Family and friends gathered on a beautiful spring day at the 9/11 memorial in front of the Easton Public Library to pay their final respects to Easton resident John “Jack” Edwin Curtis, who died May 2 from complications of COVID-19.

The May 11— Mother’s Day —  ceremony took place while following pandemic guidelines, such as gathering limits, social distancing and wearing masks. The small group of mourners sat and stood between two budding trees donated to the Easton 9/11 memorial through Jack’s efforts.

Police Chief Richard Doyle opened the service and was happy they were honoring the lovely space, according to Dolly Curtis, Jack’s wife of 58 years. 

“I attended the service to offer my condolences to a long time Easton resident and to offer Dolly and her family any assistance the police department could provide them in these difficult times,” Doyle said.

Many remarks included references to how Jack and Dolly Curtis balanced each other so well, with Dolly being outgoing and visible in Easton and Jack being more reserved and in the background locally, according to Brad Durrell, former Easton Courier editor and a close friend of the Curtis family.

“Jack was an exceptional man,” Durrell said. “He was humble, welcoming and creative. It was nice to hear such insightful stories from family and friends about his life, from how he first met Dolly in college to his many professional achievements as a landscape architect.”

Rabbi Barbara Paris officiated. “We gather here today to say goodbye to and celebrate the life of John Edwin Curtis, known as Jack. How fitting that we sit amongst the trees in the beautiful setting that Jack designed. These are not usual times and nothing was normal about Jack’s last few months of his life. Separated from his soul mate, Dolly, and his two children Kara and Jason who he adored was not the way things should have ended. 

Trees Jack Curtis donated to set off the 9/11 memorial in front to the Easton Library.

“It was tragic and our hearts are broken. Our gathering today in masks and practicing social distancing is not normal either. Hopefully in the not-too-distant future, a memorial service will be held where all those who knew and loved Jack can be present to share their love and admiration of Jack and provide support for the family. But Jack was a simple man and would not have wanted a big fanfare anyway. 

“Jack has gone to his final resting place, but he will never truly be gone as long as we continue to tell the stories, the stories that made him a unique individual. 

“I know that since news of Jack’s death, Dolly has received so many notes and phone calls from people who knew and loved Jack professionally and personally. Jack leaves a legacy first and foremost of the wonderful husband and father he was. But he also leaves permanent memorials of parks and landscapes and designs that will live on as a tribute to this talented and loving man. So next time you walk in a park, admire a tree or pond, think of Jack. Better yet go and visit some of the places where he has indeed left his mark.”

Paris cited a summary of Jack’s professional and personal accomplishments in her eulogy and read “When Great Trees Fall” by Maya Angelou. “We Remember Them” by Jack Riemer and Sylvan Kamens was read responsively. Family and friends gave individual eulogies. The service ended with an English translation of El Malei and traditional Mourner’s Kaddish in Hebrew.

“Everyone seemed to be glad they were present as evidenced in the photo of the family taken afterwards,” Dolly said. “The sun smiled down on us as well.”

Dolly Curtis, center, with her children Kara and Jason, honoring her late husband, John “Jack” Edwin Curtis. — Thomas Rudne Photo
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By Nancy Doniger

Nancy Doniger worked as a journalist for three decades and was a founding editor of the nonprofit Easton Courier in partnership with the School of Communications, Media & the Arts at Sacred Heart University (SHU). She served two years as executive member and is now a contributing editing of the Easton Courier. She was a former managing editor of Hometown Publications and Hersam Acorn Newspapers covering Connecticut's Fairfield and New Haven counties. She was a correspondent for the Connecticut section of The New York Times from 1995 until the section was discontinued in 2006. Over the years she edited The Easton Courier, The Monroe Courier, The Bridgeport News and other community newspapers. She taught news editing as an adjunct professor at SHU and served as coordinator and member of the Community Assets Network for the Easton, Redding and Region 9 schools. She was a member of the Newtown Community Center Commission, member of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), board member of the New England Newspaper and Press Association (NENPA), and past president and board member of the Barnard Club of Connecticut. She has won awards for her writing from SPJ and NENPA.