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Robert A Purvis

Profile Updated: January 27, 2015
Robert A Purvis
Residing In:
Homedale, ID USA
Connie W. Purvis
Horticulturist, tree fruits
Military Service:
Army (Signal Corps)  
Robert A Purvis


Yes! Attending Reunion

I earned a B.A. in physics, U of Del '69, and also ran cross-country four years, wrote for the undergraduate newspaper, and played the violin in the Newark School & Community Orchestra. At U.Va., I earned an M.S. in astronomy in 1972. Then, I served as a test officer at Fort Greely, Alaska 1972-75 after earning my jump wings at Ft Benning and taking Signal officer courses. In my spare time I taught college astronomy courses for the U of AK, led a Webelos Cub Scout Den, earned a private pilot's license, traveled around Alaska, did a little fishing, and served as Post Chapel organist. During the '70s' I was privileged to view and photograph three total solar eclipses--in NC, in Mauritania, and in Manitoba.
Living in Anchorage from '75-'89, I worked as a petroleum geophysicist for the USDI Minerals Mgmt. Service, mapping possible petroleum-bearing structures in preparation for lease sales. I met my future wife, the former Connie Worthington (Westmont College '74), in a New Testament Greek study club in '75 and married her in '80. I was a communications-electronics and NBC-warfare staff officer in the AK-ARNG 1975-80, rose to captain, but left the Guard after getting married.
During the '80s I became a Master Gardener and co-founded the Alaska Pioneer Fruit Growers in '84, serving as its prez till '89. Using a plant import permit, I brought into AK many cold-hardy fruit cultivars as cuttings from Canada, had them propagated, and led the group in planting, testing, and evaluating them in diverse locations to include our yard, where I had a dozen apple trees, a few plums, and tart cherries. I edited a monthly newsletter for the APFG during that time, planned meetings, and wrote newspaper articles about what we were learning. One of the best memories of the '80s was a 3-week trip in '86 to Australia and New Zealand to view Halley's Comet, to meet apple growers, and to see the unique scenery Down Under. Another memorable experience was buying and restoring a 1958 Chevrolet Apache 1/2-ton pickup with some help from a local mechanic who also owned a '58. I sold this candy-apple red rust bucket in '88 while preparing to go to graduate school.
We left Alaska in '89 and went to WSU in Pullman, WA for me to earn an M.S. in horticulture '92 with an emphasis on tree fruits while Connie took graduate education courses. While at Pullman, I wrote the Extension publication on growing tree fruits and bush fruits in Alaska. My thesis was a study of how sweet-cherry trees can withstand severe drought.
During the period '92-'96 I worked for an independent ag-consulting firm, Agrimanagment, Inc. in Yakima, WA as their horticulturist, helping our 70+ orchard clients monitor and manage their trees' health, soil moisture, and soil fertility but also providing company services to hops and grape growers. I served as horticulturist for Chiawana Orchards/Columbia Reach Packers (one of my clients) in Yakima from '96-'99, with responsibility for monitoring and managing soil fertility, soil moisture, soil diseases, insect pests and diseases, and tree nutritional health on 1,500 company acres of apples, pears, and sweeet cherries (primarily in the Columbia River Basin), working with eight orchard foremen. To work in the WA fruit industry was the ultimate experience for me as a tree-fruit horticulturist. In my spare time, I planted a large home orchard (245 trees) at our home in Selah, just N of Yakima, to test and evaluate new fruit cultivars, to preserve the cold-hardy fruit cultivars I'd acquired from Canada, and to provide fruit for our table and ultimately to sell at the Selah farmers' market. I also grew cold-hardy apricot, pear, and plum varieties and sold them wholesale to Bear Creek Nursery in NE Washington.
From 1984 to the present, I've been an active member of NAFEX (the North American Fruit Explorers), serving on its board of directors, as its president for two years, currently as its secretary, and on half a dozen occasions editing its quarterly journal, POMONA. Since 1986, I've also taught hundreds of people how to graft and prune as well as giving a fruit-growing short course on one occasion.
The most memorable travel experience in the '90's for us was traveling with several dozen other people to Israel in 1997 and visiting places and sites mentioned in the Word of God.
While in graduate school, while in Alaska, and for a year or two in Yakima, I continued to be a distance runner, but I had to give up running after injuring a knee in 1993. My most memorable race was running 10 miles in under 60 minutes in 1981. I still have the 6-inch reflecting telescope that I built in Dr. Schmuckler's summer science program in '64 and still take it out occasionally to show the heavens to friends. I still keep, as I have since 1961, a daily journal of my activities.
Faced with no provision for retirement except Social Security, I applied for a job as an agricultural statistician with the USDA National Ag. Statistics Service in St. Paul, MN in 1999 to finish my Federal service. We moved there that November, and I worked for NASS for eight years, retiring at age 60 in Oct. '07. In my job, I administered crop, livestock, and many other surveys, a good way to get a bird's eye view of agriculture. My favorite survey was doing a census of all the apple trees in MN. I joined the MN Apple Growers' Association and got to know and be known by many of the apple growers in the State, as well as doing commercial jobs (topgrafting existing apple trees to newer cultivars) for some of them in my spare time.
Connie and I lived in Cottage Grove, MN during that time. Our yard had few flowers and not a single fruit tree, berry bush, or garden. Within a few years, I had planted 49 cold-hardy trees, berry bushes, strawberries, and lilacs. From 2001 onward to the present, I taught a grafting class in the local area every March. One of my students is now growing apricots (1,200 lb in 2010), plums, and pears commercially in SW Minnesota , and I was successful in growing them and Black Gold sweet cherries in our yard in Cottage Grove.
Connie and I bought land near Homedale, ID in '05 and moved here in Oct. '07. We built a home on a site with a panoramic view of the surrounding farmland and distant mountains. I planted a new orchard in 2008 and am using it for the same purposes as those in Selah and Cottage Grove.
The fruit that has always fascinated me is apricots. In 2000, I began to serve as the chairman of the Apricot Interest Group in NAFEX. I soon found out that there were very few apricot cultivars available to people outside of California, especially those in cold climates. Beginning in 2004 and continuing to the present, I've grafted and grown cold-hardy and later-blooming apricot cultivars and sold them to people across the U.S., in addition to selling scionwood and summer budwood from my orchard to plant propagators. I've published an annual newsletter for members of the group and after ten years' leading it, have written up recommendations on which cultivars are best suited for each of the 50 States. This and apricot-related articles I've written for POMONA have aroused a lot of interest, and I have gotten a few U.S. nurseries to begin propagating these. Working with the group has been a richly rewarding activity. My orchard is now old enough that I was able to sell apples from it in 2010 and hope to sell apricots, pears, plums, and cherries from it in 2011.
My concluding comment is, however, that I would never have accomplished what I have, without God's help and favor in my life. To Him be all the glory for what I have done.

