Francis J. Purcell II, 73, Pa. antiques dealer


Francis J. Purcell II,  a Pennsylvania antiques dealer who specialized in 18th and 19th century fireplace mantels, English, Continental and American furniture, clocks, and garden furniture, died May 12, 2014, at his home in Delanco, N.J.

His son, Francis J. Purcell III, said Mr. Purcell died of complications of interstitial fibroses, a lung ailment. He was 73.

 “My father was the oldest recipient of a lung transplant at University of Pennsylvania Hospital and he did well. He was out gardening and doing antiques shows until this year,” Francis III said.

Mr. Purcell was born in Trenton on March 25, 1941. He graduated from Pennsbury High School in 1959 and attended Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. His first interest was cars. He worked at a Dairy Queen until he saved up enough money to buy a new Triumph TR3, a sports car, and drove it with a friend to Mexico City and back. “He loved the New Hope Car Show and looked forward to his trips to Pebble Beach to see the finest automobiles in the world,” said Francis III.

It was on a train from Trenton to New York when Mr. Purcell saw an 18th century house being burned down by local volunteer firefighters for practice and realized that there were things in old homes worth saving. Mr. Purcell borrowed his father’s car to investigate an old farmhouse that was about to be demolished. The contractor was willing to sell him the chip-carved fireplace mantel if he could have it out before noon, when the fire was to be set and the firefighters were expected to arrive.

Mr. Purcell realized he needed to learn more about antiques and took a job in 1962 with Arthur Vernay Antiques in New York City, later known as Vernay & Jussel. Soon he moved up from dusting furniture to selling it  At the same time, he joined the U.S. Army Reserve in New York and remained active until 1968.

In 1964, he married Victoria Pakyz, whom he had met at a dance. In 1966, Mr. Purcell opened his first antiques shop in an old mill in Titusville, N.J. He later moved his shop to Washington Crossing and then to New Hope to a house on River Road, where customers enjoyed his rose garden and views of the river. There he specialized in fireplace mantels, English, American and Russian furniture, Russian icons, and clocks. His clients included Winterthur, Colonial Williamsburg, and the White House. Because the New Hope property was on the floodplain, Mr. Purcell relocated his business to Philadelphia, opening his shop in Old City in 1996, where his son joined him in business.

 “I will always remember dad driving his station wagon with mother at his side and my sister and I in the back and a mantel strapped on top," said Francis III.

In addition to his son, Mr. Purcell is survived by his wife of 50 years, Victoria, his daughter May Lynn, and grandchildren Francis J. Purcell IV and Bill. He requested no funeral or memorial service.

Arrangements were made by Sweeney Funeral Home in Riverside. 

Contact Sam Wood at 215-854-2796 or Follow @samwoodiii on Twitter.

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