Jeannette Miller Dunn Purrington
Published 4:57 pm Friday, May 5, 2017
FRANKLIN — Jeannette Miller Dunn Purrington, 100, died in Vienna, Virginia, on May 4, 2017.
She was born on Jan. 5, 1917, in the William Arrington Dunn home in Scotland Neck, North Carolina, the eldest of three daughters of Ashby Wood Dunn, a Scotland Neck lawyer, and Jeannette Miller Daniel of Weldon, North Carolina.
Mrs. Purrington, known as “Jean” or “Jeanne Miller,” grew up in Scotland Neck in the midst of a large, extended family, and graduated from Scotland Neck High School in 1934 as class president. She attended Meredith College in Raleigh, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and Harcum College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, where her mother’s cousin was president.
She was an award-winning short story writer by age 11 and a talented artist. She studied voice and art in college, and later sang and modeled professionally for a short time in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and Richmond, Virginia.
She was surrounded by lawyers in childhood and developed a love of reading and writing. Her father, grandfathers and uncles were prominent lawyers and judges in Halifax and Pitt counties in eastern North Carolina.
Her ancestors emigrated from Scotland and England in the 1600s. Family members have lived in eastern Virginia and North Carolina for over 250 years, and one ancestor represented Northampton County in the Provincial Congresses that framed the North Carolina Constitution and the Halifax Resolves in 1776.
Mrs. Purrington was born when Woodrow Wilson was president, just prior to the United States’ entry into World War I. Her life spanned a century and had notable historical breadth. As an example, in childhood she knew her great-grandfather Captain Charles Goodall Snead from Fluvanna County, Virginia, who had served in the Army of Northern Virginia and been close enough to General Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Fredericksburg to hear General Lee speak to his subordinates.
Born before the ratification of the 19th Amendment granting American women the right to vote, she cast her ballot in the 2016 Presidential election, the first in which a woman appeared on a major party ballot. On Jan. 5, 2017, her 100th birthday, she received a birthday card from President Obama and the First Lady.
In June 1942, she married Roliff Holmes Purrington, also a Scotland Neck native. The couple had two children in Roanoke, Virginia, where Mr. Purrington was an executive with the Bank of Virginia. They moved from Roanoke to Franklin, Virginia, in 1951 when Mr. Purrington started an automobile business there. Mrs. Purrington lived in Franklin for 60 years, until 2011, when she moved to Northern Virginia to live with her daughter’s family.
In Franklin, Mrs. Purrington was a stalwart member of the Emmanuel Episcopal Church choir, as its chief soloist, for 30 years. She was a longtime member of the Franklin Music Study Club, the Emmanuel Episcopal Church Women’s Circle and the Franklin Woman’s Club.
She had a fine sense of humor, a gentle, accepting spirit, a special positive energy, and flashes of keen intelligence until the end of her life.
Mrs. Purrington was predeceased by her husband of 42 years in 1984; and by her two younger sisters, Kate Dunn Weaver Barrow and Sarah Dunn Pope, aged 93 and 92, in 2010 and 2013, respectively.
She is survived by her son Roliff Holmes Purrington of Houston, Texas; and her daughter, Jeannette Purrington Twomey (Dan) of Vienna; three grandchildren, John Holmes Twomey, Robert Daniel Twomey (Leah O’Brien) and Katherine Twomey Allen (Winn); two great-grandchildren, James Allen and Jasper Twomey; her nieces, Florence Stacy Weaver of Winston-Salem, and Sallie Pope Reamer of Wilmington, North Carolina; and her longtime, devoted caregiver and friend, Isatu Bangura Fofanah.
The funeral will be at noon on Monday, May 8, at Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Franklin, followed by a reception in the Parish Hall. Burial will be next to her husband in the Old Trinity Episcopal Church Cemetery in Scotland Neck, N.C., an hour south of Franklin.
The family requests donations in lieu of flowers to the Emmanuel Episcopal Church Endowment Fund and the Alzheimer’s Association.
Wright Funeral Home, Franklin; www.wrightfuneralhome.org.