Volume 77 / Number 32 Jan. 9 - 15, 2008
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

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Marion Purvey as a young woman

Marion Purvey, 85, one super who really was super

By Albert Amateau

Marion Purvey, the beloved super of a residential building on W. Fourth St., where she lived for more than 50 years, and a former Board of Elections poll watcher in the Village, died at home on Dec. 22 at the age of 85.

“She was a supportive friend and neighbor to all the tenants — she’d feed your cats when you were out of town, gather your mail and even send it on to you wherever you were,” said Gloria Sylvestro, a resident of the building at 136 W. Fourth St.

Marion Purvey’s devotion to the welfare of the building between MacDougal St. and Sixth Ave. was recognized in a 1970 New York Times article.

“Early each morning she emerges from her basement apartment to practice a dying art: she polishes the brass on the front door of the…30-family building. She washes the front door windows. She hoses down the sidewalk right to the curb every day. … The lobby is spotless, the hallways sparkle, light bulbs and worn-out faucet washers are replaced, it seems to tenants, instantaneously,” the article by David K. Shipler said.

In addition to being a great superintendent for 54 years, she was an excellent cook and had barbecues for tenants in the summer with ribs and beans in the backyard, said Jane Heil, a neighbor and an admirer.

When the neighborhood polling place was in New York University’s old Loeb Student Center (site of the current Kimmel Center), neighbors didn’t have to remember their election district number, they just looked for Purvey, who was always on duty during elections, Sylvestro recalled.

“Our building was always safe. Marion kept an alert eye out for strangers. Just her being there made tenants feel safe,” Sylvestro said. Purvey loved her dogs and usually had two. “Bobby was one of her all-time favorites and she never quite got over his death a few years ago,” Sylvestro said.

About five years ago when her age began to slow her down, her nephew, Bill Wall, came to share the basement apartment and to give her a hand with the heavier duties.

“She was a strong lady but I helped with taking out the garbage and things like that,” Wall said. He took over the bulk of the work when Purvey’s deteriorating cardiovascular system made it too difficult for her to carry on. He became the super about a year ago.

Purvey required assisted living and spent some time in the Village Nursing Home last year and later at a nursing home in Queens. But she came home shortly before her death.

Born Marion Wall in Philadelphia, she married Leroy Purvey, a maintenance worker at N.Y.U. He died in 1962.

Perazzo Funeral Home, 199 Bleecker St., was in charge of arrangements.

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