IN MEMORIAM: Marguerite H. “Maggie” Purnell

by Jane Ahrens

Marguerite H. “Maggie” Purnell of Locust Valley, Fishers Island and New York, NY passed away peacefully at home on March 26, 2015 after a long illness. She was 94. Maggie was predeceased by her beloved husband of 45 years Richard I. Purnell and her adored sisters Constance H. Oliver O’Neil and Audrey H. Hilliard. She is survived by her daughter Marguerite W. Purnell, her son Peter F. Purnell, her four grandchildren James, Theodore, Robert and Henry. She is also survived by her cherished sister Sally H. Childs and numerous nieces and nephews, on whom she doted.

Maggie’s energy and enthusiasm were boundless, and she put those traits to good use, first as a daughter, sister, aunt, wife, mother, and friend and later as a long serving board member of many charitable organizations. In her 20’s she worked under the tutelage of Dr. Howard A. Rusk in the nascent field of physical rehabilitation, an area of interest that would remain near and dear to her throughout her life. She served on many boards and was a tireless champion for each one, from her early years with the Junior League to her involvement with the Rusk Institute (and later the World Rehabilitation Fund), the International Center for the Disabled, FOCUS, the Venture Fund, the Episcopal Mission Society, Classroom, Inc. and in particular her lengthy involvement with the Boys Club of New York and The Central Park Conservancy, where she was one of the four founders of the Women’s Committee.

Maggie was a quintessential people person, and she demonstrated it every day through her profound love for her family, her friends and those whose causes she championed. She particularly liked to empower young people, whether through education, rehabilitation, job opportunities and/or recreational opportunities. Renowned for her charm and her charisma, she lit up every room she entered. Truly, she was one of a kind.

A memorial service to celebrate Maggie’s life will be held at a later date. A private interment was held at Fishers Island. Services by Dodge-Thomas. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in Maggie’s name to the World Rehabilitation Fund (, the Boys Club of New York ( or the Central Park Conservancy (

Published in The New York Times on April 2, 2015

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USCG Eagle passing the Race early morning March 18, 2023 on her return from the Chesapeake Bay . Photo Credit Marlin Bloethe

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