Gail Purtan, philanthropist and wife of radio's Dick Purtan, dies at 80
Gail Purtan, a philanthropist and the wife of longtime Detroit radio personality Dick Purtan, died Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2018, at the age of 80, her daughter said.
Mrs. Purtan spent more than 20 years battling ovarian and breast cancer, diabetes, chronic pain and myriad health issues, her daughter Jackie Purtan said.
Mrs. Purtain was married for 60 years to Dick Purtan — who entertained listeners for 45 years in Detroit — and they had six daughters together.
Jackie Purtan posted on her father's Facebook fan page Tuesday saying the family is is devastated.
"To say she was the kindest, most loving and strongest woman we’ve ever known would be an understatement," Jackie Purtan wrote on behalf of the family. "... her body was simply tired."
After graduating high school, Mrs. Purtan worked as a legal secretary to pay for her husband's college and graduate school. After four-and-a-half years of dating, they married in 1957.
Jackie Purtan also shared a love letter her father wrote to her mother on their 60th wedding anniversary in December.
"On this day...a few years back... (ahem) I had the honor of marrying Gail Nulton, my high school sweetheart and the girl of my dreams. I was 16 and she was 15 when we met. Four and a half years later, we 'took the plunge' as they say, and said our 'I Do's.'
"...Gail, the kindest, most giving woman I've ever known, cheered me on as we zigzagged across the country from one radio station to another, finally landing in Detroit, as I pursued my dream of making it in Radio. And always with a smile on her face," he wrote in the letter.
The couple had a long history of fundraising efforts including Dick Purtan's annual 16-hour Salvation Army Radiothon. They added cancer research to their agenda 13 years ago, when Mrs. Purtan was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. In his letter, Dick Purtan said she was told by doctors she had a 20 percent chance of making it five years.
"Our life together has been an incredible adventure... meeting John F. Kennedy... our home movies with The Beatles taken when we brought them to Cincinnati in 1964... Gail singing a duet with Regis Philbin a few years ago at Andiamo's... and so much more," Dick Purtan wrote in the letter.
Utilizing her husband's media exposure, the couple raised public awareness about gynecological cancers and contributed more than $2 million dollars for the Gail Purtan Ovarian Cancer Research Fund at the Karmanos Cancer Center and the Purtan Family Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation, according to Dick Purtan's website.
They were the 2003 recipients of the McCarty Cancer Foundation Humanitarian of the Year award for their contributions to cancer research. The Old Newsboys’ Goodfellow Fund of Detroit honored the pair at their 20th Annual Tribute Breakfast in 2009, at which they received the Edward H. McNamara Goodfellow of the Year award.
"There simply was no greater love," Jackie Purtan said
Mrs. Purtan is survived by her husband, six daughters and eight grandchildren.
A visitation is being held from 1 p.m.-8 p.m. Friday at McCabe Funeral Home, 31950 W. 12 Mile, Farmington Hills.
The funeral service is set for 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 3, at Franklin Community Church, 26425 Wellington Road, Franklin.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to The Purtan Family Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation in her name.