James N. Purdy, 87, Bismarck, died peacefully February 23, 2019 at The Baptist Health Care Center. At his side was his daughter, Amy Schmidt and son-in-law, Dr. Sid Schmidt of Mandan.
A memorial mass will be celebrated by the Reverend Wayne Sattler, Friday, May 24 at Saint Anne’s Catholic Church in Bismarck at 10:00 AM. A vigil will take place the night before at the Bismarck Funeral Home followed by the rosary. There will be no viewing as cremation has occurred. Burial will take place at St. Mary’s Cemetery following the Mass.
Jim was a beloved husband of fifty-five years, father of four, and grandfather of ten. He was a man of integrity and humility and lived a wonderful and fulfilling life, while positively impacting many especially his family. He courageously and without self-pity endured the moderate progression of vascular dementia the last ten years of his life in addition to fighting cancer, West Nile and other various health issues in his later years.
Jim was the fourth child born to Mark and Edna (LeFleur) Purdy in Minot on May 25, 1931. When Jim was just five years old during the Great Depression, his father, a Great Northern Railroad Engineer and Fireman died suddenly, leaving his mother and siblings in a major crisis. His father’s sisters, felt it was best for them to raise Jim and his younger brother in the Twin Cities. Due to his mother’s resistance and Jim’s oldest brother, Mike’s self-sacrifice, Jim and Paul were able to stay with their mother and home in Minot. Mike withdrew from college, worked for the railroad and assumed the role of bread winner for the Purdy’s. Without him and Aid to Dependent Children, surely the fate of Jim’s family would have been much different.
Jim attended Roosevelt Elementary School and St. Leos High School (Bishop Ryan.) He was a good student and participated in football, basketball drama, boys glee club and was an altar server. He graduated from high school in 1949.
Despite growing up poor, Jim lived a rich and happy childhood. Some of his fondest memories were using his family’s complementary railroad pass from his deceased father’s job. He and Paul, his younger brother, enjoyed great adventures via train to Seattle to visit their older sister, “Patsy” and Minneapolis and Chicago. With very little money, they could only afford to stay at YMCA’s or at their aunt’s homes. Jim and Paul shared the love of music of that era- Big Band, Jazz, Swing and Boogie Woogie. They saw some of the greats including Louis Armstrong (from a fire escape in Minot), Stan Kenton, Woody Herman, Mary Ford, and Charlie Parker. Jim loved music so much that some friends in high school nicknamed him, “Boogie.”
Jim developed an incredible work ethic early on that served him well until he retired. He worked many jobs throughout his childhood and adolescence including cleaning a barbershop, shining shoes, delivering and selling newspapers, mowing lawns, fixing rail road tracks, cab driver, cement crew in the construction of Garrison Dam and construction of the VA Hospital in Minot.
Following high school, Jim attended Minot State University and St. Thomas University in St. Paul. He was in ROTC and worked throughout college. After three years of college, Jim attended the University of Montana Law School. Jim enjoyed Missoula and the beautiful Rocky Mountains while working and studying hard. He graduated from law school in 1955. He was forever grateful to his Aunt Ruth LeFleur for loaning him money to go to law school.
In 1956 he met his soulmate, Marlys Feeney from Velva, ND. She was a nursing student at Saint Joseph’s Hospital in Minot. Their love for each other blossomed and after a short engagement, they were married on a balmy and sunny February 16, 1957 at St. Leo’s Catholic Church in Minot.
Jim and Marlys made their first home in Great Falls, MT and said they were some of the happiest years together. He worked as an attorney for the Swanberg Law Firm while she worked part time as an R.N. They had their first two children, Patrick and Joseph there. Next, Jim was recruited by his friend and law school classmate to work for the US Department of Interior’s legal department in Minneapolis for a short stint. They decided big city life wasn’t for them and Jim opened his private law practice in Ellendale, ND in April 1963. Despite not being a native of Ellendale, his general practice thrived. He worked hard and put in 60+ hours a week. In 1965 was elected County Justice, a part-time position for two years. Their two daughters, Jennifer and Amy were born in Ellendale. He then was elected as Dickey County States Attorney; a part time position he held concurrently with his private law practice. He was reelected as States Attorney for three more consecutive terms; serving a total of sixteen years. He served on various boards including the Ellendale Hospital Board & Child Protection Board where he was active in protecting neglected and abused children. He was a lector at St. Helena’s Catholic Church and was a member of the Oakes Knights of Columbus. He also served as City Attorney of Edgeley. Jim skillfully and diligently advocated his client’s cases while being very congenial and dignified. He loved the law.
After living in Ellendale for twenty-five years, Jim was chosen as a judicial referee of the North Dakota South Central Judicial District in 1987 and moved to Bismarck with Marlys and their last child, Amy. Jim enjoyed drives along the beautiful Missouri River, walks at Sibley Park, and the rolling hills with his wife, Marlys. They lived out the rest of their lives in Bismarck.
As a judicial referee, he presided over hearings of juveniles accused of committing crimes or that had suffered abuse or neglect. He also at times removed minors from their homes temporarily or permanently, but always believed the child belonged in the home if possible. He also dealt with custody and child support hearings. Jim fully retired in 2002.
Jim was a voracious reader of newspapers, news magazines and biographies. He also was well-versed in politics at all levels. He enjoyed cheering on his beloved Montana Grizz Football team and Notre Dame and drove to many games with his sons, Marlys and his brothers over the years. He enjoyed traveling with Marlys and his children. They had many memorable family summer vacations in the station wagon and later trips with Marlys to NYC, Lake Havasu and a few unforgettable ones with his son Joseph and his wife, Joan through California to Vancouver and down through the Mexican Baja.
Jim’s youngest daughter, Amy, was the only child to settle in Bismarck or ND. Jim and Marlys were blessed to share so many precious memories the past twenty years with Amy and Sid’s family and vice versa. Amy was honored to be the primary care taker of Jim (and Marlys) in their later years when their health was ailing.
As much as Jim relished in his chosen profession, most important to him was being a loving and supportive husband, father and grandfather. He was “slow to anger and rich in kindness.” His sense of humor, outgoing personality, genuine interest in others and kindness certainly touched all those that met him. He truly was one of those people that everyone just loved. He will be dearly missed.
Jim is survived by his son, Patrick (Becky) Purdy and granddaughter, Hadley, Elk River, MN; son, Joseph (Joan) Purdy and granddaughters, Megan and Jessica and grandson, Joseph II, Boulder City, NV; daughter, Jennifer Purdy-Erdahl and grandson, Sean and granddaughter, Meghan, Blaine, MN; daughter, Amy (Dr. Sidney) and grandsons, James, Ben & Sam and granddaughter, Abby, Mandan; his younger brother, Dr. Paul Purdy, Minot and numerous nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Marlys (Feeney); his parents, Mark and Edna Purdy; his older brothers Michael and Mark Purdy and his older sister, Patricia Purdy.