UPDATE 1/13/2021: A link to the recorded funeral and accompanying program are at the bottom of the page.
Everything about Donald Lee Curtis was BIG. From his birth (26 inches long and over 10 pounds) on, he was known for his size, but his actions and his convictions were as large as his physique. The size of his impact on his family, his friends, and his community will have ripple effects that extend long after his lifetime.
Don was born in Wallingford, CT, on May 28th, 1941, joining his brother, Bill, and his loving parents, Grace E. and William H. Curtis, both of whom were educators. He passed away at home on December 26th, 2020 following progressive lung disease and congestive heart failure that slowly took him away physically but gave his family and friends many opportunities for poignant conversations, powerful memories, and loving goodbyes.
Don loved his childhood in Walllingford, culminating in his high school years at Lyman Hall HS, where he was a distinguished athlete and student, subsequently being inducted into their Hall of Fame.
It is only appropriate that he attended Tufts University, where the mascot is the JUMBO. He captained the football team, loved his years in Delta Tau Delta fraternity and the lifelong friendships made, earned his BSME, and completed his Naval ROTC program, graduating as a commissioned officer in the US Navy, passing up professional football offers.
Don met his wife, Susan, a US Navy nurse, in San Francisco, and they were married for almost 54 years, which was, in a statement he made shortly before death, the thing that made him the most proud. Opposite of Dad in size, Mom was his match in energy, passion, and love. Walking so many roads together, they made a formidable team. They raised four biological children, who learned early on that trying to divide them was a mistake. They helped to raise many others, as their door was always open to young people. The broader community learned of their largesse; they unified their efforts toward so many causes large and small, from housing exchange students and “unwed mothers” to remodeling school playgrounds and mentoring married couples. They often responded to what they called “collect calls from God,” and they allowed their children and grandchildren the blessing of seeing faith in action.
Dad’s first love was family. Dad’s second love was submarines, where he served most of his active duty years in the US Navy. Both loves could not be sustained. When the time apart from mom and kids became too much, Don went on inactive reserve and began his career at Hewlett Packard, which is what brought his family of six to Idaho in 1977. He worked for Hewlett Packard for 26 years, where he is remembered as epitomizing the HP Way.
BIG applied to just about all that he did. He was famous for overengineering everything… “if a 2×4 is good, a 4×6 is better,” including the bunk beds that couldn’t fit in the bedroom they were designed for! His Halloween costumes and Church Lady impressions at HP are legendary. He relished public speaking events, and his toasts and prayers at family events bordered on soliloquies. He loved a pulpit, and that included the home and dinner table. While the impact of his “shared messages” for his children and lectures on various topics for his grandchildren is dubious, the role modeling he gave of compassion, integrity, standing up against injustice, and always staying engaged in the fight were indelible lessons.
Dad loved people, gave the greatest hugs, and matched his convictions with playfulness. It is impossible to capture all of the circles of people influenced by him, and, more importantly, the friendships that formed through each and were so cherished by him. Everything became social! In addition to the many ties formed through school, the Navy, neighbors, and HP, countless activities, boards, and groups created a dizzying web of connection. Don and Susan were active members of the Saint John’s Cathedral Parish and the St. Joseph’s Catholic School Community. They were sustained by marriage formation and support groups, where they also expanded their impact on others. Their couples’ group has met monthly for over 40 years! Eventually every connection would turn to friendship and become social. They even managed to make exercise social, and they loved their YMCA class, its participants, and the social interaction. When dad became sick and weak, he’d skip the exercise and just attend the coffee hour afterward, perhaps burning more calories via animated conversations than he would have in class.
Don retired in 2000, and he and Susan agreed that their retirement years would be devoted to a cause that they could embrace together. They took up the mantle of human rights with an energy and passion that was a marvel and blessing to witness. There are countless pictures of Don on the Idaho capitol steps with one grandchild or another on his shoulders as he practiced what he preached. He was blessed by and extremely proud of the work he did for the Anne Frank Memorial and the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights, service on the board, planning events and leading tours as a docent, with his final tour given to his children and grandchildren just over a month ago.
