John Purcell Jr., Kern County Rugby Hall of Fame inductee, dies at 62

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — John “Johnny” Purcell Jr., who was inducted into the Kern County Rugby Hall of Fame, died on July 17 at the age of 62.

Purcell, who was born in Oakland, graduated from Garces Memorial High School in 1976 and went on to become a star football player at Bakersfield College and the University of San Diego, where he was awarded a football scholarship.

Purcell went on to establish and coach a rugby team at USD. After college, Purcell returned to Bakersfield, where he worked as a stockbroker for Merrill Lynch and an independent business consultant.

In the early 1990s, Purcell formed and coached a D-1 Club Level 7 rugby program in Kern County that resulted in several tournament and national qualifier wins. He also helped develop a youth flag rugby program in Kern County, which recently evolved into a full contact youth program.

In 2015, Purcell was inducted into the Kern County Rugby Hall of Fame. He was also inducted into the USD Hall of Fame in 2019.

In 1988, Purcell married Valerie Van Horne and they had four children — Mick Purcell, John Purcell III, Gabrielle Purcell-Frost and Nina Purcell. In addition, Purcell leaves behind six siblings: Patrick Purcell, Tom Purcell, Ann Marie Purcell, Margaret Purcell, Mary Purcell-Morphis and Michael Purcell.

A celebration of life will be held on Aug. 1 at 10 a.m. at Indian Creek Ranch, 14075 Paradise Valley Road in Twin Oaks. To RSVP or for more information, visit

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