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AROUND TOWN: Linda Purl's best role was personal

August 23, 2013 Updated: August 25, 2013 at 11:35 am
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The Purl family: Ray and Marshie Purl, front, with daughters Linda, left, and Mara. 071514 Photo by Linda Navarro, The Gazette
"Grief turns out to be a place none of us know until we reach it."

Marshelline "Marshie" Patton Purl was enraptured, her face radiant as her actress daughter, Linda, brought to life Joan Didion's words from "The Year of Magical Thinking."

The book and Broadway play chronicles Didion's struggle to cope after her husband and writing partner, John Gregory Dunne, died at their dinner table at a time they were coping with the serious illness of their daughter.

Life changes in the instant.

The ordinary instant.

It was Linda Purl's finest moment, a one-woman show performed for a one-woman audience, her terminally ill mother. The fact that it was a stage performance made sense: The Purls are lifelong art philanthropists.

Friends and family were there, but for Linda, they were almost invisible. With that one exception.

On a quiet Sunday afternoon, July 14, Linda, her sister Mara Purl, an award-winning writer, and their father, Raymond "Ray" Purl, shared what Mara called "the Purl family tradition of theater."

Instead of family performances in their stunning home filled with art and flowers and books, this was an intimate theater experience at the Colorado Springs Conservatory that was filled with family and invited friends. No matter the size of the audience, the elegant, genteel woman in the front row seemed to have a spotlight hovering right above her.

Just five days later, July 19, the words from Linda Purl's tour de force performance came true as Marshie Purl died peacefully, with her family at her side.

And in Didion's words:

"A single person is missing for you, and the whole world is empty."

Marshie and Ray Purl had traveled the globe, living in Asia and Japan where she was co-founder of The School for Western Customs and Manners for Japanese women during the World War II Occupation. She had studied ballet, been an actress and model, co-founded the Tokyo Theatre for Children and taught classical ballet to young Japanese girls.

During the couple's more than 70 years together, the arts and arts education were important - actually crucial - to the Purl family, Mara shared with guests. Their philanthropies focused on the arts, including the Colorado Springs Conservatory, where The Purl Dance Studio was unveiled on the day of the celebration.

Also a birthday tribute to Marshie: The celebratory event planned by Linda Weise and Vicki Dimond wouldn't have been complete without birthday cake and a "Happy Birthday" serenade.

Said Marshie quietly, her eyes shining, "I'm looking around and there are all your marvelous faces."

The most marvelous of those faces, she said, was still Ray, her husband of almost 73 years, and she laid her hand on his knee. "Thank you," he said softly as they shared their moment.

Marshie said that when she was just a teen, she took one look at that handsome young man and told her father, "Daddy, there's a man I saw today. When I'm old enough I want to marry someone just like him."

And she did.

In the Purl family tradition, a private memorial for Marshie Purl will be an afternoon of art and literature, of theater and music, of dance and close friends at the family home, Purlieu.

For more about Marshie Purl's life:

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