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Anno Domini: A time when manners were more important
June 18, 2015 Jerry Purvis   

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“They brought them dead sons from the war, And daughters whom life had crushed, And their children fatherless, crying – All, all are sleeping, sleeping, sleeping on the hill.”

I’ve always enjoyed reading the poignant words of Edgar Lee Masters in his classic Spoon River Anthology.

My father wasn’t a native of the area. He was born and raised in Cottonwood, Texas, just outside of Cross Plains. The Purvis family cemetery is still there, as I continue receiving news of aunts and uncles who have joined the passing parade. My father returned home in 1995 to become part of a larger reality to which I often look forward.

Harry Purvis came to western Nebraska because of the U.S. Army, who sent him here as a guard at Camp Scottsbluff during World War II. During a night in town for a dance, he met a young lady named Betty Neeley, whose family goes back to Robert F. Neeley, one of Gering’s early civic leaders.

Harry and Betty were married after the war and moved to California, where both I and my older sister were born. And when Robert G. Neeley, my grandfather, died in 1959, the family moved back here and Betty went to work in her father’s business, City Abstract Company.
Harry always liked to tinker with things and tried a number of jobs in his early years here before finding his calling as a locksmith, which he kept doing until he retired.

Perhaps one of the best lessons he passed along was simply being a gentlemen. He was always soft-spoken but one time he even apologized for me when I’d swear in mixed company.

I was a dumb kid then. Today, it’s my hope that all my conversations will be G-rated (or maybe PG) and have something important to say. That’s what I remember about Harry. It’s those kinds of little things I see more and more in my own life – including a love of big bands. So in a real way, he will always be with me.
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