What is this thing called longevity? Why is Bill Purvis still going at 106 when so many others have passed over to the other side? This of course is one of the questions we interviewers must ask when doing this type of story.
When I asked, “TO WHAT DO YOU ATTRIBUTE YOUR LONGEVITY?”
He answered, “Huh?”
Vivian Purvis, Bill’s niece and caregiver in his room at Lutheran Homes, bent over next to his ear and restated the question. Bill grabbed the lapel of his coat and pulled it open. At first I thought he was gesturing to his heart, maybe implying that it was strong, but then I saw that he was revealing a big cigar in the inside pocket of his blue and gray checkered sports coat. His smile acknowledged our communication link.
“Cigars and a few Martinis every day,” explained Vivian. I am thankful that Vivian is with me on this interview. She served as an interpreter since Bill’s communication skills had become diminished over the years. It was a relief to have someone around who was familiar with Bill’s gestures and speech; Vivian smoothed out the pauses with excellent background on the high points of Bill’s long life.
This of course wouldn’t be the first story done on Bill Purvis. There aren’t many WWI veterans left in this country and there have been other stories on him, usually around Veterans Day. In 1998, Frank Gray of the Journal Gazette did a story on Bill titled “EX-SOLDIER 102, RECALLS THE GREAT WAR. Meghan Hoyer, also of the Journal Gazette, wrote a story and the headline read 102 YEAR-OLD FORMER WWI SOLDIER IS GRAND MARSHAL. A January 11, 2000 Peru Tribune article by Kelly Voss-Maiseroulle title was PURVIS STILL GOING STRONG AT 104. I was there because Shorty Geiger of VFW Post 33 suggested that THE WAYNEDALE NEWS should do a story on Bill’s upcoming 106th birthday on December 19.
Bill Purvis was born December 19, 1895 in Payne, Ohio. That was before the Spanish-American War and in fact, one of Bill’s bosses served in that war. His grandfather fought in the Civil War. Bill has lived through eight wars – Spanish-American, WWI, WW2, Korean War, Vietnam, Granada, Gulf War, and now the war on Terrorism. In 1919, Bill was drafted into the Army for WWI as a pharmacist’s mate. By the time he was discharged he had achieved the grade of Sargent in the medical department. Bill married Alice Miller on October 24, 1924. He worked in a number of drug stores until he opened his own pharmacy in 1935. His Peru, Indiana pharmacy burned in 1968 and Bill retired. Bill had 5 siblings but he and Alice had no children.
It was warm in the room at Lutheran Homes and after the interview Vivian helped Bill out of his sports coat and unclipped his tie. I could tell Bill was relieved at not having to answer any more questions. He relaxed and pulled a cigar from his pocket. It was warm for November and there was already an elderly man sitting out on the patio in a wheelchair; Bill would be joining him shortly.
Why is Bill still here when so many others have fallen? Is it the cigars and the martinis? Is it the excellent care and attendance given by Vivian? Could it be that he didn’t experience raising teenagers (that in itself could add thirty years to your life) or is he just a statistical anomaly, a necessary fulfillment of the great bell curve? Whatever the answer, we are grateful that he is still here. We at THE WAYNEDALE NEWS wish him a Happy Birthday and a very Merry Christmas.