Sallee Purcell passed away peacefully at Boone Hospital Center in Columbia on Sept. 5, 2019, after a brief illness, with her family by her side.
She was born as Sara Barbara McNamara in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, on Oct. 16, 1941, the long-awaited first child of Daniel Leo and Gertrude Menett McNamara. Her parents called her Sallee after her father, whom everyone knew as Lee.
After graduating from Johnstown Catholic High School (now known as Bishop McCort High School) in 1959, she was the first in her family to attend college at the College of New Rochelle in New Rochelle, New York, just outside of New York City. She loved the museums, art galleries, theater and music clubs of the city and spent many weekends there. She graduated with a degree in history and later earned a master’s degree in history from the University of Wisconsin.
After relocating to Columbia, she earned a master’s degree in social work from MU. Her first job was at the Audrain County Mental Health Center in Mexico, Missouri. In 1979, Sallee took a job at mid-Missouri Mental Health Center in Columbia to avoid time away from her young son, Dan. She referred to this time as the “golden age of mental health treatment” because there was funding for new mental health centers and grants for graduate study in that field.
In 1981, Sallee took a position as a clinical social worker on the psychiatric unit at Boone Hospital Center in Columbia. She got involved in lobbying the state legislature to pass a law recognizing the Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) certification, receiving an LCSW as soon as the certificate became available. She went on to become a diplomate of Clinical Social Work. Eventually, Sallee became the clinical coordinator on the BHC psychiatric care unit.
Along with her work at BHC, Sallee maintained a private practice in clinical social work, providing individual, family and couples therapy for about 20 years until 2008. She retired from BHC in 2007. Following her retirement from Boone Hospital Center, Sallee pursued her lifelong interest in good food, art, music, especially jazz and world travel. She and her husband, John, were able to visit most of the countries in Europe, some of them many times over. They also visited South Africa, China and Turkey twice.
Sallee was a wonderful and supportive mother who poured her energy and resources into providing a quality education for her son. She was a tireless fan and supporter of the arts. In particular, she loved jazz and was a member of the Board of Directors for the “We Always Swing Jazz Series” for 25 years. Sallee was just as passionate about the visual arts, and filled her house with ceramic sculpture, glass and paintings. She loved giving tours as a docent at the Daum Museum of Contemporary Art in Sedalia. She remained a loyal patron of all the best of mid-Missouri food and culture. She and her husband loved going to Murry’s, Flyover, Barred Owl, Rag Tag and the True/False Film Festival.
Sallee was a wonderful cook who loved visiting great restaurants in New York, the Bay Area, Paris and Florence. Wherever she traveled, she investigated and made reservations at the best restaurants. Sallee brought her passion for food to the Central Missouri chapter of Slow Food, getting up early on Saturdays to scour the local farmers’ market for the freshest seasonal produce.
Sallee is survived by her husband, John Murray, whom she became friends with when they were graduate students at the University of Wisconsin in 1964. They reconnected in 1985 when Sallee was living in Columbia and John was in San Francisco. He relocated to be with Sallee. They married in 2002, after knowing each other for 55 years.
Sallee is survived by her son, Dan Purcell (Heather Hanly); her younger brother, James McNamara (Jean) of Somers Point, New Jersey and their son, Tim and nieces, Shannon and Colleen McNamara of Denver, Colorado. Her parents, a younger brother, Daniel McNamara, and a nephew, Sean. McNamara, predeceased her.
Donations can be made to the ”We Always Swing” Jazz Series.