Vonnie Purnell (1927-2015)

Vonnie Purnell loved art and antiques. She loved to cook and share. She was affectionate and hospitable. She was cheerful and faithful.
Vonnie was born on May 28, 1927 into a family with three older brothers. They lived in Wilson County near what is now Cedars of Lebanon State Park. When Vonnie was 11 years old they moved to the town of Lebanon where she graduated from High School. After graduation she gained employment at Commerce Union Bank in Lebanon.
In 1952, her friend Millie was dating a boy named Ralph. Ralph had a friend named George; you see where this is going, don’t you? Millie asked Vonnie to go on a blind double date with her and her boyfriend. Ralph asked his friend George to go on a blind double date with his girlfriend’s friend. They said “yes.” They enjoyed the movie, but also got to know each other. George called her a week later to ask her out again. In George’s words, that’s how “we started out!”
They dated that summer, but the Navy called, sending George off to sea. He was first commissioned as an officer and then boarded THE USS WASP, an aircraft carrier. George sailed from the east coast traveling around the world and nine months later arrived back into the port of San Diego. During those nine months they continually wrote each other and as soon as George was given leave he came home to wed the woman he loved. On Wednesday, May 12, 1954, they married in the College Street church of Christ building. Since his leave wasn’t for a long period of time, they loaded the car to begin their marriage and a trip across America to return to his station in San Diego! Perhaps this was the beginning of or at least a portion of what fueled their love for travel! They would have no way of knowing as newlyweds that throughout their marriage they would visit all 50 states, as well as Canada and Mexico.
The next decades passed with them living in an apartment in Nashville, then moving to Hermitage Estates, and finally in 1973, building their house on Andrew Jackson Parkway. The family grew with the births of Vickie and Lee Ann. George’s interest in real estate became his career, while Vonnie’s care for family consumed her life.
Vonnie Purnell loved God, His church, her family and friends. Her faith was lived out even in her plans as a young, single woman. She desired to marry a faithful Christian which was also a mutual conviction held by George. No doubt this was one of the reasons they walked in step throughout their 61 years. Vonnie served faithfully in the Lord’s church throughout her life. One of our ladies tells of coming home from the hospital when her husband had heart troubles only to find their smiling children reporting that Mrs. Vonnie had brought by fried chicken and homemade cookies. She also shared the memory of Vonnie handpainting a different picture for each widow at a widow’s dinner in 1976. Another lady described Vonnie as the most gracious lady she had ever met in her life. Graciousness would describe both her generosity and her spirit. She has made mountains of mints and gallons of punch for bridal or baby teas throughout the years. She has created beautiful bulletin boards and thoughtful gifts. But perhaps greatest of all, she touched lives. She had a gift of growing strong, healthy, beautiful relationships whether it was with family, friends or church family. Many of us felt like we had a “special” relationship with Vonnie.
We love her family and offer our prayers and support to them. This year George and Vonnie would have celebrated their 61st year of marriage. The bride, with whom he traveled across country, wrote letters from around the world, and walked side by side through all seasons, was a treasure. Their daughters Vickie and Lee Ann praise their mother for her deep, genuine love they received all their life.
We loved her dearly and she will be greatly missed, but by faith we believe things are better for her than ever.