Family, Friends & Fellow Officers Remember...

Sergeant Willis Hugh Purdy

Colorado State Patrol, Colorado

End of Watch Saturday, July 31, 1976

Leave a Reflection

Reflections for Sergeant Willis Hugh Purdy

God rest his soul.

Sgt. Robert A. Henne
Jersey City PD/Ret.

August 21, 2023

Trooper Purdy,
I never met you. I never served. I don't know anyone who was impacted by the flood.
Yet, your self-less love for your fellow humans touches me so very deeply. I think of your heroism every time I drive the canyon. I will never forget you.
Thank you and God bless you.
George Forster
Ft. Collins, CO

George Forster

July 29, 2022

Rest in peace always knowing that your service and sacrifice will always be remembered by your law enforcement brethren.

Detective Cpl/3 Steven Rizzo
Delaware State Police (Retired)

July 31, 2020

You were one of the bravest men I ever had the honor of serving with. You were also my friend and mentor. I know there is a special place in heaven for you.

Bill E. Miller 'Junior'
Former Colorado state trooper

February 21, 2020

Rest in peace Sergeant Purdy.

Rabbi Lewis S. Davis

January 13, 2020


First Sergeant Thomas Webb, Retired
New York State Police

June 15, 2019

We were headed east bound highway 34, just east of Idlewild Dam, at the big bend below the dam when a Colorado State Patrol car was driving west bound. In the vehicle was my father Ronald M. Schuette, mother Shirley M. Schuette, grandfather Robert Kuhlmann and myself Tim Schuette. We were probably the last to see this patrolman, as we were racing out of the canyon.

Tim Schuette
Survivor of the Thompson Flood

March 1, 2018

When I learn of a sacrifice like this, I always have two thoughts, and while I'm not much of a Bible person, both come from the Bible;

No Greater Love...

Here I am Lord; Send Me.

Bryan LaVelle, Sgt USAF

February 1, 2018

Sgt Purdy
your actions save more people than any one known in the modern world.
You are sorely missed
Carl Weil
3rd generation peace officer
Elizabeth Colo


August 3, 2017

"Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints”. Psalm 116:15

God bless you Sgt.Purdy, thank you and may you continue to rest in peace.

Michael Miller
Civilian, CO
Former Police Reserve Officer

June 1, 2017

Everybody new Hugh Purdy in Loveland - CSP #224.

Thinking back 40 years, and remembering as a 21 year old watching the storm from my farm about 10 miles east of the storm. Black black clouds and many many lightning strikes straight west up the canyon, but only half dollar raindrops near me, and not many at that. We combined barley the next day, so the rainfall just a few miles away was minimal.

Thank you officer Purdy for your commitment that night to all those threatened - you saved so many lives.

Todd Anderson

August 2, 2016


I know this man, he was my father, Frank Scarpella’s best friend.

I don’t know how or when they met, but he knew me from birth. I remember countless times their family spent with ours, taking summer vacations together, or the times mom and dad and Hugh and Isa would play cards until the wee hours of the morning, laughter so loud you could tell there was love in the air, and of course, my dads teasing Hugh incessantly, and dear Hugh would just get that sweet grin on his face and smile back.

I remember, Hugh would drop by our house in his blue patrolman uniform, and I… being a small child would look up at him with such awe, his size and stature didn’t fit his personality, he was the kindest man I have ever met. He would scoop me up in his arms and for just that moment, I would feel as though I were in the safest place in the world.

We went to Yellowstone Park with the Purdy family the year of the massive earthquake in 1959. Hugh was such a stable force for all the people in the camp at Fisherman’s Bridge. Roads had split at least four to five feet apart, leaving us trapped for three to four days, after shocks were violent, but he remained calm, reassuring us all.

He taught my mom how to drive in her late 20’s. She being a feisty little redhead, surely it had to have been a challenge for Hugh, I have no doubt! I must say, a job well done Hugh, she drove right up until the time of her death at 86-years-old, minus a few minor accidents here and there. But by then, our dear friend was gone and had already become a “Hero” to all in the family of the State Patrol and to the many lives he had saved in The Big Thompson Flood on Saturday, July 31, 1976.

I don’t think one becomes a “Hero.” Hugh was born a hero, because for as long as I can remember he was my hero. Looking up at him with my big brown eyes, I always knew there was something special about my dad’s best friend.

God’s blessings upon you dear Hugh…In loving memory

Barbara Scarpella Reed
Family Friend

August 1, 2016

I have found this website for the first time. My mother was driving. We were headed up the Canyon. This police officer was blocking the road at Drake. He said get out of here water is coming and he took off down the canyon. We turned around and tried to follow him. Just past the original fire house we were hit hit with water. We could see other care being quickly pulled off the road into the water. Water was over the hood of our car. Something hit our car violently. At first we thought it was another car but in fact it was an outhouse. The outhouse kept us anchored. Just then ahead of us were two highway department workers in a large dump truck. There lights shined on our car. They made to the car running up along the water. Some how they got is out - my mom, little brother and my younger sister. Just then the car took off down river. Officer Purdy and these two men saved us. I have no idea who the two highway workers were. Thank you to the brave men and women who saved so many that night. God Bless Officer Purdy's family.

