virginia House of Delegates, beginning in 1947, and the State Senate, 1959 to 1966. After retiring from his judgeship, Purcell returned to the county to practice law until his retirement in 2000.
An elder at Louisa Christian Church, Judge Purcell is a member and past master of Masonic Day Lodge #58 A. F. & A. M. Virginia, a native of Fork Union, graduated from Westhampton College (former women’s division of the University of Richmond). She taught school for several years, while her husband served in the war. Active in the Daughters of the American Revolution, Louisa Court House Chapter, and the K. S. Club for several decades, Virginia was also the chief executive officer of the Purcell Land and Lumber Corporation. Married for over 60 years, the couple resides on Bibb Store Road, just north of the town of Louisa. They are members of Louisa Christian Church, where Virginia was a former deacon.
The two brothers are the sons of John S. and Mary Elizabeth Walton Purcell.
In addition to the two men being honored, J. S. Purcell was the father of Leon Joel “Dick” Purcell, Dr. Charles Walton Purcell, John S. Purcell Jr. and Emma Purcell Alexander, all deceased. Their father was a noted lumberman, banker and farmer, who also served on the Louisa County Board of Supervisors and was a long-tenured board member and president of the Bank of Louisa, which later became National Bank and Trust. John S. also served as president and chairman of Louisa Land and Lumber Corporation and J. S. Purcell Lumber Corporation and as a trustee of Louisa Christian Church.
John Jerl is a retired board member of the J. S. Purcell Lumber Corporation and current chairman of the board for the Bank of Louisa. He and his wife, Pat, live just north of the town of Louisa and attend Louisa Christian Church, where John Jerl is an honorary elder.
Harold Walton, who now resides in Chesterfield with his wife, Anita, is the executive vice president and vice chairman of the executive committee of GMAC Commercial Mortgages, the commercial real estate lending subsidiary of GMAC and General Motors.
LDDC continues fundraising
With a goal of raising $1.8 million, the LDDC has reached close to 70 percent of its total.
Approximately $286,000 has been donated or promised by local individuals and businesses. The LDDC anticipates additional funds from grants and should receive as much as $350,000 in tax credits, according to Shirley Stewart, a grant writer and consultant to the LDDC. “We need to raise $800,000 more,” she said. “We can begin work when we reach 90 percent, and hope to have that by next spring.”
Ideally, the LDDC would like to hold events and performances in conjunction with the Jamestown 2006 celebration and the 100th anniversary of the school in 2007. To make this a reality, the board of directors of the non-profit organization is actively seeking donations from individuals, businesses, organizations and corporations.
The group of town and county residents anticipates converting the former school auditorium into a state-of-the-art theater that can provide the community with live productions, as well as projection viewing. Second-floor classrooms will also be equipped so experts in various artistic venues can teach classes or hold workshops.
The LDDC members see the arts center as one facet in a revitalization of the downtown commercial area, bringing patrons to dine and shop, along with attending the cultural activities.
Anyone interested in information on the arts center project can contact Stone at (540) 967-2582.