[Transcript of interview with Naomi Purdy, recorded as part of the Springfield-Greene County Library District's 2010 Big Read. For more information contact the Library at 417-883-5366 or visit us on the web.]

Recorded as part of the Springfield-Greene County Library District's 2010 Big Read.

My name is Jennifer Purdy and I'm here interviewing my mother-in-law, Naomi Purdy.  Today's date is March 13, 2010.  And we're here today to discuss a little bit about my mother-in-law Naomi's family life, her parents, how they influenced the woman she is today, and we would also like to share a little bit about Naomi's husband who has passed, three years now, that's Vernon Purdy, and Naomi would like to share a little bit about the impact that Vernon has had on many people and especially on her life.  Naomi, if you could just tell me a little bit about your childhood and where your parents are from?

Well, my father was born in Mexico in a little place called San Juan de Los Lagos; it's near Mexico City.  We know very little bit about his early years and have never met anyone in his family.  In his early forties he came to the United States.  We believe he came holding on to the underside of a railcar.  My sister remembers him thinking as he was coming in, he kept thinking the words 'lo muerte, lo muerte' which means 'the death, the death'.  He was afraid of dying as he was coming in so we think he was actually hanging on to the underside of the railcar.  And he eventually moved to Denver, Colorado where he met and married my mother.  My mother was born in New Mexico.  She had a kind of a mixed background.  Her grandfather was a tracker and he married her grandmother at a very young age.  I believe she was about 12 years old when he married her.  She was Indian and my mother remembers her telling a story about how she wished that her husband would go hunting or something so she could go and play with the other little girls.

What was one of the things that your parents did that had the greatest impact in your life?

I think one of the things that has made the biggest difference in my life, and in my brother and sister's life, is the fact that they had a massive dedication to our education to our knowledge.  My father never had any formal education; perhaps he had a little bit of teaching to maybe about the second grade level.  My mother went to school 'til about the seventh grade and then she was removed from school in order to help with her parents' farm.  She was able to attend Bible school several years later for about two years.  But, despite the lack of their own education, or maybe because of it, both my parents were very strongly committed to the goal of having their children obtain a good education.  And we were placed in a non-Catholic, parochial school as soon as we were ready to start school.  Since my father had moved our three thousand dollar house out of the inner city to the outskirts of Denver, we walked about two miles to the public bus stop and then we would travel downtown where we would change buses and go the rest of the way to the school.  It was about an hour trip each way and one year my parents did decide to move into an apartment right next to the school and they just boarded up the house and moved us over there.  That kind of turned out to be too expensive and so we went back to using public transportation to get to and from the school until we finished our grade school education.  And then my father started driving us an hour to the high school that was part of this particular church school. And he did that for about two years until that also became just undoable and so we finished our education at the public school after that.

Sounds like they would do just about anything as long as they were leading you all to continue your education.

Yes they were.

No matter what the cost.

They were willing to do whatever it took for us to have an education, and because of that my sister entered beauty school while she was still in high school and has been a hairdresser for many, many years.  She has had all three of her children attend college, the last one is just now finishing up her degree and she's also had the opportunity to travel around the world, so many different places.

Just like yourself.

Yes, to some degree.

Yeah, some degree, right.

Yes, yes.  I had the opportunity to attend college as well I got a scholarship to a small school in South Dakota.  It was the first time in my life I had ever left home and I was scared to death, but I did go to that school, and when I finished there I came back to Denver and actually had been given the opportunity while I was there to attend the University of Minnesota Medical School under a five year program.  I really hated Minnesota, so I came back to Denver and thought I would never get that opportunity again.  And the door opened up one more time and so this time I thought if I'm gonna' fail, I'm gonna' fail at something big.

But you didn't fail. 

I didn't.

Quite the opposite.

Well, I applied to the University of Colorado, it was the only medical school I applied to and thankfully I was accepted and first person in my family to attend college and the first person to attend medical school.  My brother also went on to attend the University of Colorado and got his degree there.  So, we have all been blessed by my parents' great commitment to education and to hard work and because of that we've had opportunities they would have never even dreamed of.

Right. But they actually paved the way for you.

Absolutely!  My mother even though she never worked a job that paid much more than minimum wage was able to save money and she has contributed to every single one of her grandchildren's college education.

Well, that's fantastic.  How many years has it been since that you've practiced medicine now? 

Oh, 26, I think. 

