New London - Charles W. Curtin, of New London, passed away on Monday, Feb. 24, 2014, after an extended battle with COPD.
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"Charlie" was born on April 12, 1927, in New London, to Mary S. Curtin and William J. Curtin. He attended The Nameaug School during his elementary years, and even walked home from his school during the Hurricane of 1938! He was a 1945 graduate of The Bulkeley School, now the RMMS School, in New London. During the war era, this all male high school had instruction only up until noon, as some students worked, or others prepared for early graduation for service enlistment.
This Bulkeley Boy decided to work in the afternoons. He purchased a 1940 Ford wagon, (not only a rarity, but even more difficult with rationed gas) in order to help deliver U.S. mail for the postal service in New London. He would often joke that no one else could easily deliver mail specifically to "the fort", as none of the other postal carriers could read and speak Italian, and get it done in the timely and efficient manner that he did. During evenings and weekends, he would be seen and heard playing his big base instrument as a member of The Hub Neilan Band. They would often play to crowds at Ocean Beach, and the New London Amory, during the height of the forties big band era.
He spent his earliest years though, in and around his grandfather's store on Bank and Belden Streets, which back then overlooked the bocce courts, and now the fountain in New London. He lived above it for a few years before he, his parents, and his sister "Peg" moved to Ocean Avenue. As a child, he would watch his grandfather, Charles (for whom he was named, and one of the first Northern Italians to emigrate here), grandmother, Maria, and his favorite uncle, sell Italian groceries and goods.
Charlie, even at a young age, and very adept at business, would be seen selling newspapers in front of the store. He had boasted that he and his grandfather had the largest newspaper circulation and sales in over a 50 mile radius. Everyone who was anyone, would go and purchase a newspaper there, sit down, talk politics, and generally debate what was going on in and around the City of New London.
When Charlie turned eighteen, and much to the disappointment of the postal service, he had decided to join his father in the small taxi and livery service that Bill and Mary had started some years earlier. He often said that the day he was able to get his public service endorsement on his driver's license, was one of the happiest days of his life. He would be heard many times telling other prospective drivers that it was the "best job in the world". For him, it was a natural fit.
He loved all aspects of the taxi business, including his admiration for cars, customer service, dispatching, and his love of people. As time went on, he was able to add territory, and permits to form what is now known as The Yellow Cab Company serving passengers from The Baldwin Bridge, to the Rhode Island border, and greater Waterbury, as well. He was also responsible for expanding Curtin Livery Service from Greater New London to Waterbury, and into Stratford over time. Because of his expertise, he served on numerous boards and committees to ensure transportation was available for all. He believed it should not present a barrier for anyone, access to everyone. He also served the zoning board of appeals for the City of New London for many years, as well as past president of Taxicabs of CT.
He and his wife, Kathi, both of whom had a very strong work ethic, operated the businesses for many decades, and together, they were very successful in their business, and in life. Although many hours were spent working side by side, because of their close relationship, they enjoyed it, and chose never to be far apart for any period of time, as they did everything together. When time permitted, they also enjoyed traveling with the ITLA, RROC, and CCC to many destinations in the U.S., Canada and Europe. They also made countless, and lifelong friends from those organizations.
Sadly though, he was predeceased by his wife, and love of his life, Catherine "Kathi" Curtin, on Feb. 1, 2003. Although it has been 11 years since she had passed, he recently said he would think of her daily, and that he had the most wonderful, fond memories of their lives together. He had often said when they were together, they "had the world by the tail", and that they did. We are comforted by the fact that they are now permanently reunited, and eternally are together in heaven. In addition, he was predeceased by his parents, Mary and William Curtin, as well as his grandparents, Charles and Maria, with whom he had a very special, unforgettable bond.
Family members left to mourn this huge loss are, Margaret "Peg" Curtin, and Elizabeth Glover, of New London, Catherine (Peter) Rotella of Stonington, and KC (Richard) Bruno of Waterford. He is also survived by three grandsons, one granddaughter, and one great-granddaughter.
His family will be eternally grateful to the staff of Companions and Homemakers, especially caregivers, Kim Lewis, and Vashti Greene, as well as his other caregivers, Dawn, Nancy, Tara and Doreen, all without whom he could not have remained comfortably in his home, one that he resided in for nearly 60 years. We are grateful to his pulmonologists, Dr. Paul Licata and Dr. Lynn Tanoue for many years of superior medical care. We would also like to thank the nurses, staff, and hospitalists of Lawrence + Memorial Hospital for his care during his stays. Without this collective expertise, the length, and quality of his life would have been entirely different.
He was a man of that greatest generation, whose passion for family, career, and life in general, motivated him to be the best he could absolutely be. He had a most unique way of motivating those around him to do the same. He was quite the commanding presence, forcing those around him to focus, listen, and learn. His timeline spanned many changes in the world, from the very lean years of The Depression, to the arrival and universal use of the internet, but was he able to adapt to it all.
Although we have lost a father, a brother, and a grandfather, we are left with countless memories of his blunt honesty, keen problem solving skills, and his uniquely outspoken ability to prove a point. We will miss the stories about the transportation business, the store, and the many summers spent at Oswegatchie with his uncle and cousins, all told with his razor sharp wit. His dry sense of humor will never be matched. We will forever admire his no nonsense, straight forward approach, and his driven, exacting nature. Lastly, and undisputedly, the taxicab industry has lost a most expert, and powerful voice.
At his directive, burial arrangements are being handled through The Thomas L. Neilan & Sons Funeral Home of New London, remaining private, and at the convenience of his family. He also specifically asked that no one take the day off, and that it would be business as usual, so that the public would be served, and transportation not be interrupted.
In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory may be made to the Lawrence + Memorial Development fund, 365 Montauk Ave., New London, CT 06320.
Condolence message may be left on his memorial page at www.neilanfuneralhome.com.
Thomas L. Neilan & Sons Funeral Home
12 Ocean Avenue
New London, CT 06320
Published in The Day on Feb. 28, 2014