Clifford Purinton grew up in a household some kids could only read about in books – his father, George, worked for the FBI “catching bad guys.” Cliff’s mother, Anna, tended to her three children and oversaw the household wherever George’s work took them.
“Mom was a good homemaker and great cook,” he said.
Though Cliff lived in many places, his favorite was the Dry Mills area of Gray. Since childhood, he had been a member of the Scouts – he devoted 12 years to the youth organization and was happy to continue his service in Maine.
When he was a senior at Pennell Institute in Gray, Cliff worked at night at the South Portland Shipbuilding Corps from 1942 to 1943. He was on the rigging crew that erected plates, girder beams, shell assemblies, superstructures, and other sections of ships. Cliff directed crane operators using hand signals and was also responsible for unhooking cables and chains after sections were fastened in place.
Later that year, Cliff was drafted into the Army.
Into the Army
Cliff completed boot camp at Camp Evans in New Jersey and went on to complete several other trainings, including: Eastern Signal Corps School in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, radio operator low speed; Radar School in Drew Field, Florida, radio operator; Aircraft Warning Unit Training Center, Drew Field, Florida; Communications School, Will Rogers Field, Oklahoma, cryptographic tech.
Throughout the three years he served in the Army, Cliff spent time at 11 camps, three tech schools and completed advanced infantry training. He also served overseas for 11 months in the European Telecommunications Office.
Once while being transported on the SS Île de France, the ship was torpedoed by German submarines. The soldiers were told to go to their bunks, lay on their bellies, and let their arms and feet hang off the bunks to help from being knocked out. The ship landed in Scotland, and the soldiers traveled across Britain to France.
“We were chasing the German Army all over Europe,” Cliff said.
The next mission for Cliff had him assigned to the 23rd Signal Corps, 3rd Division. He was the only one chosen out of 123 soldiers to go to Berlin. The job was an important one – to close up the rear of the German troops.
Along with Cliff were two war photographers sent to report on the military action.
“Before we set out, I was told to draw a machine gun and some hand grenades,” Cliff said.
Cliff served another six months after he was supposed to be discharged.
“I was considered essential,” he said.
After serving until April 1946, Cliff returned to Maine for a short time where he and his wife started started a family. They then moved to Connecticut where Cliff worked for Growers for a couple years. Cliff and his brother went on to buy a small store in Yalesville, Connecticut, and named it Purinton’s Market. Cliff had three more children and ran the store for a number of years until 1957. The store was robbed and Cliff wanted their children to be raised in Maine.
Cliff worked as a construction supervisor for Cianbro and retired in 1991. He very much enjoyed spending time with the love of his life.
“We did everything together, even the grocery shopping,” he said.
Audrey passed away in 2001, after 51 years of marriage to Cliff. After her passing, Cliff spent time traveling throughout Maine, visiting friends. He was also active in the Lovell-Fryeburg VFW and Masons.
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