Despite all of his impacts, his greatest pride and joy was his family. “I love seeing who you all are and who you are becoming.” His greatest sorrow was that he would not be physically present to watch his grandchildren become all that they will be.
He, his impact, and the hole in our hearts are all so large. To say his shoes are too big to fill is both literally and figuratively true. We feel so blessed to have had him and could not be more proud of our husband, Dad, and Opa.
Don is survived by his wife, Susan, their 4 children, and their partners: Don Jr (Scott Squier), Julianne (Mike Russell), Scott (Kathleen McBride), and Amy (Geoff Hartland), as well as 10 beloved grandchildren: Rebecca, Jacob, Nicholas, Leah, Daniel, Joseph, Adriana, Jessica, Samantha, and Andrew.
He now joins his parents, brother, sister-in-law Denise Curtis, nephew William H. (Billy) Curtis III, parents-in-law Hal and Rosemary Kolp, and brother-in-law Frank Icardo.
In lieu of any gifts or flowers, Dad asked that you please consider a donation to the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights/Anne Frank Memorial, the Treasure Valley Family YMCA, Idaho Youth Ranch, or the Friendship Foundation.
UPDATED 1/13/20 The family is celebrated a funeral Mass at 10 AM on Saturday, January 2nd, 2021.
- All were welcome to join via livestream. If you missed the service and would like to see it, the recording is here (CTRL+Click): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nEV9mTr6RvQ
- A complete program for the service is available, for those who want to follow the readings, join us in song, etc. If nothing else, open it to see a great picture of #75. PLEASE NOTE: The Mass program and song lyrics are intended to be printed 2-sided and then folded in half to form the program. Don’s/Dad’s/Opa’s funeral program 1.2.21
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Rose Anne Harry saysDecember 29, 2020 at 6:20 pm
Don was ALWAYS valued as a man of integrity and kindness. He made the world a better place just by being here.
Roe M. saysDecember 29, 2020 at 10:51 pm
I remember Don from my years at HP Boise (87 to 94). He was a great guy.
My sincere condolences to his family and friends.
Scott & Liz McLean saysDecember 30, 2020 at 3:17 am
Don, To me you always epitomised what was good & great about HP. You carried on the best traditions of Bill & Dave at HP and you were Mr HP WAY. My wife Liz and I feel honoured to have been your friend and got to know your wonderful wife Susan, she had to be to cope with you big guy. Thank you for spending time with us in Bonnie Scotland, your throw of Idaho has been and will be on our couch for many years to remind us of your beautiful adopted State and of you and Susan’s friendship. We travelled many roads together, none rocky, and memories of times together around the world, sometimes sharing a glass of our beloved Malt or red wine or listening to you chew on your ice cubes.
I know your love of family was always numero uno, as it should be, and thank you for letting us meet them as well as insisting that Liz and I stay with your Dad in his lovely house on the lake in New Hampshire, it was scary driving his car but you are definitely a chip off the old block. We will think of you often, in our home , on our travels and every time I hear the ice chink. RIP Dear Friend
Peggy Chiovitti-Moritz saysDecember 30, 2020 at 10:59 am
You brought such joy and knowledge to everyone that you touched, Don. I only knew you for a few weeks but your friendship felt like a lifetime of acceptance and teaching. Your courage and resolution on our precarious rainy mountain adventure in Rwanda to visit those incredible gorillas inspired me long after our trip was finished. You were always so willing to share your wisdom, advice, and joy for living with others. Thank you for being such a blessing in my life, Don. Rest well, my travel buddy.
Cindy Stanphill Winjum saysDecember 30, 2020 at 11:02 am
I am devastated to learn of Don’s passing. He was by far, one of the very best managers at HP.
