1923 - 2011
Loren Purnell, 88, of Sun City and formerly of Payson, died on 23 June 2011 while in skilled nursing care.
He was born 25 January 1923 in Springfield, Ill., the son of Frank and Hazel (Basford) Purnell. His family moved to the Basford/Purnell family farm in rural Rochester, where he grew up. Loren graduated Rochester High School, with honors, in 1940.
Loren joined the U.S. Navy in 1941. He earned the Air Medal Award for “meritorious achievement in aerial flight,” related to his service in 1943 as a radio operator on a Ventura Vega PV-1 which flew 38 reconnaissance missions, in the face of enemy anti-aircraft fire, in the Aleutians. In 1945, he entered U.S. Navy flight training, attending the College of Wooster, the Univ. of Iowa and numerous Naval Air Station flight schools. In 1947 he earned his Naval Air Pilot license. In 1956 he added to that an NAP single- and twin-rotor helicopter license. While he mostly flew Grumman Hellcat F6F and F6F5 fighters, he flew many other planes and helicopters, including the four-engine Mars “flying boat.” At the end of Loren’s USN career in 1960, he taught Aviation Electronics Advanced “B” School at the Memphis Naval Air Station. Loren earned numerous honors and medals during his Navy career.
Upon retirement from the USN, Loren purchased and managed a gold mine near North Fork, Idaho. He next worked for General Motors Desert Proving Grounds, in Chevrolet’s engineering division, near Mesa. In 1974, Loren graduated from Yavapai College - Prescott, with honors, earning a computer science degree. With that he worked many years for the financial division of Ramada Inn Corp. (now Marriott) in Phoenix.
Loren married Lois Fortier in 1965. She preceded him in death, in Payson, in 2001. The couple made their home in Payson from 1987 to 2001, and then Loren returned to area briefly between 2009 and 2010.
His companion of six years, Mary Emma Harris, died in Prescott in 2008.
Loren left a legacy with The Nature Conservancy for preservation of the Upper and Middle basins of the Verde River, north of Prescott, a major source of water for Phoenix.
Loren is also preceded in death by his parents, his eldest sister, Allene, and eldest brother, Grover. Surviving are his son, Loren Michael (Hilary Frost) Purnell of Springfield, Ill., a sister, Marjorie (Tom) Todd of Riverton, Ill., a brother, Frank (Virginia) Purnell of Bloomington, Ill., and several nephews and nieces.
Loren’s cremated remains will be interred at 1 p.m. on 3 January 2012 at the V.A. National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona in Phoenix, with full U.S. Navy honors.