Colorful Former Faribault State Senator Passes Away
Former Minnesota Senator Clarence Purfeerst passed away Monday at his home in St. Paul.
The former Faribault Senator was 89.
He was first elected to the Minnesota Senate in 1970 and retired in 1991.
When I first arrived at KDHL in 1987 Purfeerst was the powerful Senate Transportation Committee Chair. A position he held from 1973 until 1991. He served as Majority Leader Pro Tem from 1987 to 1991.
Purfeerst served on many other committees during his tenure in St. Paul and I remember when visiting with him after retiring he said he felt “humbled to serve the people in the Rice County area.”
He told you exactly what he thought about an issue.
There was no dancing around it or saying one thing and voting another way. Clarence was a straight shooter and that’s what I liked about him.
Former Minnesota Congressman Gil Gutnecht served with Clarence at the State Capitol and says he enjoyed him too.
He says fellow legislators called some of the twisted words used by the former Senator during debate on the floor or in meetings around the capitol Purferisms.
One example comes from a conversation surrounding the power the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources was exhibiting in a particular issue that drew Senator Purfeerst’s ire.
He told fellow lawmakers, “The DNR is spreading it’s testicles (tentacles) all over our state.”
When people would roll with laughter after one of these Purferisms Clarence would often say, “I’m just a poor pig farmer from Rice County.”
I was reminded by a former fellow government employee who served when Senator Purfeerst and former Governor Rudy Perpich were at the capitol that Clarence would remind people quite often that he was, “Two heartbeats away from the Governor’s office.”
Clarence received a number of awards outside of the political arena over the years too.
He was the Jaycees Outstanding Young Farmer and Gold Key Award recipient and Minnesota National Director, Faribault Jaycees President, Exalted Ruler of the Elks, Knights of Columbus member, Fraternal Order of Eagles, Moose Lodge, Minnesota Boy Scouts Board of Directors, Rice County Farmer’s Union President, Rice County Dairy Herd Improvement Association Board, Faribault Airport Zoning Board, March of Dimes Rural Drive Chairperson, Chairman of Rice County American Cancer Society, Chairman of Rice County Agricultural Stabilization Conservation Committee and was a Rice County 4-H leader.
Clarence is survived by his wife Rosemond and their six children, 16 grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren.
In accordance with Clarence’s wishes a celebration of his life will be held Sunday, October 1st from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Faribault Elks Lodge, 131 Lyndale Avenue North, Faribault and also Sunday, October 8 from 1:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Mancini’s Char House, 531 West 7th Street in St. Paul.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be designated to the donor’s choice in memory of Clarence.
We need more charachters like Clarence in public office these days.