ORONO, Maine — Theodore “Ted” Curtis Jr. understood the urge that causes young people to leave Maine but he always encouraged them to do what he did — come home and get involved.
Curtis, who died Friday at the age of 74, served in both houses of the Legislature, on the Orono School Board, and on the boards of the University of Maine Pulp & Paper Foundation and the Maine Veterans Homes. His law firm has been on Main Street in Orono at the former Nichols’ drugstore since 1972.
The attorney was praised over the weekend for his commitment to community service and his family. Curtis was the first Vietnam Veteran elected to the Maine Legislature. A Republican, he served in the House of Representatives and the Senate in the 1970s with a young Democratic legislator from York County, Barry Hobbins.
“He left the party labels at the door before he walked into the chambers,” Hobbins, who today is the state representative from Saco, said Sunday. “He thought beyond the box at a time when there were not many moderate legislators. He believed in good government and bipartisanship.”
Curtis was especially proud of his role in sponsoring the bill to enable 18-year-olds to vote in Maine and the bill to place a 5 cent deposit on bottles, said his daughter, Abigail Curtis, who is the Waldo County reporter for the Bangor Daily News.
“I am saddened to learn of the passing of Ted Curtis, and my heart goes out to his wife, daughters and son, whom he so loved,” U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said Saturday. “Ted made such a difference to Orono, the state of Maine, and our country through his extraordinary service. … He was a wonderful person and a leader dedicated to making his community and state a better place.”
Curtis was also a member of the the Orono-Old Town Kiwanis Club.
His impact on Orono was enormous, said Kiwanian Larry Wade of Bradley.
“Every time there was an event, whether it was church, civic or a Kiwanis meeting, he was there,” Wade said Sunday. “He was one of those guys who was always there to support and help out and he did it with such kindness.”
Curtis participated in Orono’s sesquicentennial in 1956 and its bicentennial in 2006.
“It’s a caring community and peaceful most of the time,” Curtis said of his hometown’s celebration at the 200th birthday bash.
He was 16 when he took part in the town’s sesquicentennial in 1956. He starred as the town’s first groom in a historical pageant performed at the Memorial Gym on the university campus. Fifty years later, he couldn’t recall the name of the girl who played his bride, but remembered the celebration as a “great event.”
Curtis was born Sept. 23, 1940, in Bangor. The youngest child and only son of Theodore S. Curtis and Augusta Tolman Curtis, he was raised in Orono.
He graduated from Orono High School, Bowdoin College and Harvard Law School before joining the U.S. Navy. Curtis served four years active duty in the Pacific and Vietnam from 1966 to 1970, with duties on a destroyer and advising the Vietnamese Navy. He retired as a captain in the U.S. Navy Reserve.
“His proudest accomplishment happened soon after he crushed his leg moving between a whaleboat and a submarine at sea and was airlifted to the naval hospital in Subic Bay in the Philippines,” Abigail Curtis said Sunday in an email. “He discovered that his night nurse [Rose Marie] was very pretty and very sweet. He asked her on a date on the morning she came into his hospital room to introduce herself.”
The couple celebrated their 46th wedding anniversary earlier this month.
He is survived by his wife, Rose Marie Curtis, and four children and their families: Lynn Curtis King, Ben King and granddaughters Katie and Sarah King; Lara Curtis Campbell, Jim Campbell and grandson James Campbell; Abigail Curtis and James Clark; and John Curtis, Sarah Curtis and grandson Kyal Curtis.
He also is survived by his sisters Mary Curtis Betts, Edith Curtis and Peggy MacDonald and their families.
Funeral services will be held at the Church of Universal Fellowship at a date to be announced.