Port Moody mourns the passing of Ron Curties
Port Moody lost a tireless volunteer and enthusiastic community organizer when Ron Curties passed away on Nov. 13.
Curties moved to Port Moody's Alderside Road in 1974 and he and his beloved wife, Tomie, quickly became active neighbourhood participants.
He was perhaps best known for presiding over the annual Penguin Plunge at Rocky Point Park every Jan. 1. For 30 years, Curties coaxed New Year's Day revellers into the frigid waters of Burrard Inlet, always with his signature brand of charm, wisely staying warm and dry so as not to "damage the microphone."
"He used to get such enthusiastic participants for the Penguin Plunge," said organizer Yvonne Harris, who knew Curties well through the Pleasantside badminton club, adding he was delighted by the appearance of all three of the Tri-Cities' mayors at the "PoMo classic."
"He was just such an amazing person, athlete and community volunteer," Harris said. "He'll be missed."
Curties was a lifetime member and past president of the Pleasantside Community Association — current association president Dave Stuart said Curties was given "honorary membership" even after moving to Newport Village because of his passion for the community.
As the PCA president, Curties often presided as MC during all-candidates meetings during city, provincial and national election campaigns.
"You listened to Ron, he had this authority," said Joe Trasolini, the former PoMo mayor who is now the NDP MLA for Port Moody-Coquitlam. Curties commanded the room, Trasolini said, and always ensured candidates of all stripes "obeyed the rules."
It was during Trasolini's final year as mayor in 2011 that he and council bestowed Curties with the Freedom of the City, honouring his efforts on more than 26 city committees and his service to many other PoMo organizations.
Over the years, Curties volunteered for Ioco Ghost Town Days, Golden Spike Days, the Terry Fox Run, the Port Moody Library Links to Literacy golf tournament and the Port Moody Foundation. He was also behind Santa's waterfront arrival every year via the Port Moody Power and Sail Squadron carol ships.
"I underestimated what that meant to him," Trasolini said of the Freedom of the City. "It was so much the culmination of all that he's done for the city. He told me it was a privilege, the greatest honour to receive that from his own community, and nothing else could have come from any other level of government that would have meant so much to him.
"He was not just bestowed the Freedom of the City, he earned it. It's such a tremendous loss for the city of Port Moody."
Curties was known to love Port Moody's waterfront connection and its small-town character but his nephew, Jack Peake, said Curties always delighted in discovering something new.
"One thing that was always a chuckle amongst the family members was that he always took a route that never brought him back in the same way," Peake said. "He looked at life with the feeling that there was always something new to explore and do."
Peake, a former city councillor and mayor of his hometown of Lake Cowichan, recalled having many lively discussions about city politics with his uncle — but rarely came out on the winning end.
"I always enjoyed having good serious discussions, as well as a lot of fun with him," Peake said. "But you could never get ahead of him... he was always a one-up man."
David Spence, past chair of the Port Moody Foundation, described Curties as a community-minded soul who cared deeply about his neighbours and the community.
"He had a level of enthusiasm that was infectious," Spence said, which was mirrored in his wife, Tomie, who passed away in April 2010.
"In many ways, they were inseparable and they were encouraging of one another and supportive of each other... wherever they went," he said. "They collaborated together in a wonderful way to enhance the life of the community."
A memorial service for Curties is being planned for next spring.