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May 15, 2003

A true pressman at heart, Purcell celebrates 50 years today

From: Algona Upper Des Moines, IA - May 15, 2003

By: Dorothy Muckey
May 15, 2003

In recent years when some people changed jobs as often as they change their socks, it is a rare phenomenon to find one who has continued for 50 years in the same position.

Jack Purcell came into the printing business at Algona in May of 1953, the days of linotypes, lead pigs and hot type.

Jack was born deaf, one of 10 children with six brothers and three sisters. One of his sisters was hard of hearing, and a brother was also deaf.

He went to the Illinois School for the Deaf at Jacksonville, IL, about 70 miles from home at Latham, IL. Here Jack took three years of printing as a vocation, but this did not include instruction in operating a linotype. After completing his education, he spent a year running a hand-fed press at the Lincoln Courier, Lincoln, IL, then took off for Chicago to look for a new job. He went to work for the Baumgartner Printing Co.

Jack said, "It was a huge plant. My first job was to print nude girls on calendars and I was so shy that I just couldn't do that, so I quit the second day."

He found a job at DyDee Wash, Inc. and worked four years at the diaper service.

A change in vocation was imminent and Jack moved on to Charles City, IA where he spent six months at the Midland Linotype School. An ad in Publishers Auxiliary then drew him to Algona and an interview with R. B. Waller, owner/publisher of the Algona Pubishing Co. and Algona Upper Des Moines newspaper. Waller asked Jack at his interview if he could set two galleys of type in an hour. He fudged a bit, answered "Yes" and had himself a job as the linotype operator. Wasn't long and Waller realized he was a galley short each hour, but let him stay on, and Jack gradually learned to type faster. He worked at that job until 1959 when he was advanced to printer and pressman.

Changes in printing have been drastic over the years, from the old hot type to cold type.

Jack said, "Those may have been the good old days, but right now I would not want to go back to hot type. Cold type is my favorite, easier to set and faster to run."

How does a man who cannot hear know what his press is doing? By feel. Putting a hand on his Heidelberg tells him the whole story. If it malfunctions and picks up two pieces instead of one, the vibration lets Jack know immediately.

Three years ago Jack reduced his hours to 3/4 time, but production has continued at its normal beat.

It was in 1956 when Jack went to a five-state softball tournament for the deaf at Fort Dodge that he met his future wife, Doris, who was from Sioux Falls, SD. She, too, is deaf. They were married the next year and have five children; Dan, Algona; Deb Brody, Missouri; Tom, who owns Purcell Printing at Urbandale; Susan, Garner and Jim in Colorado. They have seven grandchildren, eight step-grandchildren and three step-great grandchildren.

Printing has not been Jack Purcell's entire life. Jack has been active with the Mascia Club of the Deaf at Mason City, the North Central Club of the Deaf, Fort Dodge; vice president of the Iowa Association for the Deaf and a member of the National Association of the Deaf. He recently resigned as commissioner of the Deaf Services Commisson of Iowa, effective April 30 (2003), after 15 years of service to the organization. The couple has also been active in their church and now attend a church for the deaf at Fort Dodge.

Some people may think being deaf is a handicap, but Jack Purcell has spent 50 years proving it is not. It helps you "feel" what's going on around you.

Jack is a joy & very loyal

Today, Thursday, May 15, 2003, Jack Purcell is observing his 50th anniversary as a loyal and dedicated employee with Algona Publishing Company. For 30+ years he has been head pressman for the newspaper's sheet-fed printing dept.

For the last 14 years I have had the good fortune to work with Jack. As general manager, I couldn't ask for a more dedicated and loyal employee. What a pressman - what a person! I've never learned sign languag e- probably should have, but Jack and I have no problems communicating. We write notes and he can read lips. Each of us just knows when the other is pleased or there's a problem.

About three years ago, Jack reduced his hours to 3/4ths time, but he's still just as productive at work and as busy with his community and state involvement. Besides being a leader in his church, he's served as board member, vice president, of the Iowa Association for the Deaf and was re-appointed by the Deaf Services Commissioner of Iowa. His term recently expired after 15 years of service.

About three years ago, several retirees from The Omaha World-Herald pressroom, Algona Publishing's parent owner, visited Algona to "procure" some of Algona Publishing's hot-lead and letterpress equipment to be preserved in the new OWH Freedom Center Museum. Jack was an excellent host as he proudly reminisced with his visitors and acted like "excited kids in a candy store!"

Thanks, Jack, for your first 50 years - we're proud and pleased you continue to grace our pressroom with your skills and personality.

-Dick Plum, publisher

©Algona Upper Des Moines 2003