About 500 people turned out Sunday to celebrate the life of widely respected Idaho rancher and conservationist Leonard N. “Bud” Purdy and to pay tribute to a man who led the way in rangeland stewardship in the state.
Purdy died April 14 at age 96 at his home on Silver Creek near Picabo, Idaho.
His celebration of life drew people from all walks of life, representing Purdy’s leadership role and involvement in ranching, land management, agriculture, commerce, education, healthcare, aeronautics and community.
Upon Purdy’s written instructions, a private, non-religious burial service was to be followed by “a party to be attended by his friends and God willing, he’d see us later,” said Purdy’s son Nick, who took over daily operation of the family ranch and Picabo Livestock several years ago.
Purdy was not a complicated man; what you saw is what you got, Nick said.
“He was outspoken almost to the point of offending, but he was usually right on; in his last years, he got worse at it,” he said, drawing laughter from those in attendance.
Dozens of friends asked to speak about Purdy at the celebration, but Purdy’s instruction were that he wanted a celebration and no speeches, Nick said.
But Purdy had a long and productive life and influenced many people, he said.
Despite run-ins with horses and cattle that broke Purdy’s knees, arm, pelvis and hips over the years, Purdy was ranching to the end and knew every detail of the land and cattle until the last day of life, Nick said.
An avid conservationist, Purdy, with his son Nick, donated a 3,500 acre conservation easement to the Nature Conservancy in the 1990s to preserve the land on along Silver Creek, a world-class fishing stream. On Purdy’s last day, Nick reported to him that a fish ladder they recently installed in Silver Creek was successful.
Purdy responded with an enthusiastic “Great!” He went to sleep soon after and died peacefully, Nick said.
Nick thanked Purdy’s doctors and hospice nurses and his long-time caretaker Sherry Adams, whom he called a saint. In addition to her care and chauffeuring, which allowed Purdy to stay active, and keeping Purdy in line when he needed it, Adams helped lead Purdy to God in his final years, he said.
Purdy’s son Mark spoke of Purdy being on his final flight, referring to the 60 years Purdy enjoyed piloting his small plane, checking on animals on the range and flying to business meetings.
But uppermost on Mark’s agenda was what’s going to happen to his dad’s sourdough, he said, eliciting laughter from those attending.
For 60 years, Purdy served up sourdough pancakes and homemade choke cherry syrup on Sunday mornings, and he was serious about that sourdough, he said.
At one point in caring for their father in his final weeks, Nick was out of town and Mark got the duty of preparing the Sunday morning pancakes. The pressure was on because if it wasn’t right, he’d hear about, he said.
Purdy’s stepson, Gordon Eccles, said he didn’t know what would have become of him had Purdy not met and married his mother, Ruth, now deceased.
Purdy was a fine man, father and grandfather and the whole family appreciated him, he said.
Following a video tribute to Purdy, Nick closed the ceremony by asking everyone to join in a Mac Davis song that was Purdy’s creed — “Oh Lord it’s hard to be humble when you’re perfect in every way.”
The celebration continued with food, drink, laughter and stories about Purdy in every small circle of family and friends.
Purdy is survived by his sister, Margaret Struthers, his three sons, Nick, Mark, and Gordon and his daughter Kris Wenslaswki, 12 grandchildren and 20 great grandchildren. He was preceded in death by two wives and one grandson.