Family & Friends
William “Bill” Purser, F180 “” a charter member of FMCA who is credited with starting the traditional morning coffee hour that is a mainstay at FMCA conventions “” died on October 8, 2003, at the age of 72.
Bill was born February 16, 1931, in Birmingham, Alabama. After serving in the Air Force during the Korean War, he attended the University of Alabama where he earned a bachelor of science degree in management. It was there that he met his wife, Ruth; they got married in 1959. A month after graduating from college in 1959 he joined Blue Bird Body Company in Fort Valley, Georgia. Even without any previous RVing experience, he was instrumental in developing and marketing the first Wanderlodge motorhome, which debuted in 1963. Ruth recalled that the first Blue Bird Wanderlodge demo coach was a huge sales disappointment until it was featured in a House Beautiful article about motorhoming. “That week, five or six orders came in and Bill wondered how in the world they could build all those coaches.”
As both a family member of FMCA and sales manager for Blue Bird, Bill had a personal and professional interest in making sure attendees enjoyed FMCA’s conventions. According to a story by Ken Scott, L63, in the December 1987 issue of FMC, Bill formally inherited responsibility for coffee hour at FMCA’s third annual convention in Glenwood, Minnesota, in 1966, when he and his wife volunteered to supply the doughnuts for the event, with FMCA providing the coffee. Ken told how the Pursers scoured the town for a sufficient supply of pastries and ended up buying a Swedish bakery’s entire supply of doughnuts each morning. Bill distributed the coffee and doughnuts from the Blue Bird coaches on display “” a perfect way to attract visitors to the new motorhomes.
At the 1967 convention in Bowling Green, Kentucky, Bill and his Blue Bird colleagues brought three large coffee urns, pounds of coffee, and dozens of doughnuts for the conventioneers, all supplied by Blue Bird. From that time through the association’s winter convention in 2001, Blue Bird sponsored the coffee hour at all FMCA conventions.
In 1968, Bill and Tom Harbison from Prevost Car Company decided to start their own motorhome manufacturing operation, National Motor Coach Company, in Perry, Georgia. In 1977 the company was sold and Bill and his family moved to High Point, North Carolina, where he was the chassis division manager for Thomas Built Buses, a position from which he retired in 1995.
Even after Bill left Blue Bird, he continued to bring “gifts” to each convention. Many times he brought packages of grits to distribute to attendees, which earned him the nickname “Grits Purser.” Ruth also recalled the time Bill decided to treat conventioneers to Georgia-grown peaches, a big mistake, in hindsight. “The fuzz from the peaches covered most of the coach by the time we arrived,” she said. “The steering wheel was covered with fuzz, as well as the bathroom facilities. To make matters worse, most of the peaches were beginning to rot.”
Bill is responsible for another FMCA tradition “” the convention newsletter, which he began and published for many years. “Most nights we dozed off to sleep by the clacking of the typewriter or the rhythm of the duplicator,” recalled Bill’s oldest son, Allen. “In those days there was no Kinko’s to produce the newsletter for the next morning’s coffee hour.” Each morning of the convention, Allen and his brothers, Lee and Marty, were responsible for passing out the newsletters.
Besides his interest in motorhomes, Bill was very active in the community. He was president of the Perry (Georgia) Chamber of Commerce; president of the Kiwanis Club of High Point and a Hixson Fellow; 1996 High Point Citizen of the Year; founder of the High Point chapter of the American Diabetes Association; senior warden of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in High Point; and president of the Triad chapter of the University of Alabama Alumni Association. What made him most proud, according to his wife, was the fact that each of his three sons all achieved the rank of Eagle Scout and earned a college degree.
Allen still remembers the many good times he shared with his family at FMCA conventions. “Even though I haven’t been to a convention in over 20 years, when summer starts hitting its peak, I think fondly of those days,” he said. “The week before he died, we reminisced about those travels, and he always said those were the best days of his life.”
