Aster to host Purdy School reunion
By Kris Leonhardt
MARSHFIELD — In the years surrounding World War I, Marshfield was experiencing an overcrowding in its schools. By June 1918 plans were developing for the construction of a new middle school and vocational school building on the southeast corner of West Third Street and South Chestnut Avenue.
With the government’s wartime restrictions, plans for what would be known as Garfield Middle School moved forward slowly, and it was not until the war’s end that development would proceed.
By this time the name had changed to Franklin Middle School. But with Marshfield residents still uncertain about the name, petitions began circulating regarding a new “outstanding American” to honor.
Willard D. Purdy was just 23 years old the night his squad crossed into enemy territory. After a successful bombing of the German trenches, his party returned to its dugout just as the sun peeked over the horizon.
As Purdy removed his gear, a grenade slipped from his shirt and fell to the ground. Seeing the igniter dislodge, Purdy immediately threw himself on the grenade to save the others in his squad.
The selfless act of the young man stuck in local residents’ minds, and when the doors opened to the Willard D. Purdy School Nov. 11, 1920, citizens were reminded of his supreme sacrifice.
Many junior high classes walked through Purdy School doors until the new senior high was constructed and the junior high grades were moved to the East Fourth Street building.
Mid-State Technical College then leased the building until its new campus was completed on West Fifth Street.
In 1990 the Marshfield School District began looking for a company to develop the structure, but it would not be sold for four years.
Then in 1995 a portion of the vacant building was demolished, and the rest was converted to a home for independent older adults called The Purdy Retirement Community.
“It then became the Angelus, and the Angelus morphed into Aster,” explained Aster Sales & Marketing Director Tammy Hardinger. “Now, we are actually fully assisted living.”
“My idea was — because it’s a historical building — lots of people have memories here,” said Hardinger. “We have lots of people living here that went to junior high here. We have one gentleman here who taught when it was a technical school. It’s a building that has touched a lot of lives.
“My thought was to have an open house from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. It is a free event for anyone who has gone to school here, if they were in junior high here or even in the tech school.
“It would be fun to have people who have not been back in the building, or even if they have, come do some reminiscing.”
The Purdy School reunion is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 10, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will include music, free food, memorabilia, and tours of the building.
If you have any questions on the reunion or memorabilia or memories to contribute, contact Tammy Hardinger at 715-384-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org.