Ellsworth Curran, known for decades of public service, dies at 101

Former McCleary mayor

Local centenarian Ellsworth Curran passed away at his home in McCleary on Friday, Dec. 15, at the age of 101. He had been ill for the past few weeks, according to his wife of 33 years, Annette.

Curran, who was profiled in detail by The Vidette in April 0f 2016 to mark the occasion of his 100th birthday, was born May 9, 1916, on a Duchesne, Utah, cattle ranch. He spent most of his life in McCleary from the time his family moved to the area in 1939.

Curran spent 25 years as an employee of Simpson Lumber Co. and later served as owner/broker of Elma Realty for 15 years. He was also deeply engaged in civic life, serving two terms as McCleary’s mayor in the 1950s and helping to co-found the McCleary Bear Festival in 1952. As mayor, he helped bring public bus transportation to Grays Harbor County and encouraged small municipalities to cooperate and combine resources to lobby the state in pursuit of their interests.

He was also involved in bringing in McCleary’s first bank and served 20 years on the foundation board of Mark Reed Hospital, stepping down despite protests from colleagues because he felt he was getting too old to serve effectively.

In November of 2014, Curran, a World War II veteran, was named grand marshal of the Elma Veterans Day Parade in honor of his service in China with the famed Flying Tigers. He was also honored for his service in 2015 by the Museum of Flight in Seattle. He consistently declined to talk about the details of his war experience, however, saying he didn’t wish to glorify conflict.

“Human beings are due for a step upward in evolution where they have no more wars and they live like human beings are supposed to live — where they love each other and treat each other decently,” he was quoted by The Vidette as saying in the 2016 profile.

The end of World War II was the most meaningful event to have happened during his lifetime, Curran added at the time.

An enthusiast for active living and alternative medical practices, Curran credited his long life to his eschewing alcohol and tobacco and his past habit of jogging about 5 miles daily. He was also a hunter, fisherman, gardener, fire wood-chopper, and dancer from boyhood. He and his wife Annette attended dances twice weekly for 20 years, giving up the habit only when forced to do so by age.

Asked what the most impressive advancement to have occurred during his lifetime was, Curran, who recalled hunting as a boy for rabbits with a .22 calibre rifle for his family’s dinner, told the The Vidette it was “infrastructure.”

“We’ve gotten the freeways and the railroads all over the county, and shipping, and rural electrification,” he said. “We didn’t have a radio, didn’t have electricity out on the farm when I left (Utah). No telephone, nothing like that.”

Asked by The Vidette what 100 years — a timespan that covered the terms of 17 U.S. presidents — felt like in retrospect, Curran said, “Part of the time (it feels fast), and part of the time I get to think back and it feels like it’s a long time ago. My life seems to have been going fast because I’ve been busy.”

Curran leaves behind two children and 12 stepchildren. Annette Curran said she wishes to express her gratitude to Harbors Home Health and Hospice and the Veterans Administration for their help and assistance.

A memorial service for Curran is scheduled to be held at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints in Elma at 11 a.m. on Dec. 30.