Elizabeth Purcell

Born: Perth on 21 June 1948

Passed away: Bayfield on 14 March 2016

Aged: 67 years

Service Details

Per her wishes, private family service, no funeral. Possible summer memorial event.

The Story

Elizabeth was born in Perth, Australia on 21 June 1948, joining her older brothers Neal and Bryan. Her parents, Betty and Wally completed the family with the birth of Lynette 4 years later. Elizabeth spent her childhood years in the country towns of York and Mount Barker, Western Australia. The family returned to Perth in 1961 where her mother had to learn how to cook without using a wood-fired stove and oven.

Liz had a wonderful easy-going and bright nature with a bit of spice and grit thrown in the mix. Anyone who ever played tennis against her would attest that she ran down every ball and often figured out an angle or slice to return the favor. She wasn't always the hardest hitter but she was often the most determined and wiliest player on the court, and used these skills to great effect over the years. Her Scrabble playing exhibited the same fighting style, and more than a few of us have lost more than a few (all, most?) games to her! These characteristics were not just sporting, but were core to her persona.

When family or friends needed advice or free therapy, Elizabeth was always a willing listener, often with practical and sage thoughts to offer. She had her own charming way of instantly making people feel comfortable and safe sharing whatever was on their mind. Her intuition usually enabled her to offer insightful ideas and suggestions for helping others manage through difficult situations. She used this wonderful skill throughout her own life and it served her and her family well throughout her life.

Elizabeth was educated at Presbyterian Ladies College in Perth where she excelled in several sports and her school work. She elected to pursue dental nursing and was soon employed in Albany and Perth.

At the time, the Australian government encouraged young Aussies to explore the world and provided discounted round-trip tickets. She left with friends and spent a year working in London and exploring Europe, at one point traveling in a Volkswagen bus and eating rice made over a campfire. As the time to return approached she and her friend Jenny took jobs to be au peres for families near New York City and extended their trip.

As the year in New York was nearing completion she traveled to San Francisco where she met Tom Purcell. 9 months later they married and Elizabeth became the loving mother of Rebecca, 6 and young Tom, 2.

After three years in Sacramento for Tom’s medical residency, he convinced her to move to Minneapolis, which for her might as well have been the North Pole! Soon after making new roots in Minneapolis, she gave birth to her son Brett.

In Minneapolis, Liz was a fiercely competitive and accomplished tennis player and was active in many tennis programs and made many wonderful friends through her sport. She was also heavily involved in the Women's Resource Center.

The family spent most of their summers enjoying Bayfield and Lake Superior. Later they would build a boat in Bayfield and purchase a home just outside of the town. She and Tom spent a decade of winters on the boat exploring and enjoying the Bahamas, Mexico, Belize and US rivers and intracoastal areas - frequently with family and various friends.

Around Bayfield, Liz enjoyed volunteering at Encore to raise money for senior care and she was active in teaching tennis to local children and securing USTA funds to refresh tennis courts in Washburn. She enjoyed creating and tending to her free-form garden and supporting local organic farmers.

Liz was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2011 and lived long and well enough to enjoy getting to know her two grandchildren, Dante and Logan, both now 6. Despite a grim prognosis and countless treatments, she always strived to live on her own terms and to not be defined by the disease that took her. Her last days were spent watching the ebb and flow of the ice on Lake Superior, which one night near the end treated her to what she described as "the sound of 1000 champagne glasses celebrating" as a winter storm broke the ice into a sea of tiny tinkling shards of ice. She died peacefully and painlessly while sleeping a few days later. We shared all the emails, cards and calls with her and she wanted to make sure that everyone knew their efforts were really appreciated and that each brought a smile to her face.

She will be missed by many, and by her husband Tom, children Brett, Tom and Rebecca, her 100-year-old mother Betty, siblings Lynette, Bryan and Neal and her 2 grandchildren.

Liz requested that any gifts or funds go towards The Clearity Foundation, which is dedicated to improving treatment options for ovarian cancer patients:


If you feel so inclined, we'd love to hear about great times you shared with Liz, funny stories, what made her special to you, or anything else you would like to share.

Much love from the extended Purcell family.
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What a wonderful tribute to Liz. As spring begins, I am thinking how much I will miss seeing Liz on the Brownstone Trail and working in her yard. I always loved running into her and catching up on news of her family in Australia and of course her children and beloved grandsons. Her energy seemed boundless as did her love of her family! She and I shared many stories about kids and grandchildren and she was always generously offering us things she no longer needed as Dante and Logan grew older. Her generosity also extended to really caring about people she got to know and when I was going through my breast cancer treatment she was happy to walk with me and always lifted my spirit with her energy and positivity. As her journey with cancer unfolded, it was no surprise that she was very open about what she was going through and kept on fighting with her remarkable energy! I remember going for a long walk with her in the fall at a new trail she wanted to check out and was worried it was too much for her but she wanted to do it anyway. We made it back to the car and I know she was very tired but happy to have done it! Before Christmas this year she came over and we baked cut-out cookies so she would have some kangaroos and koala bears for Dante when he and his dad visited over Christmas. We had such a good time and when we finished she went to the couch and sat looking at the tree and I think we both knew she was unlikely to share another Christmas with family and yet she seemed at peace. I cherish that picture of her! As spring flowers begin to bloom, I know that Liz's spirit is blooming as well!! Miss you Liz!

