"Fran Purcell dedicated his life to his family, his friends, his country and his community," Suozzi said.
Purcell was elected mayor of Malverne at age 37, becoming the youngest mayor in New York at the time. He went on to serve as a New York State assemblyman, supervisor of the Town of Hempstead and the Nassau County Board of Supervisors' presiding officer.
In 1977, Purcell won a three-way race for Nassau county executive, and was subsequently re-elected twice. Though he spent most of his adult life in politics, Suozzi said there is more to Purcell than just a political office. "Politics wasn't his life -- he didn't want to be a congressman or a senator," Suozzi said.
Purcell is best remembered for his fondness for economic development and his often laconic remarks. He pushed for the development of Mitchel Field, which led to the subsequent development of such Nassau County fixtures as the EAB high-rise building.
Suozzi described one incident in which local officials questioned Purcell about how the county would go about removing snow drifts. "Snow melts!" Purcell responded emphatically.
"He was a plain talker," Suozzi said. "There were no fancy speech writers, no TelePrompter, and no 'talking points.' What you saw was what you got. Fran Purcell said what he meant and meant what he said."
Purcell served as county executive until 1987, when he decided to retire to spend more time with his wife, Barbara. He had two years remaining on his term, but walked away with no regrets. "After all these years, he had done his job; he had done enough," Suozzi said. "It was time to give someone else a chance; it was time for Fran Purcell to relax and enjoy the sweet fruit of his labor."
Now, the preserve will commemorate Purcell and his contributions to the community. The preserve will consist of two sections, a 26-acre tree-lined valley along the Meadowbrook Parkway, and a 39.7-acre parcel of adjacent plains that remain within the Mitchel Air Base, acquired by Nassau County in 1970. Both were land banked by the county for future development and restoration as a prairie preserve.
"It is important to recognize the life of Francis T. Purcell. To place a marker, somewhere in our great county," Suozzi said.
And now, though Purcell and his wife spend most of their time in Florida, his legacy will continue to grace the Nassau County landscape.
On Wednesday, Aug. 11, Purcell's 86th birthday, Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi honored Purcell by renaming a portion of the Hempstead Plains the Francis T. Purcell Preserve at the Hempstead Plains. Suozzi was joined by many former elected officials, political leaders and family and friends of Purcell, whose first political stint was as a Malverne village trustee in 1947.