|January 26, 1958 to February 1, 2009|
Two years ago tomorrow on February 1, 2009, my uncle Curtis passed away unexpectedly during the night. He had just recently turned 51 years old. He was classified as MRDD but he was always a big inspiration to me. Because of his "condition" he could never hold a "real job" but that didn't stop him. He often rode a bicycle or walked all over town and would offer to mow lawns, rake leaves, cut bushes, or shovel snow just just a little bit of extra spending money to buy a cup of coffee or a couple of cigars. He also liked to shop for new treasures at the Goodwill or Salvation Army and loved to buy shirts and hats with writing of any kind and he would often take an ink pen and add his own name as an extra touch. I never realized just how much he not only inspired me but inspired others as well until I was at the funeral home and watched the countless number of people I didn't even know come to pay their respects, local business owners, radio personalities, and just people who became to know him from him walking the streets doing various odd jobs. My family and I heard stories from these people about Uncle Curtis that we had never heard before, like stories about the Christmas presents they'd chip in to get him every year or the Thanksgiving dinner plates they would have made up for him when he stopped by on Thanksgiving.
He had only suffered from a brief illness that was just thought to be the flu. He was down for the first time in his life and felt too bad to get out of the house, even to celebrate his birthday with my mom, his sister, who had been his guardian for over 20 years since their mom had passed. He looked forward to his birthday all year long and it was his favorite day of the year. It was shortly after his 51st birthday that he died. He had felt too sick to walk to the local quick stop to visit his friends there to collect his birthday presents, which they thought was odd but they still kept his presents close by so they could give them to him when he stopped in. Sadly this never got to happen. He was going to be the proud new owner of a brand new leather belt with his name on it and a new push lawnmower, which was his "old school" preference to mow lawns because there was no gas required, just man power. I think everyone in town at least remembers seeing him walking the streets and carrying his coffee cup looking for odd jobs to do. He would often sing and dance for a few bucks when he was having a good day. Even though he couldn't carry a tune, I'd give up a lot of things just to hear his voice once again singing to me in his own beautiful way.
Curtis always did inspire me because he never let things get him down, or at least he never let it show. The reason he inspires me even more now is because even though he is gone, his memory lives on in the hearts of everyone who knew him, and everyone who still has a story to tell about him, and when I see the looks in their eyes when they talk about him and see the tears well up, I know that he has inspired them too.