Who is Anita Purves?

Anita Purves - A Passion for all Living Things


The Anita Purves Nature Center is but a small tribute to a spirited young woman who inspired both children and adults to share her enthusiasm for the kinship of all living things. The nature center and the programs and services offered seek to perpetuate Anita’s stewardship and love for nature and people.

Anita Parker was born on May 19, 1939, in Philadelphia. She was happiest when satisfying her curiosity about nature. Her involvement with nature was very personal. Anita married Alan C. Purves in 1960 and moved to Urbana in 1968. “Anita and I visited Busey Woods with our two sons,” said Alan, “We tried to find a little bit of unspoiled nature in Urbana.” Anita developed breast cancer in 1971. Despite her failing health, she attend the Busey Woods lease signing. Shortly after, Anita died of cancer on March 11, 1975.

During her time in Urbana, Anita was very active. As an original member of the Park District Advisory Committee, she ensured that the best parks and programs were offered. Anita played a role in the Thornburn Environmental Awareness Center, the district’s first environmental center. In the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, she led schoolchildren on Busey Woods nature hikes. She dreamed of a place where schoolchildren could discover nature as part of their school education.

Anita was by nature very curious, not just about nature, but also about people. Anita had an unquenchable fascination with nature. It was a passion really, for exploring and observing the woods and prairie. (Ruth Wene in News Gazette, 1-27-94)

If you would like a full history on the Anita Purves Nature Center & Busey Woods, check out this timeline.