Judge Peggy Dunn passes away after lengthy illness.
Following a lengthy illness, Margaret Lee (Peggy) Purswell Dunn (age 76) of Cleveland, Texas, passed away peacefully in her home on October 27, 2021. Peggy was born December 14, 1944, in Many, Louisiana to Louis Daniel Purswell and Sue Margaret Phillips Purswell. She was married to the late Clifford K. Dunn, the love of her life, in 1973.
Peggy loved life and she loved Cleveland. Peggy was a 1962 graduate from Cleveland High School. She received the Betty Crocker Homemaker of Tomorrow Award in 1962 and the 1961 Football Sweetheart. She was a cheerleader, member of the Record Club, and served the FFA as typist. Peggy attended Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches. She returned to Cleveland and left a legacy of commitment to community that was truly inspiring.
Though Peggy was quick to offer her opinion, whether you asked for it or not, she was not one to just sit around and wax philosophical about what ought to be done; she rolled up her sleeves and “got ‘er Dunn,” the slogan for her successful run as Justice of the Peace in Liberty County. In January 2007, Peggy was sworn in as the first woman judge in Liberty County, Texas.
Justice and fairness were the cornerstones of Judge Dunn’s legacy. In fact, she kept a mallet on her desk, made by her father, to remind her of the importance of balance, fairness, and the personal fortitude to do the right thing.
Judge Dunn didn’t run for public office for personal recognition but to improve the community. One of her most important legacies was addressing the truancy problem in Liberty County schools. Judge Dunn believed that truancy was directly linked to ongoing cycles of poverty and violence. Her goal was for kids and their parents to understand the importance of education and the doors that education would open.
Prior to serving as Justice of the Peace, Peggy served for many years as the much loved and successful Administrator of the Cleveland Health Care Center. Those who saw Peg in action knew that she cared deeply about the residents and their well-being. Peggy believed that folks who were able needed to be up and out, interacting with others for their well-being. Plus, it just wasn’t in her make-up to allow those who were able to just lie around. So, when she wasn’t in a meeting, Peggy moved around the facility encouraging residents and staff to do their best!
Peggy set herself as the example for doing one’s best. In 2005, when Hurricane Rita hit Cleveland, Peggy essentially moved into the Cleveland Health Care Center. She had worked diligently prior to the hurricane to make evacuation plans, if needed. She had identified places for resident evacuation and ambulances for the transports. When the time came, however, FEMA had commandeered all the ambulances! Those who knew Peg can well imagine the colorful language she used in that moment! But Peggy also faced reality and instantly developed and implemented a Plan B. When power failed and it became too hot for bed-bound residents to be inside, she had them all moved outside onto the covered porch. Peggy didn’t rest until all the residents were eventually evacuated and everyone was safe.
In 1994, Peggy and Cliff Dunn bought the Texan Theater in downtown Cleveland. They operated the theater as an affordable entertainment venue for families. In 2020, the Texan Theater was dedicated as a Liberty County Historic Landmark.
As much as Peggy loved her work, family was equally important to her. Peggy was a cornerstone of the annual Phillips family reunion, which began when she was a teenager. She was also a staple at the Purswell family reunions held at Stancil Park in Cleveland. She was the life of the party at both these reunions every year and, until her illness prevented it, she never missed either reunion! She kept up with all her cousins and their families. She adored her aunts, uncles, and cousins on both sides of the family.
In addition to her demanding job, Peggy and her husband Cliff were also foster parents for twenty years, making a difference in the lives of over 100 children during that time.
Peggy is survived by four children: LaJeanne Hall (Allan); Rebecca Dunn; Randy Dunn (Esther) and Tommy Dunn (Donna). She is also survived by 12 grandchildren and their spouses: Bethany Senter (Shannon), Emilie-Anne Pope (Christopher), Tyler Partin, Savannah Simpson, Jeremy Dunn (Jourdan), Timothy Dunn, Carly Dunn, Jeffrey Dunn, Natalie Dunn, Anna Supac (James), Madison Duxbury (Adam), and Tess Osborn (Mark); and nine great-grandchildren: Peyton Senter, Makenna Senter, Ashtynn Pope, Millie Pope, Anna Hall, Stafford Supac, Fay Duxbury, Julianne Osborn, Eli Osborn, and Madlyn Osborn.
Peggy is also survived by her two younger sisters, with whom she was very close. Peggy once explained her relationship with her sisters like this: “[W]e’ve always been a team. We’re each very different and unique, but we’ve always been there for each other. It’s as if we’re facets of the same shared soul.” (Chron, article by Bob Dunegan, March 13, 2007.)
Peggy is also survived by one niece: Andrea Urban; two nephews: Brian Reese and Lance Lowery; three great-nieces: Ava Acree, Harper Lowery, and Rachel Reese; one great nephew: Landon Lowery; and a host of cousins – all of whom adored her.
Peggy was preceded in death by her husband, Clifford K. Dunn; her parents, Daniel and Margaret (Phillips) Purswell; and a brother, Phillip Purswell.
Family and friends are invited to attend a celebration of life at First United Methodist Church, Cleveland, Texas, at 10 a.m. on November 13, 2021. As a tribute to Peggy, LaJeanne requests that guests wear their best “Kentucky Derby” hat.
Visitation will be held on Friday, November 12, 2021, from 5 to 8 p.m., at Pace-Stancil Funeral Home, 303 East Crockett St., Cleveland, TX. 77327.
Flowers and plants will be gratefully accepted. Donations may be made in Peggy’s name to the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund.