Purifoy's death is Steel Valley community's loss
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 email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- West Mifflin thrift store sells winning lottery ticket
- Former Century III Mall general manager waives charges
- Overall Mon-Yough homicide stats remain steady
- Steel Valley school directors honor new San Francisco 49ers head coach Tomsula
- St. Agnes students assist food bank during Catholic Schools Week
- 3 arrested in recent McKeesport business burglaries
- Clairton City School District directors cap possible 2015-16 tax hike at 3 percent
- Twin Rivers Intermediate students in McKeesport get hands-on science lessons
- Propel teams up with local organizations to test performing arts methods
- Lincoln roadway reopens ahead of schedule
- Liberty public servant Owens remembered as problem solver