This memorial website was created in memory of our loved one, Strother Purdy Jr.. We will remember him forever.

Tributes are short messages commemorating Strother, or an expression of support to his closest family and friends. Leave your first tribute here, and others will follow.

Leave a Tribute

Recent Tributes
his Life
Obituary for Strother Beeson Purdy, Jr

Adventurer, scholar, writer, educator and family man Strother Beeson Purdy Jr, 88 years old, of Bridgewater, CT, died after a short illness on May 20, 2021. He is survived by his wife, Evelyne Acheson Purdy and his children, Alexandra Purdy Williams (John) of Katonah, NY, Strother Purdy III (Dinah Barthelmess) of Chicago, IL and former daughter-in-law Ann Jeannette Lu Purdy of Bridgewater, CT, his step daughters Sarah Acheson of New York City and Stephanie Acheson Berman (Dan) of Canton, MA, and his first wife, Janet James Purdy of Perth, Australia. He leaves grandchildren, Oliver Purdy Williams, Josephine Frances Purdy, Amelia Beeson Williams, Isaac Joshua Purdy, Elinor Emory Williams, Samuel Pierre Berman, and Luke Richard Berman. He was the son of Strother B. and Helen O’Ryan Purdy, and he was predeceased by his sister Patricia P. Wyman Goodhue. He also leaves his cousins, Tim Purdy and Ellie Webster and their families. 

Born in New York City, he grew up in Purdys, attending the Rippowam School, the Harvey School, Phillips Academy, Andover and Yale University (Class of 1954). He completed his Masters in English at Columbia University and his doctorate in English at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. His dissertation was on Henry James. After studying Sanskrit in India on a Fulbright Scholarship, he taught English at the American University in Beirut, then went to Marquette University in Milwaukee where he taught English, Linguistics and Film.

As a boy, he, his sister and his cousins took great joy in their Grandmother, Anne Beeson Purdy, who would host family parties at the family homestead in Purdys. Their Grannie was well-read and well-traveled. Among his many boyhood adventures he worked on the local North Salem farms, and rode the train with his rifle to play with friends.

While in college and grad school he pursued his passions for motorcycle racing and night climbing. In one of his books, his friend Edwin Sparn revealed their climbing of the George Washington Bridge, which resulted in some police activity. Always a race fan, his passion for Formula One racing and motorcycle riding was passed on to his children and even some grandchildren. A lifelong rider, on more than one occasion he was spotted exceeding the local speed limits on one of his sport bikes.

When returning from Beirut in 1964 he, his wife, and small daughter traveled overland in a VW Camper (named Mahmood) heading eastward through Syria, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and Hong Kong to Wisconsin. 

On their return they bought an abandoned 1880 home that had been moved stone by stone from another location. It was a beautiful, majestic house with a four-car garage, a rathskeller used for 16 and 8 mm movie viewing and graduate student seminars, a view of Lake Michigan, and was lovingly tended by both him and his wife.  

During his tenure at Marquette he took sabbatical years in Cambridge, England and Paris, France. Those years were wonderful cultural immersions for his family and great research opportunities for him.

He was not simply an English professor. He took great joy in doing things himself. He loved to teach anyone how to ride motorcycles and shoot skeet. In his homes he did all the electrical work, the plumbing, painting, roofing, and he heated the Bridgewater house with wood from his forest. He even felled a 100ft evergreen by himself with only the use of ropes to help him. 

The family moved to Bridgewater, Ct in 1981. He continued his life as a scholar and visiting professor at the New School and other colleges but also volunteered in his community, serving on the Inland Wetlands Commission, becoming an EMT and instructor for the Bridgewater Fire Department and then becoming a Paramedic. He worked as a paramedic in Danbury and New Britain. He also earned his pilot’s license, culminating with a proficiency in acrobatic flying.

In 2000 he married Evelyne Cerutti Acheson. They had a wonderful marriage of love and partnership, traveling and working together on many projects in the house and gardens and on various academic papers and lectures. He also started a business, The O’Ryan Collection, with his close friend, Geoffrey Purdy.

He was a lover of art and beauty. He was a staunch supporter of many art museums and liberal causes worldwide and while he knew none of the names of the flowers in Evelyne’s gardens he enjoyed and commented on their beauty. Sunsets were something he particularly enjoyed, especially when a golden light shone on the house and woods reminiscent of a Maxfield Parrish painting.

Knowledgeable in many languages and having traveled extensively, he was always willing to use someone’s native language with them, taught his children Latin, and finding that somewhat unsuccessful, he taught some of his grandchildren ancient Greek with far more success. He enjoyed giving lectures and happily showed slides of his travels in China to one of his granddaughters’ 3rd grade class.

His sense of humor, while a little incomprehensible to some, was strong and infectious. He kept a collection of cartoons in different languages cut out from various magazines on the refrigerator. He had a special place in his heart for bulldogs and posted pictures of ridiculously cute ones on the kitchen cabinets. 

He had a large film collection, film, books collection, and a collection of WWII era construction machines (Spot the excavator, and Bluto the Bulldozer) that he used around the property and an interest in many, many other things. He would show Laurel and Hardy movies at Christmastime, laughing himself to the point of tears.

Constantly thinking, reading, and inquiring, he had extensive files of notes for future projects, articles or papers to present at international conferences. 

His writings include A Hole the Fabric: Science, Contemporary Literature, and Henry James 1977, and numerous scholarly articles on James Joyce, and other topics. He contributed chapters on Sex in Film and Sex in Art to the first editions of Human Sexuality, the textbook used in a course taught at Stanford for over 30 years by Prof. Herant Katchadourian, a close friend.

Sundays at Marcus Dairy were a favorite for years. After admiring all the motorcycles and superbikes and chatting up fellow Ducati enthusiasts, it was time for a pancake breakfast with whomever had accompanied him that day. His passion for riding did not diminish with age and he was riding right up to the end.

He will be greatly missed. He embraced life and encouraged and supported others to do the same.

A memorial service will be held at his beloved home in Bridgewater. To honor his love of the Arts, make a donation in his memory to your favorite museum or cultural organization near you. 

Recent stories