I will never forget when I brought my baby girl in to meet my co-workers in HR…how he walked by, saw her and swooped in and picked her up out of my arms and told me how beautiful she was. I was in awe as this was a general manager who didn’t really know me, and yet, and he stopped what he was doing to congratulate me on my new baby girl. It is a memory of my time at HP that I will never forget.
When you say he was larger than life, he truly was. I know you will miss him greatly, but I hope you take comfort knowing that he had such a positive impact on so many lives, mine included. He taught me to lead with compassion and to live my values everyday. He also taught me how to use a marker on slides… He was a pro! He was truly one of a kind.
All my love to you Susan and your family.
Kelli Kinkela saysDecember 30, 2020 at 12:04 pm
Very sorry to hear this. My heart to Susan and your family.
Rick Oliveira saysDecember 30, 2020 at 2:02 pm
So very sorry to hear of Don’s passing. I was honored to have worked for him and learned so very much during that time. He was truly a great man. RIP.
April Scott saysDecember 30, 2020 at 7:03 pm
My thoughts and prayers are with you. So sorry for your loss.
Denise Kohtz saysDecember 31, 2020 at 5:38 pm
What a beautiful tribute to an amazing person who lived his values so rooted in compassion, honesty and intense and swift action. Don did so much for so many people. I am thankful for his thoughts, words, and actions that I was able to learn from while at HP. Memories help ease pain and sadness; what a wealth of extraordinary memories his friends and family have.
Jerry Brady saysDecember 30, 2020 at 9:30 pm
I shared two book group with Don, which is to say, two groups which supported one another and learned to Keep the Faith, in one form or another. I will remember Don best for one event that summarized his later years for me: he was the first witness to speak on behalf of Add The Words before the Idaho Legislature. Speak out strongly he did. I will think of Don each time I visit the Anne Frank Memorial and speak of him to every visitor. How he lived his final months in hospice: what an example and a gift for all of us!
Jona Lagerstrom saysDecember 31, 2020 at 7:12 am
Susan, I am so sorry. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. Don certainly was larger than life. All our love.
Colleen and Mary Jo saysDecember 31, 2020 at 8:43 am
Don and Scott- we didn’t know Don Sr. personally, but we certainly knew of his many great deeds and passion for justice. Our hearts go out to you and your family. You have always honored him and Susan by following in their giant footsteps.
David Buermeyer saysDecember 31, 2020 at 9:21 am
I have sent my condolences privately to the family, but would like to restate that my feelings toward Don, AKA “Moose” or “Curt”, began as we met during our freshmen year at Tufts University. We shared many hours together over those four years to complete our mechanical engineering degrees, and we roomed together during our 1963 senior year in the Delta Tau Delta fraternity house. He helped make an enduring impact on the DTD national organization as we, with his strong leadership, broke down barriers to openly pledge non-Christians. I can now easily see why the Wassmuth Center was so important to him. The Navy and HP were very lucky to have him for a few years. I know I am a much better person having known and loved him. Rest in peace my brother.
Tom Swartz saysDecember 31, 2020 at 4:29 pm
Don Fair Winds and Following Seas and may all your dives in the after life be equal to your surfaces! We will all miss you! You were my mentor many years ago!
Bill Brudenell saysDecember 31, 2020 at 4:31 pm
Words escape me!! Don was a GIANT among people and stands our as one of the greatest in all ways! He was a terrific mentor for me as I learned how to be an effective docent at the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial. He and Susan recruited me, Ingrid, and many others to be docents. I thoroughly enjoyed talking with Don at coffee hour after Core Power at the Downtown Y about our experiences in the U.S. Navy and as fellow Delts.