Nancy Bussey


There is so much to say about Liz Purcell. Her positive outlook, warm smile, energy, and so many attributes. I miss Liz tending to her "garden" when I walked our road or watching her "exercise" as she went down the Brownstone Trail. I also owe her many thanks for introducing my son, Ryan to tennis. Liz personally took Ryan with her to Washburn and introduced him to tennis. He fell in love with it and due to Liz's encouragement, he became a competitive player and started to win matches when playing with her. I believe Liz was proud of her student and to this day, Ryan still enjoys tennis and plays with the intensity that Liz instilled!! This part of my message goes to Dante and Logan. Your grandmother was one of the bravest women I have ever known. When she was diagnosed, it was NOT a "death" sentence but a message to enjoy life everyday! Cancer was not going to defeat her, only make her more fierce and determined! Any setback just increased her intensity to win. Where many people would have folded their cards, your Grandmother bet the bank and won so many times. We had numerous talks about when to let go and I always told her, only she would know, she would know. If you can inherit your Grandmother's strength and love of life, you are going to do great things. When life gets you down, just ask her what to do and she will be there to guide you. She was so very proud of you and was looked forward to your visits. Your Grandmother Liz was one of the strongest women I have ever had the honor to know! I hope Liz you have found that place with the peace we discussed. I miss you now and forever!

Kristin Connell


Liz was a special friend and a shining light to anyone who has met her. She brought smiles wherever she was – even through her battle with cancer. I will keep the treasured memories of holiday gatherings, hikes on Mt Ashwabay, canoeing adventures, qigong retreat in Ely, and many more good times – always. Judi Maloney

pat ingram


The family have written a wonderful tribute to my sister - just a little more from me. After travelling and working in England for a year Elizabeth and her friend Jenny nee MacKellar (Tedeschi) secured positions as au pairs in New York. Towards the end of their time in NYC they treated themselves to a holiday in San Francisco, there Elizabeth met a handsome chap called Tom and the rest is history. By marrying Tom she had a bonus family of two, Rebecca (6years) and Thomas (2 years) and some three years later Brett was born. It was in Sacramento that her love of tennis was rekindled and she encouraged Tom to play as well. This was a great way to meet friends and this they did and many more when they moved to Minneapolis, where Tom had joined an ophthalmology practice. Life threw her some challenges and living through a winter in Minneapolis was certainly one of them! I visited part way through this first winter and was equally lacking in deep freeze skills as Elizabeth! So before meeting Tom with the car loaded up with children and luggage to head into the deep woods for a week, we put the car through a car wash. It didn’t take Tom long to realise why he was unable to open the trunk on arrival! Anyone who has taken the flight from Minneapolis to Perth will know it is not for the faint hearted but Elizabeth was so keen to show off her young family to her parents and friends that she gathered up her flock and took off. Brett was 9 months old and picked up an ear infection along the way. No need to say more about how she felt on arrival! That was the first of many long haul flights between Minneapolis and Perth. And then when they moved to Bayfield, another 4 hour car ride! In spite of the challenges she was presented with, she focused on being positive about life. She was a great listener and thus friends loved to spend time with her. She was a quietly determined person, who wanted to be the best she could be in whatever endeavour she chose. She loved the tennis community she became an integral part of in Minneapolis and developed many lasting friendships. And later, golf when they moved to Bayfield and I was so thrilled for her when she won the club championships. At least 35 years ago Elizabeth and I won the Ladies Doubles Champs at the Geraldton (a town about 350 km north of Perth) Easter tournament. As only my sister would do, she traded in her cash prize to bring home some locally caught bald chin groper (fish) so Mum and Dad could also enjoy the fruits of our labour! When Tom took a liking for sailing while he was working, most weekends were spent up at Bayfield where they bought a condominium. While she suffered from most forms of motion sickness, Tom noticed that when she was on a catamaran she looked at ease. So that led to the next exciting challenge: building a catamaran and sailing off down to Mexico and surrounds. No matter where she was in the world or who she was with, whether it was her own young children or in later years her grandchildren or friends or her parents she was always planning activities suitable for whoever she was with. One of the last being a dog sled ride for Brett and Dante just this past Christmas. I skyped with them at this time and she looked radiant. After her diagnosis 5 years ago she dedicated her life to living as healthily as possible and did all she could to impart those healthy values to anyone willing to listen and in particular to Logan and Dante. In fact I think she could easily have been awarded an Honorary Degree in Health Sciences. She loved spending time in her garden – it was her sanctuary and it became even more important to her as her illness took its toll. She always worked to make our partings easier so for my past two visits she organised to meet friends, have dinner and then while the friends and I played golf she would head back home. In spite of everything I always believed I would see her again when we said goodbye last August and I believe we will but in a different place. To my inspirational sister: farewell. I will always carry a little of your fighting spirit. Lynette

lynette Cooper


Liz and I shared so many active "adventures" together while in Bayfield---hiking, walking dogs---and of of the MOST memorable---learning to play golf together in 1999. She went at golf, the same way that she did at tennis----and soon became much better than I ever did---but she never made me feel inadequate on the tennis court or the golf course. She gave me so much encouragement in all aspects of my life---even after we didn't live near each other. And this continued despite her own worries and discomforts. A more caring person, I have never known. Her death leaves a huge hole in my heart.

pat ingram