| Neighborhoods

Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Purifoy's death is Steel Valley community's loss

About Eric Slagle
Eric Slagle 412-664-9161
Staff Reporter
Daily News

By Eric Slagle

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013, 4:56 a.m.

Volunteer firefighters in the Steel Valley say the passing of former Homestead fire Chief William Purifoy Sr. on Monday from natural causes is a loss to the public safety community and to the community at large.

“Beyond the fire department, and even in surrounding communities, he was a figure that stood out,” Homestead fire Chief Jim Barca said.

“We'd come into the department as young kids,” recalled Barca, who was 17 when he started with the fire department 10 years ago. “(Purifoy) was a mentor and a father figure to a lot of guys in the department. Everyone looked up to him. He made us what we are.”

Barca said Purifoy, 53, treated young firefighters like they were his children. He made sure they were well trained as first responders and took an interest in their development outside the department, asking some to show him their school report cards.

“He gave us a lot of responsibility which led into becoming more responsible adults,” Barca said.

He recalled Purifoy would tell young firefighters, “I'll give you 30 seconds, kids,” as they entered burning buildings.

It was as much about being fast as it was about being safe, Barca said. If the trainee didn't have the fire knocked down within half a minute, it was time to get out for safety's sake.

West Homestead Volunteer Fire Department Chief John G. Dindak described the 6-foot-8-inch Purifoy as “a shining light in the valley.”

“He was as big in life as he was in stature,” Dindak said. “He was big in life, big in heart and big in spirit. The size fit him and he fit the size.”

Purifoy was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 1982 from the University of Tulsa. He played for two seasons as a defensive end with the Arizona Wranglers of the old United States Football League.

Before returning to his hometown in 1993, he was a community service officer for Tulsa City police and then for the Tulsa County sheriff's department.

Purifoy was a detective with District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr.'s office.

Dindak said Purifoy was a strong mentor to up-and-coming firefighters.

“He was willing to teach anybody anything. He wanted the next group to be better,” Dindak said. “Most leaders are like that.”

Homestead is paying official tribute to Purifoy by displaying his turnout gear outside the borough building through the week. Arrangements for an official firefighters tribute ceremony remained unsettled on Tuesday.

Purifoy's friends and family are being received on Friday from 2-9 p.m. at Tunie Funeral Home in Homestead. Funeral services will be at Clark Memorial Baptist Church in Homestead on Saturday at 11 a.m. Burial in Homewood Cemetery in Pittsburgh will follow.

Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1966, or



Show commenting policy

Most-Read McKeesport

  1. McKeesport man wanted in shooting nabbed in Elizabeth Township
  2. Oakmont father-son team’s efforts help add Mon Valley names to police memorial
  3. 5 Operation Pork Chop defendants sentenced to 5 years probation
  4. McKeesport student to celebrate Jackie Robinson’s legacy
  5. McKeesport crews prep for new KaBOOM! playground
  6. Serra Catholic High School friary to house foreign students
  7. West Mifflin public works lauded for efforts
  8. Markosek supports McCord for governor
  9. McKeesport Area students may ‘have their cake and eat it too’
  10. East Allegheny counselors receive national recognition
  11. Steel Valley Bicycle Tour will raise funds for trail maintenance
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.