The Freeport community came together to pay tribute to the late Rev. Eugene Purvis Sr. and his late wife, Sylvia, with a new street name at the intersection of South Ocean Avenue and Archer Street, officially designating it the Rev. Eugene and Sylvia Purvis Corner.
The proposal to rename the corner was unanimously approved at a village board meeting on April 17. Deputy Mayor Ronald Ellerbe initiated the motion, which was seconded by Trustee Evette Sanchez. The resolution to grant the honorary name change serves as a testament to the lasting impact the Purvises had on the community.
“Reverend Eugene and Sylvia Purvis dedicated themselves to enhancing the lives of others,” Mayor Robert Kennedy said. “From serving in the Army during World War II, being active in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Freeport Cares, AME Zion Church, the Salvation Army, the United Way, Holy Redeemer Catholic Church, Catholic Charities, Promise of Hope, Equity4LIYouth, Island Harvest, Rebuilding Together, All Boro, and running Freeport’s Children’s World Montessori School, the Purvises typified community service above all else. Their compassion and kindness is something we hope to strive for. They are an example to all. They will be missed.”
Village officials, including Kennedy, along with State Sen. Kevin Thomas and Nassau County Legislature Minority Leader Kevan M. Abrahams, joined the street name change ceremony.
“It was a beautiful morning in Freeport for the street renaming for Dr. Rev Eugene Purvis and Dr. Sylvia Purvis,” Thomas said. “I was proud to join in honoring these respected educators and community leaders whose commitment to learning at the Children’s World Montessori School still lives on today.”
Eugene, a highly regarded U.S. Army veteran and pastor, devoted over three decades of his life as a pillar of the Freeport community. His unwavering dedication to the AME Zion Church, coupled with his profound commitment to education as the proprietor of the Children’s World Montessori School, earned him immense respect. Alongside his wife, he owned and operated the school, providing invaluable education to countless students from pre-K to third grade.
Born on June 18, 1923, in Salters, South Carolina, Purvis grew up on a farm, and completed his education at Tomlinson High School in Kingstree.
During World War II, Eugene joined the military and served in the 20th Army Air Force, 435th Aviation Squadron, a unit comprised of African American soldiers. He played a crucial role as an Aerial Gunner, handling bombs for the Boeing B-29 Superfortress. Rev. Purvis survived a challenging encounter with Japanese bomber planes on Saipan, where he tragically lost many friends but managed to protect himself by diving into a foxhole.
Eugene relocated to New York City after his military service, pursuing education at New York University and the New York Theological Seminary.
He worked as an optician and later became an Examiner on the NY State Board of Opticians. In the 1970s, he married Sylvia Sangle, defying social norms. Eugene dedicated over 50 years to community service, including leadership roles. Despite health challenges and amputations, he persevered and continued to inspire others. His legacy is one of service, resilience, and lasting impact.
Eugene passed away on February 5, 2021, at the age of 97. Throughout his remarkable life, Rev. Purvis made significant contributions and achieved numerous milestones that left a lasting impact on those around him.
Sylvia, an esteemed educator in her own right, contributed significantly to the community through her work at the Children’s World Montessori School and involvement with the AME Zion Church.
Sylvia passed away at the age of 77 on March 3, 2021, just 26 days after her husband. She was known for her loving nature, sense of humor, and deep faith. She wore beautiful church hats and cherished her favorite song, “Ave Maria.”
Born in Santa Cruz, Manila, Philippines, Sylvia pursued a bachelor’s degree in optometry at the University of Santo Thomas before traveling to New York City in 1970 to obtain a master’s degree in optometry. It was there that she met Rev. Purvis, married and raised three sons together.
Throughout their marriage, Sylvia stood by Eugene’s side as he served as a pastor. They were the epitome of a dedicated team, with Sylvia supporting him in his various roles and churches.
Sylvia and Eugene became well-known figures in their community, with Rev. Purvis receiving recognition for his 97th birthday and his service in World War II. They received support from numerous individuals, family members, and organizations such as Freeport Cares, the Salvation Army, Island Harvest, and more, which assisted them with various needs, including donations, home repairs, and healthcare.
“Through their love of God and devotion to selfless service, Rev. Eugene Purvis and Sylvia Purvis made a tremendous impact upon countless lives in our community,” Abrahams said.
The renaming ceremony, which took place on June 19 marked the official unveiling of the “Rev. Eugene and Sylvia Purvis Corner.” This honorary street name change stands as a symbolic gesture, preserving the cherished memory of the couple’s outstanding contributions to both the nation and the Freeport community.