So that actually lead, your parents' example has lasted throughout your lifetime and also had an impact on future generations, your children, and that's great.


That's a great example you had.

Yes I was blessed to have a set of parents like I had.  Both of them wanted, the other great gifts that they gave to me was they never once told me I couldn't do it, no matter what I told them I was going to try.  It never crossed their minds that it wasn't possible and because of that it never crossed my mind that it wasn't possible.

That's great.  Now, we'd like to shift the conversation just a little bit.  I'd like to ask you Naomi to tell me a little bit about Vernon Purdy, your husband.

Well, Vernon was born in Strong City, Kansas.  His father was a prison guard and because of this the family moved a lot and as a result my husband spent most of his childhood as the new kid in the school that never quite fit in.  His parents provided for him, but they had no concept at all about you should wear a certain kind of clothes so he always never quite looked like any of the other kids and never quite fit in.  He didn't feel very good about himself and because of that he did very poorly in school for the first nine years of his education.  He was taken to several psychologists.  There was a lot of attempts to help him, but he was rebellious, he was angry, and so he was an “F” student in the ninth grade.

Which coming from someone like myself, who knew Vernon later in life, that's incredibly shocking.


Because I know the amount of education he received and the work he did and his, the quality of work and quality of grades he received later in life was quite the opposite. So that's very interesting.

Well something happened to him in the ninth grade, two things, that changed his life forever.  The first thing is that he had a science teacher who realized he had an aptitude for math and entered him in several competitions and he suddenly learned he was very good at something.  Because of that, in one year he went from an “F” to an “A” student. 


To my knowledge he never made less than an “A” after that.


And the second thing that happened to him is that he had, he was a voracious reader and he read many, many books.  He had done a lot of reading on eastern religions, and mysticism. He read "Mein Kampf", but he also started to read the Bible.  Now he at that point felt he was an atheist but with the help of two pastors there in that little town in Wyoming, he started to ask questions and became a Christian.

And at what age was that Naomi?

That was in the ninth grade.  And following that he went on to get his degree. He ended up going to Bible school.  His father kicked him out of the house one time because he had planned for him to be a mining engineer and so he received no support at all while he was in Bible school.  But he went, and he went on to get three Masters and a PhD.

And when was it during all this education that you two met?

We met when he was in Bible school.  He had come to my church as the temporary student pastor for the summer. And I actually was cleaning out the house that he was going to live in when I [garbled].

And I did hear he had to ask you a couple of times, before you said yes.

Yes, there were a few times that, yeah, he asked a few times and I had just never met anybody like Vernon before who was just passionate about his beliefs, and passionate about his love of learning and teaching.

We only have a couple of minutes left and I really wanted to ask you about the impact that Vernon had on others.  Can you tell us a little bit about who impacted Vernon's life and how he ended up impacting so many others?

Well I think there were a lot of people who impacted his life but I would say that I would have to say that science teacher in ninth grade and those two pastors were willing to sit and talk with him on tough theological issues, and he went on to impact so many other people.  He pastored several churches.  He taught for fourteen years in a number of different schools.  He had the opportunity to become a published author, although that happened, the actual publication of the book occurred after his death.  He wrote and published a book called the "The Christology of John Macquarrie".  He had a huge impact on so many of his students.  I think if I had the chance I would personally like to thank those teachers and those pastors who were willing to believe in him when there wasn't much that they could see that was of great value, but it was there.

It definitely was there, because like I said, knowing him later there was so much that just shone from him.  He could communicate better than anyone I have ever known.  And I've definitely come across quite a few people who just praised him, and really, really miss him.  And you keep saying how he taught for fourteen years, is it, but the amount of people he was just friends with, whether it was students or acquaintances, people from church, people you would meet, he definitely had a knack for making friends, am I right?

Absolutely!  I used to love to say it, he was a value-added person, because no matter who he met he tried to add value to them and he was always saying this person is the best, this person is the best.

Any final words about Vernon that you'd like to share in the last couple of seconds?

He was extraordinary.


There won't be anyone like him.

Well thank you very much Naomi. 

Thank you.

Recorded as part of the Springfield-Greene County Library District's 2010 Big Read.  For more information contact the library at 417-883-5366 or visit us on the web at thelibrary.org.

[Transcript of interview with Naomi Purdy, recorded as part of the Springfield-Greene County Library District's 2010 Big Read. For more information contact the Library at 417-883-5366 or visit us on the web.]