Purcell Jones

The Giver and the Gift 


Purcell was a counselor at Camp Morehead in the 1940s and became assistant director in 1957. In 1959 he purchased the Camp from Pat Crawford and he and Miss Helen went to work. Camp Morehead would become their year-round mission, marketing the camp during the winters promoting Carteret County and Camp Morehead’s summer adventures and character building experiences for thousands of young men and women until 1995. Today the Camp Morehead family remains tied to the Camp through their love for him and one another, and the shared memories of their growing-up years there. They will all say today that Capt. Purcell’s deep and abiding love has followed them throughout their lives.  Even now, as the sounds of laughter have faded the stories linger, echoes of happy days, a testament to Purcell’s love of the outdoors and young people. During the last days and weeks of his life as Purcell combed through pictures and reminders of those days of Camp Morehead, he would say over and over, “I’ve had a good life …”

Parents did not bring their children to the Capt. to learn how to sail or clam or swim, but rather they made sure they came to learn about life. They knew (many of them as campers a generation before) their young sons and daughters would grow to be stronger, kinder men and women because of their summers here. And they were not disappointed. Purcell instilled in each of the campers by his example, an indelible touch of kindness for one another, a sense of service and caring for others and an appreciation for the coast that has spanned generations. His influence has shaped generations of community leaders, teachers, coaches and professionals of every field who have been forever mindful of their summers at Camp Morehead and their lifelong friendships with Capt. Purcell.  

His love for the outdoors continued throughout his life. Purcell loved golf and served as the president of the Morehead City Country Club where he and Helen were awarded The Order of the Longleaf Pine by Governor James B. Hunt, Jr. Purcell was an active member of the club and with Helen’s help they created the Seafood Tournament that would eventually be the foundation of Ducks Unlimited in Carteret County. Ducks Unlimited locally and statewide saw him as the “father of DU” on the coast as he dreamed up events and Miss Helen would work to make them happen.

Purcell loved winter, cold northerly winds and rafts of geese, duck blinds, camo jackets and his old guns. He hunted with friends all over the world but his favorite place was Canada where he became “family” to strangers who were drawn to him like all who ever knew him.  For decades, come October, he packed his van with gifts to carry to those in need there. Purcell was giving, always.

Purcell Jones became one of the state’s most respected waterfowl art and decoy collectors, building a massive decoy collection from up and down the Mid-Atlantic. Purcell played a pivotal role in the creation of the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art in Salisbury, Maryland, by releasing his agreement with Lem and Steve Ward (famed carving brothers of Crisfield) to purchase their collection, realizing the need for those world-recognized decoys to stay close to home, honoring their own place and time in the history of waterfowling on the Chesapeake Bay. That collection was the beginning of that institution, one of the world’s premiere decoy museums in the world.

Later he would become a founding board member of the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum & Heritage Center on Harkers Island where he continued to work and give, hauling birds and guns all year for the December auction, bartering deals, putting together raffles, selling anything he could find (even knives and scissors), turning junk into treasures ‘til the end.  That was Purcell!

Back in the beginning days of the museum, Purcell had brought much-needed credibility to the idea of such a facility in Down East Carteret County when it was just a dream. But because Purcell was involved, people believed and followed his leadership and vision in building a lasting tribute to the waterfowling traditions of eastern North Carolina at the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum. 

His commitment to the museum and its work never faltered. He was the first to console during the hard times, the first to write a check in the lean times and the first one at the table to enjoy the hearty meals of fresh seafood and wildgame. He loved the “community” that has become the museum, people who share his love for the old ways and old things, days gone by, the hunting camps, the decoys, the way it was. His love for waterfowling and the outdoors will carry on as the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum & Heritage Center continues to preserve and share the heritage he lived and loved.   


Purcell's Circle Members

Ace Marine Rigging and Supply
Robert & Cynthia Austin
Camp Morehead Counselors 1966
Mack & Glenda Baker
Kimberly Blaha
Ray & Laura Ball
BB&T Financial Management
Bob & Margie Cato
Chris & Kathryn Chadwick
Boyce Cheek and Laura Dixon
Jerry & Valinda Coates
J.M. Davis, Jr.
Bud & Anna Doughton
Shelby M Freeman
Doily E. Fulcher
Ted & Shirley Garner 
Lloyd & Michelle Goode, Jr.
Dallas D. Goodwin
Larry & Lorraine Harkey
Walter & Essie House
Patrick P. Joyce
Harriet Joyce
Larry & Lynette Land
Jean H. Lemons
L Patten & Edith Mason
Danny & Mary McQueen
William & Joy Moore
Kenneth & Linda Morris
Bill & Nancy Munden
David Pollard
Dr. Stephen & Melanie Smith
Ike & Carol Southerland
S.W. Starling, II
Thom & Valerie Styron
Charlotte Sutton
Ronnie Watson
James M. Wells, DDS
Sharon S. Wells
Charles T Wilson, Jr.