In addition to his wife and sons, Bill is survived by a brother, two daughter-in-laws, four grandchildren, and numerous nieces and nephews. Memorial donations may be made to the William Purser Scholarship Fund at the University of Alabama, National Alumni Association, Class of ’59, P.O. Box 861928, Tuscaloosa, AL 35486-0017.
A Wedding, FMCA-Style
By Jeri Wilson, F21025
The Western Area Rally in Indio, California, held January 7 through 11, had the usual seminars, vendors, and food booths, but it also hosted an unusual event “” a wedding. A short distance from all the activities, to the side of a fairgrounds building, an area was transformed into a beautifully decorated wedding spot. Motorhomes were parked to form a wide aisle, and an ordinary grassy parking lot was turned into a lovely wedding garden.
Add to this a minister, Harold Franklin, F333494; a seven-piece band (the Frustrated Maestros); photographer Russ Tinsley, F42870; a wedding cake and punch; and they had all the necessary ingredients for an FMCA wedding.
The groom, Howard Brooks, F17304, and his bride, Donna Olip, planned to arrive in Indio early to arrange the wedding details. Their friends, Vern and Doris Gunning, F82710, were going to help, and they mentioned the nuptial plans to Patricia Houston, F192953, the energetic president of the Rocky Mountain Coaches for Christ chapter. Patricia worked as wedding coordinator and assembled all of the above, with the help of many other volunteers from various chapters, including her own.
The “red hat” ladies escorted Howard to the altar. Donna was escorted by Vern Gunning to the tune of “Hello, Dolly.” Attendees sang the words “Hello, Donna” as she joined matron of honor Doris Gunning at the altar. After the ceremony, Ron and Dotty Young, F171470, longtime friends and members of the Rocky Mountain Coaches for Christ chapter, sang the recessional song as the Frustrated Maestros played.
It was a beautiful wedding for Howard and Donna, two longtime Christian friends who first met at a Vogue motorhome rally at Sun Lakes, Arizona, in the mid-1970s. By 1977, they and their spouses at the time had purchased homes in Sun Lakes, so in addition to the motorhome lifestyle, they also shared mutual friends and good times socially.
Since 1982 Howard had lost two wives to cancer, the last one being a woman Donna had introduced to him. In 1996 Donna’s husband died of cancer. Because of Howard and Donna’s longtime friendship, and many mutual friends, it was natural for their paths to cross. They began spending time together, and their relationship grew.
My husband, FMCA national president R.G. Wilson, and I, and all of those who attended, were honored to witness their marriage, FMCA-style.
Quilting Session Unites Creative Travelers
By Esther Rogers, F98387
FMCA’s Creative Travelers chapter was formed in Bainbridge, New York, in 1997 as a forum for motorhomers who enjoyed doing crafts of any type. Through our chapter newsletter, we share patterns and information that others can use.
During the Susquenango chapter’s Labor Day Invitational rally, August 28 through September 1, 2003, in Bainbridge, 16 members of the Creative Travelers chapter participated in an all-day quilting session, including four who had never quilted before. In all, 30 people were involved in the session. The quilt technique taught that day is called Stack-n-Whack, a method created by quilt designer Bethany Reynolds. Our instructor was Sylvia Plaisted, F122717, who has several years of quilting experience under her belt. Her goal was for each participant to complete one block by the end of the day, and we were able to accomplish that goal. Several members even did more than one block. Each person had different fabric to work with, and the finished blocks looked beautiful when completed. Even the gaudiest material looked gorgeous when we followed Sylvia’s instructions.
During our lunch break we enjoyed pizza, compliments of the Creative Travelers. In all, participants worked from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The consensus of those involved was that we want to do it again, learning a different block technique next time.
Members of the Creative Travelers are involved in all types of crafts, including woodworking, stained glass, knitting, and crocheting. If you are interested in joining us, please contact chapter president Carol Belmont, F37670, 162 Harte Haven Plaza, Massena, NY 13662; (315) 769-8045; e-mail [email protected].