George Andrew Curtis, 78, of Eureka, passed away on Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013, at his home in Bellevue, Wash.
He was born Nov. 25, 1934, in Kellogg, Minn., to Fay and Pauline Curtis. He attended elementary school in Kellogg.
The family then moved to Red Wing, Minn., where he graduated from high school. He was a great athlete, playing both football and basketball. In high school he met the love of his life, Eveline “Lee” (Bird) Curtis, and best friends Nancy, Lee’s sister, and husband Dick Deden.
George and Lee were married on Sept. 1, 1953, in the famous “little brown church” in Iowa.
Growing up in the Depression, George helped in providing for his family at a very young age by hunting and fishing. This gave George his amazing work ethic, determination to provide for his family, and his love and admiration for nature and passion on preserving it for its beauty and the sustenance it provided.
George was offered a football scholarship at the University of Minnesota, but he chose to work along with his wife to earn his bachelor of science degree in forest management. George went to Montana as a forestry student during the summer of 1957 and was sold on this great new world.
George played intramural sports throughout college, but always found time for his first love of hunting, fishing, and trapping. In 1958, he graduated from college and moved his wife, daughter Candace and son Scott to Troy as a junior forester. In 1962, he moved his young family and additional daughter Ann and son Keith to the Eureka Ranger Station, where he worked in timber management. His third son, Paul, was born in 1963. In the mid 1970s George moved into fire control and retired in 1994 as the fire management officer.
George was hard-working and a beloved coworker, boss, and friend to many in the community and all who traveled through the Kootenai National Forest as seasonal workers or career foresters. His knowledge and great personality extended far beyond these forests. He was a pioneer in the use of prescribed fire in the Northern Rockies, and he mentored many people in its use. He worked with the Fire Lab in Missoula to develop a guideline for under burning in mixed conifer stands. He continued to serve as an advisor after he retired. Much of the work he did or started helped to protect the local forest and homeowners from wild land fires. He co-authored a published paper regarding prescribed burns. His innovation won him an award and a trip to Washington, D.C., for the award ceremony.
George could have moved on and worked his way up through the ranks of the National Forest Service but instead chose to keep his family in Eureka. He was deeply rooted in the community and the forests that he so dearly loved.
In 1969 he purchased the cabin on Sophie Lake and so began the famous 4th of July celebrations with the Forest Service family, which included swimming, homemade ice-cream and fireworks. The Curtis family was always welcoming the Baptist Church members and school staff alike to also share in their beautiful access to the lake in summer or winter.
Ice skates all around was the policy, and for a job well done, there were s’mores, hot chocolate and, most importantly, a campfire. If you were really blessed, homemade ice cream was served, and huckleberries were shared, but not the picking spot. His favorite hunting area was in Sula, Mont., in the Bitterroot. What happened in the Bitterroot didn’t stay in the Bitterroot, and we look forward to always hearing a good “George in the forest” story. George’s love of the forests can be seen around the area in projects such as the work that he and others did around Camp 32 and Douglas Hill that saved many homes from fire disaster, as well as helping plan and build the Yaak River campground outside Troy.
Although George truly loved his work and recreation in the forest, he most of all loved his family. In the fall of 2009, George and Lee bought a second home in Maple Valley, Wash., to be closer to their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. In 2010 they moved into an adult family home in Bellevue, Wash., where he stayed until his passing.
He was preceded in death by his father and mother, Fay and Pauline (Wilm) Curtis; brothers Kenneth, Donald and Harold Curtis; sisters Joyce (Curtis) Kruger, Fern Curtis, and Beulah (Curtis) Adair of Minnesota; and son Scott Curtis of Oklahoma.
He is survived by his wife Eveline; sisters Delores (Curtis) Baum and Darlene (Curtis) Jablonske of Minnesota; children Candace Denegal and husband Charles of Renton, Wash., Ann Hull and husband Bryan of Maple Valley, Wash., Keith and wife Julie of Anchorage Alaska, Paul and wife Deanna of Maple Valley, Wash.; grandchildren Amber Ismael, Justin Ismael, Crystal Curtis, Jacquee (Curtis) Grimes, Gloriella Curtis, Trey and Israel Curtis, Riana (Hull) Baur, Dillon Hull, Samantha, Mikayla, Alexa, and Danika Curtis; great grandchildren Shayden Curtis, Scotty, Socrates, Nevaeh, and Season White, Brooklyn Grimes, and Chansii Thach (Ismael); numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins who also enjoyed his generous, kind and loving nature.
A small family memorial with special guests Dick and Nancy Deden of Missoula and Ron and Barb Hvizdak of Eureka was held in his honor in January. This summer a Celebration of Life will be held in Eureka for all to participate in true George Curtis style, complete with a campfire, homemade ice cream and stories. We look forward to celebrating his memory with the community he so dearly loved and friends and family from far and near. We will provide more details about this event soon. Thank you for all the cards, support, well wishes and prayers that this great community has bestowed upon us during this time of great loss.