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July 24, 2013

Social Security administrator retiring

MOORE — In his tenure with the Social Security Administration in Oklahoma and western Arkansas, Dennis Purifoy has weathered turbulence and change and navigated tragedy and triumph.

He’ll step down from the agency Aug. 2 after 40 years.

“In every office where I’ve worked, the people have been unfailingly dedicated to serve the public well,” Purifoy said. “The employees I worked with over the years were public servants who were focused on providing good customer service.”

As a claims representative in Stillwater, Purifoy intended to work for the SSA for a couple of years before pursuing other opportunities. After 40 years, he is glad he stuck around.

“From Stillwater to Shawnee and then Hot Springs in Arkansas, I’ve enjoyed my job every step of the way,” Purifoy said. “I was the manager in the Clinton office, where I was introduced to my wife, before I went to OKC and was there during the bombing before coming here (Moore).”

Purifoy was inside the Oklahoma City SSA office, where 16 employees were killed, when the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was bombed April 19, 1995.

“I wouldn’t call it a highlight, but, of course, it sticks in my memory,” Purifoy said, recalling the bombing. “That was a rough day, but,” he said, brightening, “we had the office open and serving people in Shepherd Mall, where it is today, in one month.”

Purifoy recounted his experience on that day to Oasis, the Social Security Administration’s in-house magazine.

“They (the survivors) were screaming for us to get them out,” he said. “I was calling out. Lorri McNiven returned my call, and I followed her voice and found her on top of some filing cabinets.”

That was not the last time Purifoy witnessed an emergency first-hand while at work. Four years later, he was conducting a pre-retirement class at the United Auto Workers Local 1999 union hall near the now-closed General Motors plant on Southeast 74th Street in Oklahoma City when it was destroyed by the May 8, 2003, tornado.

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