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Town of Berlin remembers PW Superintendent Purnell

Town of Berlin workers, friends and family last Friday gathered to dedicate a dogwood tree at Dr. William Henry Park to Wendell Purnell, who faithfully served the town in the public works department for more than four decades.

Patricia Purnell, wife of the late Wendell Purnell, talks with town officials during a remembrance at Dr. William Henry Park last Friday. Also pictured, from left, are Councilman Elroy Brittingham, Mayor Gee Williams, and Councilman Thom Gulyas.

By Josh Davis, Associate Editor

(June 7, 2018) Residents and town officials gathered last Friday at Dr. William Henry Park in Berlin to remember former Public Works Superintendent Wendell Ennis Purnell.

Born Feb. 16, 1948 in Berlin, Purnell passed away on May 14 at Genesis HealthCare in Salisbury, according to his official obituary.

He graduated from Worcester High School in 1966 and married Patricia Purnell in 1975.

Famously soft spoken, Purnell worked for the Town of Berlin for more than four decades. He was also a member of Tyree A.M.E. Church in Berlin and served as a trustee and bass player.

Mayor Gee Williams last Friday presided over a well-attended remembrance that included planting of a dogwood tree – Purnell’s favorite – and placement of a plaque.

“I’m so pleased that our family of Berlin decided to do this as a special tribute in memory of our long, long friend Wendell Purnell,” Williams said. “I’ve known Wendell since we were both 15 … Wendell and I actually worked together the entire summer when we were 15 at my dad’s tavern.”

Williams said they were both short-order cooks at the tavern.

“I found, even back then, he was careful with his words, he was strategic with his words – but we had some fun!” he said. “And I do think that’s a tradition he carried on his whole life.

“As we all know, Wendell was a man of few words, but when he spoke it mattered,” Williams continued. “We are all so very lucky, so very fortunate, to have had him as a member of our family for so long. And I do think that this gathering is a tribute to the kind of man he was … he cared about all people in this town and did an unbelievably great job – and didn’t have to say much to get it done.

“We’ll never forget him,” Williams said. “And I think that your decision as town employees and friends and family to remember him with a tree is something that’s very fitting, because the lifetime of that tree is going to be beyond all of us.”

The plaque at the foot of the tree reads: “Dedicated to Wendell Purnell for his 43 years of service and commitment to the Town of Berlin.”