Doctor and wife die within days of each other

Published 9:38 pm Wednesday, August 9, 2006

In life and in death Dr. Thomas Purser, III, and his wife, Jeanette, were inseparable, and will be missed by family, friends and patients alike, their children say.

Dr. Purser died last Wednesday and Jeanette Purser died Saturday.

Described by their children as the heart of Picayune, the Purser orthopedic clinic has been in business here for about 30 years.

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The Pursers’ love affair began when they were both 12 and living in McComb, said daughter Jeanene Caradonna. Thomas Purser saw his future bride for the first time in a soda shop and told a close friend who was with him that she was the girl he was going to marry.

The two later went separate ways but met again in Jackson as Thomas Purser was finishing his internship and Jeanette Purser was teaching disabled children, Caradonna said. Both Pursers took up professions that previous family members had filled. Thomas Purser was the third in a line of doctors while Jeanette Purser was third in a line of teachers following her mother and aunt, said daughter Vicky Quinn. The couple began dating after meeting again in Jackson, which lead to their marriage and the birth of their four children, Caradonna said.

The couple started the orthopedic practice in Picayune in 1976, Caradonna said. Jeanette Purser raised the children and taught on the side for a couple of years while Dr. Purser ran the family practice. Purser, who modeled his practice after the old time doctors he had grown up with, put patients as top priority, Quinn said.

“It was more about the people, it wasn’t about the medical stuff,” Quinn said.

The practice flourished in part to Dr. Purser’s devotion to it and Jeanette Purser’s devotion to helping people with long term-health, utilizing alternative medicine, said daughter Patricia Arthur.

Jeanette Purser also was an accomplished painter and an art show in Jackson on July 9 featured her work, Arthur said.

Kathy Tomei, who has worked at the family practice for about 30 years, said that Dr. Purser would stay at work until every patient was taken care of. Tomei also noticed how close the couple was and how they were always together.

“You don’t know how many people made the cliché they were ‘joined at the hip,’” Quinn said.

Well known in the community and well loved, even a trip to the Waffle House would earn the couple special treatment because the staff knew just what the couple would order, Caradonna said.

The couple did many things together such as ballroom dancing, fly fishing, tae kwon do, and things with the children while they were young such as tennis, Quinn said. The Purser children are grateful for all their parents had taught them including respect for others, modesty and to not be judgmental, Quinn said. After the children were grown, the couple devoted more of their lives to each other while making time for the grandchildren, Caradonna said.

As Jeanette Purser became ill, Dr. Purser’s greatest fear was that he would wake up and she would not be there any more. However, the children believe that Jeanette Purser would not have left this world without her husband, so he left first, Caradonna said.

“She couldn’t die without him dying,” Caradonna said. “The moment she died he was waiting for her and they left together.”

Caradonna said that since their parents died there have been patients calling the practice asking what they are going to do since the patients don’t want to go to another doctor.

Services for the Pursers will be held at 12 p.m. Saturday at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church. Visitation will be the same day, from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the church. The couple was survived by three daughters, Vicky Purser Quinn of Lusby, Md., Jeanene Purser Caradonna of Leesburg, Va., and Patricia Purser Arthur of Picayune; a son, Thomas Purser IV of Biloxi, and 11 grandchildren.