Sharon Shin saysDecember 31, 2020 at 5:41 pm
Susan and Family: What a legacy. You were and are Pillars of St John’s. You and Don always made me feel so welcome, attended to, and you will always be a great team. (Communion of Saints) I would very muuch like to attend the streamed mass (from my residence here in California). I will pray with you and love to be part of the sendoff for such an amazing family. Honest, straight forward, bridge-building folks, whose faith runs deeply, is how I will always recall you and yours. So glad I turned up in his e-mail history. . That was clever of you to send out a notice this way. I would hope my late husband and Don are doing a re-union thing at the ongoing Eternal Banquet. I know you had time to finish the business during his illness. While it is never fun to have the inevitable “decline” it gives opportunity to valuue each moment, hour and day. Treasure those memories; I know you will. I also know you will always be a Team, He just has to work “off-site” and of course, will be taking care of his loved ones in ways the future will show you.
Hugs, Love and Appreciation for the examples, shared work, and memories
Kara Gaye saysJanuary 1, 2021 at 3:49 pm
Our condolances to the family, thinking of you all during this time. hugs, from the Goodell Family
Dave Kriz saysJanuary 1, 2021 at 7:03 pm
We were fraternity brothers at Tufts. Most of us had animal names for each other: Don’s was Moose, the loveable. It was not Animal House 2, but it was a house of laughter, deep respect, even deeper friendship and most of all integrity, For four years our leader in each of these respects was Moose. I – none of us – are surprised that our loveable Moose would conduct the rest of his life in concert with each of these characteristics! While over the years I saw Don at a couple of milestone alumni reunions, I had the good fortune of the coincidence of my brother settling in Boise and the crossing of the paths of his wife and Susan’s. Over time they would exchange, and I would be the beneficiary of news of Don as he heard about my whereabouts. And then there were always the great Curtis family newsletters and total brood photos taken at some exotic location. What developed for me was a profound appreciation for knowing a guy whom I admired in college and which admiration grew as he grew into a larger than life contributor to what a family could be, what a business leader could be, what a community benefactor could be, what a humanitarian could be, and, finally, what the loveable Moose continued to be throughout his life as an example for what we all should aspire to be.
Susan, I know Don’s passing is a great loss for you and the kids, But I hope you can go forward knowing that the indelible influence and example he set for you all is just the most intimate of the effects that he had and will continue to have for all the others that he touched in life. Every single one of us is better for having known him.
Bill Brudenell saysJanuary 2, 2021 at 9:22 am
Thank you Don ( and Susan) for your leadership within our community and especially for being an Upstander for Human Rights. Thank you for recruiting and training so many of us docents at the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial.
I was an employee at HP while Don was Site Manager; it was great with him in charge.
I enjoyed my conversations with Don at the YMCA about our times in the U.S. Navy and about Delta Tau Delta Fraternity.
We will miss Don; his positive affects on us will be felt forever.
Kevin Geraghty saysJanuary 3, 2021 at 7:46 am
Don, Thank you for the energy and support that you gave me in providing the Employee Assistance services at HP. Your commitment to people there was so full of integrity and passion. I felt honored and inspired by knowing you, and consider you the finest manager I ever worked with. My condolences to Susan and family. Peace be with you all.
John Jude Nodar saysJanuary 7, 2021 at 12:25 pm
To the Curtis family, my thoughts and prayers are with you all during this time, in the passing of Don. I remember Mr. Don Curtis from when I was a kid back in Boise, went to St. Joe’s with his daughter Julianne, back in the late 70’s, who later became a teacher there. I remember they had a party at the house, with all us kids. He was a great man, and a fellow shipmate..to all of the Curtis family..
May The Lord bless you and keep you;
May The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
May The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace. God bless you always ?
Love JJ Nodar
Martha and Ed Keener saysJanuary 7, 2021 at 3:15 pm
We are so sorry for your loss and pain as you grieve. Don offered much in his life to his family, friends and all of his community connections. He was/is an inspiration to us. He lives on in his good works and in our memories and stories, seeds he planted. Martha and Ed Keener
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