Hometown Heartbreak

When one grows up in a small town, as I did, he tends to have mixed feelings and emotions toward the place that nurtured him. On the one hand, I was never in love with the small-mindedness of Mahopac, N.Y. It was a sheltered place; racially and ethnically limited; culturally, well, uncultured. And yet, it is also my home. I rode my bike up Kings Ridge. I played night tag in Gary Miller’s back yard. I walked to town with John Ballerini and Scott Choy and Jonathan Powell, bought some gum and soda, then walked back. Mahopac is the place where I had my first crush; where I ran my first race; where I learned to drive and swim and dance and … just about everything. It’s home, and even though I haven’t lived there in two decades, it remains a place that I identify with; the place of my roots.

Which is why I am so incredibly sad.

Two days ago, the quiet, sleepy, boring town of Mahopac, N.Y. was tragically stirred from its sleep. Michael Purdy, a volunteer firefighter and a man my mother always spoke incredibly highly of, was shot to death in what police have ruled a “murder-suicide.” The details are sketchy and, in the context of this post, unnecessary. What I can tell you is that a man, Michael Boccardi, shot Purdy (pictured above), then killed himself.


These sorts of things don’t happen in Mahopac, Well, not often. Fifteen years ago this month, a classmate of mine, Gina Nacelrio, was killed in a drunk driving accent that shook the town. Otherwise, I can’t think of anything. Again, it’s a quiet place. Easy. Simple. Sheltered.

I didn’t really know Michael Purdy. We spoke once or twice—that was it. However, he is the father in law of a kid I grew up with; a kid who—judging by his Facebook posts—is empty right now. I can’t imagine what he’s feeling, or what the family is feeling. Sure, these types of things happen every day in towns across the United States.

Just not in my town.

Not in Mahopac.

3 thoughts on “Hometown Heartbreak”

  1. I am one of Mike Purdy’s nieces.

    My uncle is a great man.
    My uncle can light up the room with his smile.

    He is devoted to his entire family.
    He is loved by all who knows him.

    My uncle is a very proud man.
    My uncle is loyal and trust worthy.


    He is everything I wish I could be.
    He picked me up when other stepped over me.

    He hugged me when I was down.
    He loved me when no one else did.

    My uncle guided me to the light when I was lost in darkness.
    My uncle gave me life when I felt like I had none.


    My uncle helped me when I no where to turn.
    My uncle dried my tears when I felt helpless.

    He gave himself completely not halfway.
    He is one of my treasures i will lock in my heart.

    Not only is my uncle, Michael Glenn Purdy, my hero; he is also my friend.
    Not is he just my uncle but, he is a son, brother, father, grandfather, uncle, cousin, nephew and friend.

    I am proud that Michael Purdy is my uncle.
    I am grateful that he is part of my life.

    Uncle Mike, I love you very much and miss you very much. You are one of my many treasures in life that will always be in my treasure chest.

  2. Thanks for posting this Jeff. I too, consider Mahopac my home. I also haven’t lived there for two decades but I am still shaken by this but from a different perspective. I was good friends with Mike and MaryAnn Boccardi and I can tell you that I still wake up each morning and cannot believe this has happened. I too had my first crush, drove my first car, hitch hiked to parties at various locations such as Lake Casse so I understand where you are coming from. My heart goes out to all of the families involved in this tragedy and for all of us who cherish Mahopac in some way. This kind of a thing just doesn’t happen in Mahopac and if you knew Mike Boccardi, you would say he would be the last person in the world who could do such a thing.

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