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Official Obituary of

Carl Monroe Purcell

September 6, 1928 ~ February 8, 2024 (age 95) 95 Years Old
Obituary Image

Carl Purcell Obituary

Carl Monroe Purcell
September 6, 1928 - February 8, 2024

Carl Monroe Purcell, 95, Michigan City, Indiana, passed away on Thursday, February 8th 2024 at Trail Creek Place. 

Carl was born on September 6, 1928, in Charleston, Illinois, to the late Carl Purcell and Dorothy (Blair) Purcell. 

The family soon moved to Long Beach, Indiana where Carl spent his childhood until he graduated from Elston High School. Upon graduation, he was drafted into the United States Army. He described that experience as the “worst year of his life,” but it ended up being a blessing in disguise as he learned how to take photographs while stationed in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey with a $125 4x5 Crown Graphic camera that he begged his grandmother to help him purchase before he left. This skill was one that would open doors to an incredible career. After completing  his bachelor’s degree at Indiana University, he was hired by the National Education Association where he covered major stories as a photojournalist including the march on Selma where Martin Luther King delivered the “How Long, Not Long” speech and many other key moments in the civil rights movement. There’s even a statue of Carl in the front hall of the MLK Museum in Montgomery, Alabama.

In addition to working as a freelance photographer, he went on to work for other government agencies including the Peace Corps where he served as the director of photography, the US Agency for International Development where he documented Americans working in under-developed countries, and for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency where he covered natural disasters and documented climate change. Through his photos, he brought the truth to light, fought for social justice, and otherwise brought beautiful, exotic locales to many who would never otherwise see them. He traveled almost 4 million miles to 100 countries. He’s the author of five books (3 of which were co-authored with his then wife and partner, Ann Purcell) countless newspaper and magazine columns, and his work has been featured in Life, Look, Parade, Holiday and National Geographic among many other notable magazines. You’ve likely seen one of his photos if you recall the very first “Forever” stamp of the Statue of Liberty juxtaposed with the American flag. In 2019, Carl donated his vast collection of photographs (captured on slides) to his alma mater (Indiana University) to be used for research and study. Among the donated photos was intimate coverage of John F. Kennedy’s funeral and other historical moments.   

Surviving are his nieces and nephews, Catherine Berkenfield, Emily Purcell, Christopher Purcell, Michael Purcell, Lee Purcell, and Julia Gregory, who cared for him until his death. Also surviving are two former wives, Ann (Frederick) Purcell and Carol (McIntyre) Purcell. Carl was preceded in death by his parents; nephew, Andrew Purcell; siblings, Blair Purcell and Lee Purcell; and former wife, Rosemary Collins. 

His family will host a private celebration of life dinner and asks that anyone who wants to send flowers or make a donation, please take a photo instead and think of Carl, who’s off on his next adventure.

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