World War II veteran to celebrate 100th birthday 

Howard Purdy and his daughter, Cheri Purdy, 58, pose before a bulletin board at Altrusa House showing pictures of Howard’s life.
Photo by Ronnie Lovler

This Memorial Day will be a big day for the Purdy family.  May 29 is a national holiday, but it is also the day family patriarch Howard Purdy will turn 100 years old.  

Multiple celebrations are planned for this four-generation household; a family gathering with children, grandchildren and even some great grandchildren coming into Gainesville to mark the occasion. Altrusa House, an adult daycare health program where Howard Purdy goes most days, is hosting a big celebration. 

Purdy doesn’t talk much now, but said he is looking forward to the upcoming festivities.  

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“Who wouldn’t be excited,” he said, adding that he is “looking forward to a big cake.”  

He will get two cakes – one with family on the day of his birthday, and another on May 30 when the festivities will move to Altrusa House, where church leaders, neighbors, friends and Altrusa House officials will be on hand.  

They are getting ready now at Altrusa House where Howard likes to look at the display that shows pictures of him from throughout his life as provided by daughter, Cheri Purdy, 58. Images of Howard taking part in Altrusa House activities are also on display. 

Howard Purdy will celebrate his 100th birthday on May 29.
Photo by Ronnie Lovler World War II veteran Howard Purdy will celebrate his 100th birthday on Memorial Day.

“Everyone is happy about Dad making it to 100,” Cheri said. “As my brother commented, ‘I see each year my Dad makes it, the greater are my chances to do the same.’” 

Cheri cares for her father in the home he built for his family in 1959 when he moved to Gainesville. Since then, Howard has lived nowhere else. 

The birthday celebration will begin with family members taking Dad out to breakfast at a still-to-be-determined location on the day of the event then they will share a big meal at home  

Cheri has tried to piece together the details of her dad’s life as best she could, since she said her father never talked much about his past.  

He joined the Navy during World War II from 1942 to 1945, serving as a machinist and earning the rank of Machinist First Class, before being honorably discharged.  

“After marrying our mother, he interviewed for a job with Sperry Rand in what was then home in Chester, Pennsylvania,” she said. “The job was in Gainesville. He and my mother looked around here and decided to build a home here.” 

Howard worked as a machinist until he retired at the age of 80, Cheri said. In his later years, he also worked at the University of Florida Solar House and with mechanical engineering students, showing them machine shop operations and practices.  

Cheri said her dad retired so late in life because he believed in work and liked to work.  

“He was a Depression-era baby,” Cheri said. “Growing up during the Depression, his father had him chopping wood and selling vegetables to make ends meet.” 

Howard had a different answer for why he worked so long. “Money,” he said, making the universal hand sign for cash.  

At Altrusa House, one of Howard’s favorite places to spend time is in the attached garden with its gazebo and plaque honoring veterans, though he’s a little more scarce now because it is “too hot.” 

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Happy Birthday and thank you for your service, Mr. Purdy!