Kenneth Irwin Curtis

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During World War II, General Douglas Mac Arthur, puffing on his corn cob pipe, frequently strode into the office of Lt. Col. Ken Curtis with orders for a new and often challenging,  island-hopping assignment. Events like this regularly defined the career and life of the proud gentleman, soldier, civic leader, community activist, mentor and dear friend that many in Colorado Springs knew as General Curtis. Kenneth Irwin Curtis was born on March 12, 1910, in Rutherford, New Jersey to Albert and Miriam Curtis. In 1925 the Curtis family moved to Shorewood, Wisconsin, where Ken graduated from high school in 1928. Immediately after graduation,  Ken worked his way around the world on a tramp steamer. This remarkably bold voyage brought him to exotic ports such as Shanghai and Bombay and left Ken a changed young man. By 1931 he had received an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and by 1935 he had graduated  with a commission in the Artillery. In 1936 Ken married the sister of one of his West Point classmates, the former Miss Edith K. Simons of Leavenworth, Kansas and together they embarked on a life long journey of service to his country, his community and his fellow man. Edie, loving the adventure of all of his assignments, was the perfect military wife, and remained by his side till her death in December, 2000. During World War II, Ken served in the Southwest Pacific Arena for three years. His assignments  included those of  Plans and Operations Officer (S-3) of the 40th Anti-Aircraft Artillery  Brigade, Commanding Officer of the Airborne 50 Caliber Anti-Aircraft Machine Gun Battalion, and Chief Instructor at the Southwest Pacific Amphibious Training Center. During his last year and a half in the area, he was with the G-3 Plans and Operations Division General Headquarters, Southwest Pacific, Philippines Theater where he earned the Legion of Merit Award. It was during this time that Ken served on the staff of General Douglas MacArthur and received the Philippines Liberation Ribbon with the Campaign Service Star and the Philippines Independence Ribbon along with the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal. Upon his return to the United States he attended the Army and Navy Staff College (now the Armed Forces Staff College) followed by four years at the Pentagon in the Organizational and Training Division of the Department of the Army General Staff. Next, he went to Canada for three years with the Interchange Group, to work with representatives from the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom in an effort to standardize military equipment, tactics and strategies. Returning to this country in October, 1952, he spent three years as the Executive Officer of the 53rd Anti-Aircraft Brigade in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, responsible for defending major U.S. cities from Cold War attacks. In 1954 he attended the Army War College in Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania followed by the Strategic Intelligence School in Washington D.C. After this training he spent two years as the Army Attach to India and Nepal where he had the pleasure of working with President Rajendra Prasad of India and King Mahendra of Nepal. Upon his return to the U.S. in August, 1958, he began his first assignment at the U.S. Army Air Defense Command (ARADCOM) headquarters in Colorado Springs where he was, successively, ARADCOM Information Officer, Assistant Chief-of-Staff, G-3 (Operations and Training), and Deputy Chief of Staff for Administration and Logistics. In 1961 Ken and Edie moved to Korea for two years so Ken could work with the Korean Military Advisory Group. While there Ken served as the senior advisor to the Commanding General of the 2nd Republic of Korea Army. He returned to Colorado Springs for good in June, 1962 where he was assigned as General Staff Officer and subsequently Deputy Chief-of-Staff  for Planning and Operations for ARADCOM. Ken retired from the Army on August 1, 1965 as a Brigadier General and received the Distinguished Service Medal,  but  in the eyes of those who have known him since 1965, he was far from "retired". At this point in his life Ken simply switched from a career of service to his country to one of service to his community and to his fellow man. During the next 40 years Ken generously shared his leadership and business acumen through long term commitments with organizations such as the Downtown Colorado Springs Rotary Club, The American Red Cross, The Salvation Army, Easter Seals Southern Colorado, the American Heart Association and the Pioneers Museum. For many of these organizations his involvement mushroomed from the local level to the state or regional level of leadership. During his tenure at the Pioneers Museum he spearheaded the capital campaign that enabled the Pioneers Museum to move to its current location. While Ken was passionate about assisting with community needs, his gift of giving did not end with serving on Boards. Ken's respect for the dignity of every human being led him to volunteer directly with individuals in need within multiple organizations. For over 15 years he led a two hour group session with Alzheimer's residents at Namaste, where, in the last month, at age 95, he surpassed the "1000 volunteer hours"  mark. In addition, he volunteered with clients at Pikes Peak Mental Health for over 20 years. His philanthropic support has left an eternal mark on organizations such as Pikes Peak Hospice, Penrose Hospital, The Humane Society, the Rotary Foundation and Easter Seals Southern Colorado. Ken's commitment to the Colorado Springs community was felt from the boardroom to the individuals who receive services reflecting the sign of an inspirational civic role model. Ken loved his country, golf, Air Force Football (and Fisher De Berry), dogs, horses, driving his Cadillac at age 95, his daily cross word puzzles, his  morning Coke a Cola, physicians, cookies, jogging (although the last few years he was limited to walking), Popeye's chicken, and mostly, his friends. He continued to have a very active social life and as his friends will attest, it would literally take two to three weeks to get a lunch date with "The General". For a man who was retired for over 40 years, he really never retired. He always served! A Memorial Service will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Friday, December 9, 2005 at First Presbyterian Church located at 219 E. Bijou Street. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to Easter Seals Southern Colorado, 225 S. Academy Blvd., Colorado Springs, Colorado 80910.
Published in The Gazette on Dec. 4, 2005
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