She went to bat for the chronically ill

Phyllis Purdham spent her life raising family, helping others

Phyllis Purdham spent her life raising family, helping others

July 25, 2004|by MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail will run "A Life Remembered." The story takes a look back at a member of the community who died in the past week through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Phyllis Arlene Purdham, who died July 17 at the age of 73. Her obituary appeared in the July 20 editions of The Morning Herald and The Daily Mail.

As Phyllis Purdham's life was ebbing away in a Johns Hopkins Hospital bed, her husband kept encouraging her to continue to fight just like her favorite boxer, Oscar de la Hoya.

"I told her over and over again that she was my champ with a crown on her head," Leon Purdham said.

He always will remember her courage as she underwent major heart surgery June 9 - it was to have been a very special birthday present for her husband of 43 years.


But her heart, weakened by childhood rheumatic fever, was unable to recover. Phyllis died July 17 at the age of 73.

The family gathered Friday to share memories, stories and pictures old and new as they began their own journey without Phyllis - wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.

An avid sports fan, Phyllis and her husband often watched football games - especially the Washington Redskins - and boxing matches - particularly those of de la Hoya. Unable to sit quietly through those events, Phyllis' enthusiasm often became quite vocal.

"She'd do a lot of yelling at her grandsons' games, too," said her daughter, Susan Grove.

Her son, Stephen Krumpe, said one of his more vivid memories of his mother always will be how she took care of people, both at home and at work.

"I don't know where she got the strength," he said.

Phyllis needed that strength as she raised five children, not to mention during her 24 years of work as a nursing assistant at both the Western Maryland Hospital Center and the Potomac Center. It was there that she cared for patients with chronic and catastrophic ailments.

"I once forewarned Phyllis about getting too involved, especially in the case of two boys she was caring for at Western Maryland," her husband said. "I told her she was going to get hurt, but she kept up with them."

Knowing there was no hope for their survival, Phyllis nonetheless went to great lengths to make their lives as normal as she could. Leon Purdham said his wife once made a ball out of foil, attached it to a string and a stick and showed one of the boys how to hit at it with a pencil.

"The boy swung and he swung, telling my wife he was going to swing at that ball until he finally hit it," Purdham said. The boy died later that night.

There were many other associations with patients, their families, staff and volunteers over the years, he said.

"She wrote to them and they wrote to her. And there were visits, too," Purdham said. "She cared deeply for all of them."

Her daughter, Judy Bullock, said her mother's friends called her their most trusted friend.

"She kept no secrets and told no secrets," she said.

Patricia Purdham said her mother always supported her and her siblings.

"But if one of us did something to anyone else, she'd let us know," she said.

As he began to ponder his life without Phyllis, Leon Purdham said he will miss so many things about their years together. He has only begun to feel the loss.

In all their years, they had their ups and downs, but vowed they'd always settle their differences before the day came to an end.

"And we always did," Purdham said.

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