School Story:

Just after graduation from HHS, I took the Greystones staff to the Merion Gold Course to look at the heavens through my 6-inch telescope. (This was before the golf course was completely fenced off.) Twilight was falling, as we looked at the stars. Then a police car showed up, and the policeman told us we were trespassing! Our classmate Ted Erfer asked the policeman if he would like to look through the telescope, and he did. That distracted him, and we were able to finish up our observing session.
There are many other stories I might be able to relate if I had time to page through my journal of the years 1962-65, but that will have to wait for another time.

Do you remember the 60s?


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Jul 22, 2024 at 8:38 AM

Happy Birthday Bob!

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Jul 22, 2024 at 1:44 PM

Posted on: Jul 22, 2024 at 4:33 AM

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Jul 24, 2023 at 8:52 AM

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May 08, 2023 at 9:51 PM
Jul 22, 2022 at 10:28 AM

Bob, hope you and Connie are well in Idaho. Have a happy birthday and a safe , memorable and healthy year.

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Jul 22, 2022 at 11:04 AM

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Jul 23, 2021 at 8:23 PM

Posted on: Jul 23, 2021 at 7:21 PM

Hello Gerry. I appreciated hearing from you on my birthday and hope you are well. I just finished reading the "In Memoriam" page for our classmates, and it was very sobering to see how many of them have passed away. I thank God for helping me retain my health, and steering me clear of covid-19. What are some of the activities you are pursuing these days in retirement? Having even a small orchard and nursery keeps me plenty busy. We had a very windy spring here, and intense heat and high-level smoke for most of this month, but the heat has now abated somewhat, with daytime highs "only" about 89-93F. Fruit is ripening early because of the heat! All my best, Bob Purvis.

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Jul 23, 2021 at 9:44 PM

Posted on: Jul 23, 2021 at 7:04 PM

Hello Paul! I was surprised but pleased to find you wishing me a Happy Birthday and yes, I am well and safe. We live five miles by road outside of Homedale, ID and are 42 miles due west of Boise. I own and operate a small (1.13 acres) commercial orchard and nursery. Do you ever garden or work with trees or shrubs? Thanking you for your thoughtfulness and hoping that you too are well, your classmate Bob Purvis.

Jul 22, 2021 at 2:22 PM

Bob, Hope your birthday is fun and that you are well. Have a great upcoming year.

Jul 22, 2021 at 2:06 PM

Happy Birthday Bob!

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Jul 23, 2021 at 2:13 PM

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Dec 07, 2020 at 4:21 PM

Posted on: Dec 07, 2020 at 12:45 PM

Hello Betty,

Here's wishing you a Merry Christmas. I remember with joy our meeting at the Denver airport some years ago. We had a good year with the orchard and nursery here and have not been affected by covid-19 ourselves. I hope you are staying well. Are you still pursuing your career or have you retired?--Bob Purvis

Jul 22, 2020 at 6:29 PM

Hope your Birthday finds you well. Have a very good day and a great and memorable upcoming year.

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Jul 24, 2020 at 12:08 PM

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Jul 22, 2019 at 6:51 PM

Bob, Hope all is good in Idaho. Happy Birthday. Have a great and healthy year.

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Jul 29, 2019 at 9:51 AM

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Jul 22, 2018 at 3:56 PM

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Jul 22, 2017 at 3:54 PM

Hope your 70th birthday is a happy one. Have a great upcoming year. Hopefully, will see you at reunion #55.

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Jul 23, 2017 at 12:01 AM

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Dec 30, 2016 at 9:48 AM

Hello John,

Just wanted to wish you a Happy Birthday. I see that you served in the USMC. Where did you train, and where did you serve? At the University of Delaware, Army ROTC was compulsory for all male freshmen and sophomores. I did not take the Advanced course there, but I was admitted to Advanced Army ROTC at the University of Virginia and was commissioned thru that program in June 1971 as a Signal Corps officer. I spent much of my three years of active duty at Fort Greely, Alaska as a test officer. Thanking you for having served, your classmate Bob Purvis.