Ty Ricker
Flood Survivor

August 1, 2016

Sgt Purdey stayed in the canyon driving ahead of the wall of water, warning people to get to high ground. He did not take any of the turn outs that could have saved his life, warning others of the danger over his PA bull horn and even with his last radio breath - a HERO with out equal in the number he saved - hundreds!- at the expense of his own life. 600+ lived in the canyon - 144 died

C Weil

November 16, 2014

Newly graduate from high school and was with friends in Loveland, Co. that evening July,1976. My father managed the Estes Park KOA and was furious that I had disobeyed his demands for help around the camp grounds. It had been raining most of the afternoon and shoveling trenches around the sidewalks were needed. I felt horrible but chose to stay with my friends the rest of the evening instead. I can only imagine where I might have been in the Big Thomson Canyon that night as the waters grew higher and higher. I thank god for my choice that day and now I pay tribute to Willis Hugh Purdy and thank him for his choice

T. Lancaster

April 14, 2014

Colorado Public Radio broadcast a tribute song about Officer Purdy yesterday and today following the terrible September 2013 floods (). The song, "Here comes the water" was written and sung by Chuck Pyle. Officer Purdy tried to alert citizens of the Thompson River Canyon of that "a wall of water coming down the canyon". He lost his own life trying to warn residents. This was the most loss of life in any Colorado flood (over 130 people) ever, but would have been worse without the warning provided by Officer Purdy. Please listen to the lyrics of the song to hear the Officer's story.

Jim Elkins
Boulder, Colorado citizen

October 2, 2013

With tears in my eyes I listened to this powerful and beautiful song, thinking about all the people who lost their lives back then and in the recent disaster. Nature always adds perspective with it's power and beauty, sometimes destructive, as in the recent landslide incident in Chaffe County. But the greatest beauty to appreciate is how this man gave his life to try to save others. This is truly the deepest example of "to protect and serve". Where did those values go? I know that the father of the 13 year old girl caught in the landslide knew the meaning. God Bless all their souls.

Darce O'Connor

October 2, 2013

Yes, Patrolman Purdy is not forgotten. I grew up in Estes Park (now live in HI) and every time I rode my bicycle past Drake I gave the memorial placard there a nod. I'm not sure if the memorial has been washed away now after this most recent flood but I sure hope not. If it is, it should surely be re-erected.

Doug Fitch Schwartzsmith
Estes Park citizen

September 18, 2013

Grew up knowing Patrolman Purdy's story from a very young age as one of my favorite songs is/was "Here comes the water" by Chuck Pyle regarding the Big Thompson flood and the heroic actions of Sgt Purdy.

SPC Jon Blackwell

April 19, 2013

To fully appreciate the heroes of the present, we must recognize our heroes of the past. Your heroism and service is honored today, the 37th anniversary year of your death. I am priviliged to leave a tribute to you. Your memory lives and you continue to inspire. Thank you for your service. My cherished son Larry Lasater was a fellow police officer who was murdered in the line of duty on April 24, 2005 while serving as a Pittsburg, CA police officer.

Time never diminishes respect. Your memory will always be honored and revered. Rest In Peace.

I pray for the solace of all those that love and remember you for I know both the pain and pride are forever. I thank your friends for sharing their devotion to you through their reflections.

Phyllis Lasater Loya
mom of fallen Pittsburg (CA) officer Larry Lasater

January 25, 2013

I was only 14 when the flood took your life. Now I'm a retired Peace Officer and proud to have served in the ranks of honorable heroes such as yourself. You sir, shall always be a hero for the way you lived your life. Rest well Trooper and God Bless!

Agent Robert Davis, ret.

July 31, 2012

Rest in Peace, Sergeant Purdy. Your sacrifice is not forgotten.

Officer 11169

January 24, 2012

Sgt. Purdy - Thanks for your service to the people of the State of Colorado. I stood in the State Assembly hall, yesterday, when your name was read off during a proclamation for next month's Peace Officer's Memorial Week and Day. I stood alongside CSP Chief James Wolfinbarger and I watched him acknowledge each CSP officer's name as it was read.

We will wear our mourning bands for you and the almost 250 other brother and sisters. May God grant you eternal rest and may His perpetual light shine upon you.

Chief K. Moreland (Ret. Sgt.)
Palmer Lake, CO PD (Ret. LAPD)

April 24, 2010



March 28, 2008

"The Badge"

He starts his shift each day
To respond to calls unknown.
He drives a marked patrol car.
A police officer he is known.

He's paid by the citizens' taxes
To make it safe on the streets.
But he usually has a second job
'Cause a waitress has his salary beat.

Now he doesn't know a holiday
'Cause he works all year round.
And when Thanksgiving and Christmas finally arrive
At his home he cannot be found.

He's cursed and assaulted often,
The one whos blood runs blue.
He seldom ever gets a thanks,
To some he's just a fool.

His friends are always other cops
'Cause people just don't understand
That underneath his badge and gun,
He's just another man.

He knows there might not be a tomorrow
In this world of drugs and crime.
And he gets so mad at the court system
'Cause the crooks don't get any time.

And each day when he leaves for work,
He prays to God above.
Please bring me home after my shift
So I can see the ones I love.

But tonight he stops a speeding car,
He's alone down this ole' highway.
It's just a little traffic infraction.
He does it everyday.

Well, he walks up to the driver's window,
And his badge is shining bright.
He asked the guy for a driver's license,
When a shot rang through the night.

Yes, the bullet hit its mark,
Striking the officer in the chest.
But the Department's budget didn't buy
Each officer a bullet-proof vest.

So he lay on the ground bleeding.
His blood wasn't blue - His blood was red.
And briefly he thought of his loved ones
'Cause in a moment the officer was dead.

In the news they told the story
Of how this officer had died.
And some who listened cared less,
But those who loved him cried.

Well, they buried him in uniform
With his badge pinned on his chest.
He even had his revolver,
He died doing his best.

Written By:
David L. Bell
Richland County Sheriff's Department
Columbia, South Carolina
Used with Special Permission of the Author
Copyright © 1999 - All Rights Reserved
and may not be duplicated without permission

Investigator David L Bell
Richland County Sheriff's Dept., Columbia, SC

December 9, 2007

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