The Rev. Canon James Elliott Purdy, Class of 1938, 99, a senior priest in the Diocese of New Jersey where he served for for 74 years, died Sunday, Jan. 6, at the Evergreens, a continuing care community in Moorestown. Canon Purdy formally retired in 1984 after serving as rector of Grace Church in Merchantville for 18 years. But he never left the ministry that defined his life. Until recently, he assisted in weekly worship at the Evergreens chapel, and provided a 24/7 listening post for fellow residents in need of his counsel–not to mention the healing power of his jokes.
Through five decades, Canon Purdy was a member and chair of many standing committees and also served in a great variety of other positions including as Chaplain, United States Army at Fort Dix and at McGuire Air Force Base; Dean of the Boys' Summer Conference; President of Clericus; Deputy to Provincial Synod; President of the Ecumenical Religious Leaders Conference of New Jersey; and as the longest-serving Chaplain of the Niagara Fire Company in Merchantville. He was seated as an honorary Canon of Trinity Cathedral, Trenton, in 1958 and received the Diocesan Medal of Honor in 1962.
Canon Purdy is survived by his son, the Rev. James Hughes Purdy, two granddaughters and one great-granddaughter, and his brother, Samuel Edwin Purdy. He was preceded in death by his wife of 67 years, Eloise Hughes Purdy, in 2009.
"He touched people's lives with his attentive listening, but also with his easy humor," said his son, the Rev. James H. Purdy, also an Episcopal priest. "He had a thousand jokes, all kind of corny. But they made people happy."