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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Joanne Edwards Purnell, 83

WILMINGTON — Joanne Edwards Purnell, 83, of Wilmington, North Carolina, died of Pancreatic Cancer on April 14, 2023.

Joanne was born on January 14, 1940 to Emmett Leslie Edwards and Neva Kinlaw Edwards in Kinston, NC. She spent her earliest years in Scuffleton, NC, where her father owned a General Store. She often told stories of how her father would barter goods with his local clients when they were a little short of cash, accepting chickens, eggs, ducks or other farm products in exchange for the supplies & sundries the locals needed. Sadly, the store was destroyed by fire and the family relocated to Ayden, NC.

Once in Ayden, Joanne was surrounded by her mother’s large and gregarious Kinlaw clan where she enjoyed a classic southern childhood filled with siblings, cousins, hijinx, sweet tea and Sunday School. Joanne matriculated through Ayden’s schools, graduating from Ayden High School in 1958. She then enrolled in East Carolina College, now East Carolina University. After graduating with her BA in Education, Joanne moved to Portsmouth, Va to begin her teaching career.

In March of 1961, Joanne was set up on a blind date with a charming Navy Lt., Roland “Ron” Purnell. They soon fell in love and were married on December 2, 1962. Joanne and Ron welcomed their only child, a son, John David Purnell, in May of 1968. Joanne paused her teaching career to care for her newborn, and always described her time as a stay-at-home mother as her happiest. When David went to preschool, Joanne returned to the classroom. The Purnells were a close-knit family, taking many trips together, often bringing Joanne’s much beloved mother along. In the autumn of 1975 Joanne, Ron, and David relocated to Salisbury, MD to be closer to Ron’s widowed mother.

Joanne enjoyed life in MD, continuing her career in the Wicomico County School System, tending to her flowers, playing endless Bridge games, singing in her church choir, and participating in community theater. She even found time to complete her Master of Ed. at Salisbury University. Joanne retired from teaching in 2000, and as previously agreed upon, she and Ron moved back to NC. Wanting to be close to family, (but not too close) they settled in Wilmington. They both immediately threw themselves into getting to know their new hometown and were involved in many local organizations including the Newcomers Club, Porter’s Neck Country Club, Thursday Morning Music Club, & Wilmington Symphony. Joanne, always an avid singer, belonged to several singing groups over the years, most recently the Wilmington Choral Society.

Joanne was predeceased by her parents, Emmett and Neva Edwards; and loving husband Roland “Ron” Purnell. She is survived by her son David Purnell (Jessica O’Neill), of Wilmington; grandchild Lani O’Neill, of Corvallis, OR; sister Sylvia Edwards, of Atlanta GA; brother Christopher Edwards (Barbara), of Stafford VA; niece Courtney Shillington (Alex), of Atlanta GA; grand-nieces Carson and Oliva Shillington, of Atlanta Ga; many cousins, and her last surviving Aunt, Shirley Dennis, of Ayden, NC. Joanne also leaves behind her beloved Westie, Maisie and bob-tail kitten Sofie.

Interment will be private. In lieu of flowers please consider donating to your local Humane Society or no-kill animal shelter. David and Jessica would like to thank the staff of the Lower Cape Fear Life Care Center, for their kindness in Joanne’s final hours.

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