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Community & Public Service

Emmaline "Emmy" Purviance Henn


Emmaline "Emmy" Purviance Henn left twin legacies to her adopted hometown of Huntington — a place for adults to live in dignity and comfort, and a place to help children fulfill their potential.

Born Emmaline O’Harrow in the waning days of 1926 in New York City, Emmy spent much of her childhood in the suburban village of Chappaqua, N.Y.  In 1943 her father took a public relations position with Kitchen Maid in Andrews and brought the family to Huntington. Emmy graduated from Huntington High School in 1944. When World War II ended, she was introduced to Donald Purviance, the son of family friends, who had returned from Navy combat service in the Pacific Theater.

Emmy left her studies at DePauw University to marry Don in 1946. While he worked at the Majestic Company, she was a homemaker for their three children. Over time, she became involved in local civic and church boards, though often in background capacities. It was not until later in life that she stepped into leadership roles, first with the LaFontaine Center Restoration Committee and later with the Boys and Girls Club of Huntington County.

The LaFontaine Hotel held wonderful memories for Emmy. Her wedding reception had been held in the summer banquet room and her family had enjoyed many pleasant evenings in the dining room.  When the decaying hotel was at a crossroads in 1981, she helped lead a not-for-profit effort to restore the building as housing for older adults. She became the face and voice of the project that spared one of the city’s most important structures from demolition. She helped lead the board until 1995, while becoming a director of Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana.

Twenty years after helping launch the LaFontaine Center project, Emmy became a pivotal figure in establishing the Boys and Girls Club of Huntington County. She had recognized the need for local youngsters to have a place to learn, play, and grow after school hours, and her vision was a sustaining force in the organization’s progress from quarters in a former church to a new and spacious facilities on the same site on the city’s east side.

Don Purviance, who had consistently encouraged Emmy’s civic endeavors, died in 1999. She married Robert Henn in 2004 and she remained one of the city’s most influential and esteemed citizens until her death in 2014.

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