‘Purple Lady’ passes away

Published 10:32 pm Monday, May 8, 2017

For many years, her existence was nothing short of true urban legend in Suffolk.

But the “Purple Lady,” Rachel Amelia Presha, passed away on Friday at the age of 91.

Presha lived on Route 17 when nothing else was there. Her domicile was then known as “Farm No. 6,” in the Belleville area near the current entrance to Harbour View.

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Presha’s penchant for purple earned her the Purple Lady moniker. She always wore purple. She painted the telephone poles and tree trunks in front of her home purple. Everything in her yard, from her fence to her wheelbarrow, was purple. In later years, even her house was purple.

Rachel Presha, commonly known among Suffolk natives of a certain age as the Purple Lady, shows off a statue of herself during a Suffolk News-Herald interview in 2012. She died on Friday.

“I think she was trying to find herself,” said her daughter, Delzorra Presha. “She started wearing white only, and then she started wearing black only. But when she put on the purple, she felt happier.”

“I always chose purple or something that satisfied me,” Rachel Presha said in a 2010 interview with the Suffolk News-Herald.

Rachel Presha grew up in the area and had two children here. After she developed her love for purple, a sighting of her outdoors — dressed all in purple — was an exciting event.

Having always had a bit of wanderlust, Rachel Presha disappeared around 1988 without informing her family where she was going. News reports in an attempt to find her yielded no results. But in late spring of the next year, a Churchland resident who was visiting Toledo, Ohio, caught a glimpse of her walking down the sidewalk, according to a 1989 Daily Press article.

Presha reportedly had been inspired to move there by the holy city of Toledo in Spain. She was just as purple and as popular there as in Virginia.

After beginning to suffer from dementia, Rachel Presha moved in with another daughter in New York for a few years and then moved back to Suffolk in 2010.

She has lived quite a full life since then, Delzorra Presha said. She took her mother to see “The Color Purple” on Broadway, took the entire family on a cruise to the Bahamas, took her to Washington, D.C., to see the statue of Martin Luther King Jr., and took her to various local attractions including Busch Gardens. She enjoyed voting for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, who wore purple during her concession speech last November. Delzorra Presha said her mother didn’t notice the connection.

Presha also went several times a week to a Sentara elder care program, where she was able to play games and socialize.

“She had a good time in her life,” Delzorra Presha said.

Her mother was an astute Bible student and could recite many scriptural passages forwards and backwards.

“And it was absolutely right,” Presha said. “She had a great brain, but she suffered from dementia.”

A funeral is planned for Sunday, May 14, at 10 a.m., with viewing at 9 a.m., at the Church of God and Saints of Christ, 4300 Judah Lane. Delzorra Presha said all are welcome.

“If they want to come, they can come to pay their respects,” she said.

Delzorra Presha said the family also is planning a tribute to her mother at a later date, perhaps next February, when they already planned to honor her.