Dennis James Purcell Custom Obituary
Dennis James Purcell has taken a seat at the ultimate 19th hole after an amazing life defined by his family, coworkers and the businesses around the world that he influenced. A long-time resident of Green Bay and Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, Dennis passed away April 10, 2022, in Sheboygan at the age of 79 after a period of declining health.
Born November 24, 1942, in Norwood, Ohio, to the late Jack and Colette (McKenzie) Purcell, Dennis developed a love for the Cincinnati Reds and Bengals, and later the psychology of high-functioning sales organizations. He continued to follow the Reds, but a business career largely based in Wisconsin quickly formed an allegiance to the Green Bay Packers.
Dennis found great value in education, with one of his greatest joys seeing his six grandchildren attend college and begin successful careers. He loved watching them compete in tennis, baseball and Irish dance, but some of their fondest memories revolved around Grandpa’s famous waffles. A staple of every visit when he and Vivian hosted the grandchildren, Dennis would set out all the toppings for the kids to personalize their creations. No one could ever make waffles as good as Grandpa’s.
Dennis met Vivian shortly after high school while working at a Kroger grocery store in Cincinnati where they worked as a bag boy and a cashier, respectively. With a few initial roadblocks to love at first sight (Dennis was dating another girl and Vivian was dating Dennis’s best friend), it was not long before Dennis’s gentle soul and sweet nature won her over. They married June 27, 1964, in Norwood and embarked on a journey in which Dennis persevered through three job relocations and the birth of two sons before finally earning his degree from Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, Ohio. He did so while maintaining a full-time day job and pursuing that education through night school.
The family moved to Green Bay in 1977 when Dennis accepted a position as sales manager for Green Bay Food Company (an early subsidiary of Dean Foods). Through that move, the Purcell family destiny, and by extension those of countless future business associates, was set in motion. Many years later, Dennis’s manager cited this commitment to completing his education despite the challenges as a significant reason behind the job offer.
Never willing to pass up a good ruse, Dennis convinced his youngest son that the only downside of moving to Green Bay was that it was “illegal to wear tennis shoes” in Wisconsin. As was customary for him at the time, Dennis encouraged his young son to call the library to confirm it. His son found great relief from the librarian who (after a small chuckle) reported that she “looked it up” and could find no such law on the books.
With that settled, Dennis arrived in Green Bay to join the small, struggling, regional pickle company at a time when it was in need of sales and marketing leadership. Dennis played a major role in expanding the company’s product portfolio by focusing on a private label strategy. It was a business philosophy that was ahead of its time as consumer and retailer associations in those days had been shaped by a long exposure to “generics.” This meant perceptions of private label products were low-cost, lower-quality alternatives to the “brands.” Instead, Dennis held steadfast to the idea that store brands should benefit the consumer with not only lower prices, but with parity in quality, while also generating better margins for the retailer. He envisioned store brands that would establish a point of uniqueness and build equity in the retailer itself, and had the guts to stick with this philosophy despite the prevailing opinions of the time.
Dennis brought a passion for building relationships and an innate ability to relate to people that very few are blessed to possess. As his longtime friend and business associate Jim Greisinger shares, going to work was fun because of people like Dennis. He helped build a culture of collaboration and teamwork rooted in honesty and respect, where a workday argument did not preclude sharing a beer together when the work was done.
Dennis later realized his dream of retiring and moving to Arizona, but kept his hand in business by serving as an invested partner and board member at Century Drill & Tool in Ashwaubenon from 2008-2021. While his business acumen was an asset for the company, it was his genuine interest in the people that served as his indelible mark. Dennis was known to interact with employees in the distribution center during his monthly visits, learning and remembering everyone’s name while making sure they were doing well. The team always knew when Dennis was in the building when they stumbled across boxes of donuts in the breakroom. In fourteen years involved at Century, he never showed up without those donuts from his favorite bakery.
Golf was Dennis’s favorite pastime, oftentimes working the game into business functions. Dennis and Jim played an annual grudge match against a pair of younger sales reps known as The Young Punks vs. The Old Farts for claim to the coveted Pickle Trophy. Creative scorekeeping and a passing attention to the rules were part of the fun.
In addition to Vivian, Dennis is survived by his sons, Jeff (Carol), and their children, Savannah, Jackson and Claire; and Darrin and his children, Chandler, Ryan and Grace; and Vivian’s siblings: Dorman, Patsy, Leroy, Jerrel, Larry, Terry, Karen, and Condy. Preceding Dennis in death in addition to his parents were his sister, Joan Deters; and Vivian’s sister, Donna.
The family would like to thank the staff at Aurora Sheboygan Memorial Medical Center for their compassionate care and Suchon Funeral Home in Plymouth for their assistance with final arrangements. Additional recognition goes to Darrin’s close friend, Melody, who was present for Dennis during much of his end of life journey. Please consider honoring Dennis with a donation in his name to the Western Golf Association’s Evans Scholars Foundation, 2501 Patriot Blvd, Glenview IL 60026-8022, or online at ESF Honor/Memorial Donation Form.
Please join us in celebrating Dennis’s life in the River Room at Millhome Supper Club in Kiel, Wisconsin, at 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 7.
© 2022 Mike Dauplaise
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“Mike’s process and personality could not be a more perfect fit for this personal mission upon which he has embarked. I am not sure how we would have even begun to sit down and write such a profoundly important account of Dad’s life. Instead, we scheduled discussions between Mike and a handful of family and friends that knew Dad best. It is really easy and natural to conversationally talk about who they were, memories and what they meant to you; it is completely another challenge to find the correct words and organize that input into such a meaningfully written short story. All of this seems to come very naturally to Mike, and the entire process is comfortable and cathartic, especially during such an emotional time. Thank you Mike, I appreciate the time you committed to this more than you know.” – Darrin Purcell