Charlotte Langrall

Obituary of Charlotte H. (Purnell) Langrall

Charlotte H. (Purnell) Langrall, a pioneering science educator, died May 10, 2020. She was 91 years old. 


Born Oct. 10, 1928 in Wilmington, Del., Charlotte Mae Hedlicka was the daughter of the late Ethel and Joseph Hedlicka. H. Orland Langrall Jr., whom she married in January 1988, predeceased her in 2015.


She is survived by sons Harold W.T. Purnell II and his wife Stephanie, and John T. Purnell Jr. and his wife Denise, all of Lewes.  Also surviving are grandchildren Jennifer Purnell Knox and her husband, Andrew, of Charlotte, NC; Harold W.T. Purnell III and his wife, Erin, of Arlington, Va.; Elizabeth Purnell Straub and husband, John, of Pasadena, Md.; Victoria Purnell of Philadelphia, Trey Purnell of Baltimore and Nicholas Purnell of Fort Lee, Va.; Alex Arenburg of Rhode Island; and great-grandchildren Henry Nathan and Caroline Alice Purnell of Arlington, Va.

She also was predeceased by Thomas Rodney “Rodder” Purnell, a son who died in 1980 from complications stemming from a tragic accident. Her first marriage to the late John T. Purnell ended in divorce.

Other survivors include stepson Dean Insley Langrall of Ocean City; stepdaughter Jane Langrall Robinson and William, her husband; step-granddaughter Emily Hopkins, her husband Rob and their sons, Jameson and Landon, all of Salisbury; and one cousin, Deanie Rinehardt of East Derry, New Hampshire.


Charlotte was a 1946 graduate of P.S. duPont High School in Wilmington and the University of Delaware (1950).  She also received her master’s degree in 1963 from the University of Delaware and was pursuing a doctorate at the University of Virginia when a career change opportunity came along and she withdrew from her research.

Charlotte was a microbiologist for Sharpe, Dohme and Merck Co. in Philadelphia in the early 1950s. After moving to Georgetown, Del., she taught high school chemistry and biology in Millsboro and Georgetown. In 1967, Charlotte was appointed science supervisor for Delaware public schools, the lone woman nationally to hold that position at the time. She often reflected on that experience, sharing humorous stories about relationships within the group of educator-administrators.

She had an instrumental role in developing material for science curriculums in response to increased national interest in science education and did consulting work to help implement those materials in other states, including New Mexico where she was a teacher-trainer in Taos Pueblo.

Charlotte was appointed director in 1970 of the Del Mod Project, a program funded by duPont and the National Science Foundation to elevate the quality of Delaware’s science education. Its success resulted in Charlotte again working as a consultant, assisting other states in implementing the program. She authored several professional journal articles and was the subject of others.

In 1974, she became dean of development at Delaware Technical and Community College in Georgetown, retiring from that institution in 1988. The governor of Delaware formally recognized her in 1979 as an outstanding educator, and Delaware Tech inducted her into its Hall of Fame in March 2003.

Her standing as a science education advocate led her to serve for more than two decades on the board of directors of Philadelphia’s Research for Better Schools, including a term in 1978 as president.

Charlotte was an energetic person with a wide range of interests.  She was a keen birder who participated in bird watches and counts. An avid swimmer and golfer as well, she was a member of the Green Hill Yacht and Country Club and the (Salisbury) YMCA. At age 63, she demonstrated her swimming prowess by joining a YMCA group in 1991 that participated in a Choptank River swim, where she won a prize for the oldest swimmer to finish the event.

She especially enjoyed spending time around the pool at Green Hill, where she also was chair of the 9-hole women’s golfing group, and coordinated competitions for fellow golfers. In the early 1990s, she was president of Delmarva Golf Association’s 9-hole group.

Delmarva history was another of Charlotte’s interests; she was a member of the Friends of Poplar Hill (mansion) and Pemberton Hall, the Pemberton Park Board and the Wicomico Historical Society. She enjoyed serving as chair of the annual Pemberton Colonial Fair for several years and was recognized in 2004 by the Wicomico Parks and Recreation Commission for her service.

At age 80, Charlotte went skydiving above Laurel, Del., an exploit that attracted local media attention. She completed her personal “bucket” list of adventures three years later by participating in the 2012 New Year’s Day Penguin Swim in Ocean City. She won a prize as the oldest participant.


Charlotte was a life member of Peninsula Regional Medical Center’s Junior Auxiliary Board, serving as president in 2003. She enjoyed playing bridge, participating in a book club and gardening. She was chair of the ‘This-N-That’ homemakers group for several years and as an exercise devotee participated in a morning YMCA exercise group.

In retirement, Charlotte and Orland traveled widely around the country and in Europe, Africa and Asia. They enjoyed sailing on the Chesapeake Bay as well as in the waters off Britain, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Greece. Their trips often found Charlotte rappelling, hot-air ballooning, parasailing, white water rafting and bodysurfing.

A long-time member of Asbury United Methodist Church in Salisbury, she was a member of its Alter Guild, finance committee and Board of Trustees.

In light of the present national emergency, no services will be held.  Instead, please look at the memorial video prepared by the Rev. Benita Harris as a tribute to Charlotte at 

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions can be made to Asbury United Methodist Church, 1401 Camden Ave., Salisbury MD 21801; Pemberton Hall Foundation, 25416 Fairway Drive, Quantico MD 21856, or a favorite charity.


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