Mr. Henry E. Purnell, SeniorAugust 5, 1943 ~ July 1, 2017 (age 73)
Henry Earl Purnell, best known as "Big Red," was born on August 5, 1943, in Trenton, N J to the late Earl Purnell and Gloria Violet Purnell. He was the eldest of three siblings. From a very early age, Earl had a larger than life personality to which many people gravitated. As a supportive and loyal friend, he was the nucleus of many friendships and family relationships. Earl had a flair for fashion, was an advent music collector and a world traveler. He traveled to many countries, such as Thailand-which he visited several times, Germany, Brazil, Belgium, Denmark, Montreal, and the Dominican Republic.
Earl graduated from Trenton Central High School in 1961. Shortly after high school, he enlisted in the Air Force but his military career was cut short due to medical reasons. After being honorably discharged from the military, Earl worked at the Ford Motor Company in Edison, N J and worked at the Byers Men Shop in Trenton, NJ. At the age of 19, he met and had a long term relationship with Catherine Lewis and helped raise her four young daughters. Later, Earl had two daughters of his own.
In his late twenties, Earl moved to New York City and pursued a career in the music industry as a producer and promoter. While living there, he met and became close friends with Gil Scott-Heron and Bobby Womack. With his lovable personality, he constantly met new people and made friends across the country and the world.
In his mid-forties, Earl fell on hard times as he battled a drug addiction. It was during this time that he began attending Macedonia Baptist Church, where he rededicated his life to Christ and was baptized. Soon after, he entered rehab and remained clean ever since. In 1996, at the age of 53, while going through the process of cleaning up his life, Earl applied to Adelphi University School of Social Work. There, he earned not one, but two degrees-a bachelor of science (BS) degree in social welfare (which he graduated with honors) and a master's of social work (MSW) degree. In 2003, he obtained a certificate of completion in field instruction (SIFI) from New York University.
Earl then spent the rest of his life counseling and helping people who struggled with substance abuse and mental illness. His personal experiences and living testimony allowed him to be very successful in this area. His professional career in the field of social work included various positions at numerous agencies, such as FEGS Health and Human Services, NYC Link Program as a transitional support counselor and field instructor; the New York City Department of Health as a social worker; St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital as a substance abuse clinician; and H.E.L.P. USA as a program director. In 2011, he was diagnosed with Lymphoma, which he gracefully battled, and was in remission.
On Saturday, July 1, 2017, while commuting home from work, Earl passed away peacefully on a New Jersey Transit train. Earl was preceded in death by his mother and father, common law wife Catherine Lewis, and 2nd wife Angie Purnell. To cherish his memory, he leaves a wife Angela Osbourne; two daughters, Shellie Purnell-Brown (Shawn) and Marni Shannon Purnell; five step daughters, Andrea Ingram (James), Tanya Brown (Olugbala), Robin Lewis, Shawn Lewis, and Tracey Ann Osbourne; a brother Stefan L. Purnell and a sister Gloria Alston; an aunt, Lutee Livingston; eight grandchildren: Nicholus James, Jamar Lewis, Korraun Lewis, Stanley Derry (Tasha), Latifa Miller (Marcus), Asha Lewis, Olugbala Lewis (Tina), and Shania Lewis; two nieces, Shana Alston and Megan Alston Balkcom; two nephews, Robert E. Alston, II and Stefan Purnell, Jr.; two god sons Sultan Mohamed, and Micah Excell; lifelong friends, Dr. John Fizer and Billy Bryant; a special companion, Tariqka Grambrell; and a host of cousins and dear friends.