It is with a great sense of loss that I report the death of Durwood Curling. Here is the notice that appeared in the August 9 edition of the Virginian Pilot:
CHESAPEAKE, VA—Durwood Stewart Curling, 76, passed away Thursday, Aug. 5, 2010. Born in Old Norfolk County, he was the son of the late John DeBaun Curling and Rosa Lee Stewart Curling and was predeceased by daughters, Virginia Parham Curling, Carlos Stone Curling and Michelle DeBaun Curling.
In early years, Durwood worked for the Tennessee State Planning Commission in Johnson City until he went on active duty in the US Army. Following his Army tour, he went to Chapel Hill, NC, where he was accepted into the University of North Carolina graduate program for city planning. After working for the state of North Carolina, he returned home, becoming Chesapeake's first director of Planning and later appointed as city manager.
For the next 20 years, he served as executive director of the Southeastern Public Service Authority (SPSA) of Virginia. During his tenure, Mr. Curling served as president of the Solid Waste Association of North America while leading SPSA to numerous national and international awards. Participation in numerous civic activities include: charter member, elder and deacon in Great Bridge Presbyterian Church, former member of the Board of Directors at Bank of Hampton Roads, the Executive Committee and Board of Directors of the Great Bridge Battlefield and Waterways Foundation, past president of Future Hampton Roads and Chesapeake Jubilee Inc. He was also a past chairman of the Board for the United Way of South Hampton Roads, Elizabeth River District Boy Scouts of America, Southeastern VA Planning District Commission, Metropolitan Planning Organization and Friends of Chesapeake Parks, to name a few.
Left to cherish his memory are his loving wife of 54 years, Virginia Stone “Ginger” Curling; a daughter, Sharon Curling Lessard and husband Rene; a son, Lee Stewart Curling and wife Amy; grandchildren, Virginia Louise Lessard, Kellan Lee Lessard, Jared Stewart Curling and Ian William Curling; two brothers, W. Ray Curling and wife Louise, John Beverly Curling and wife Joan; a sister, Doris Curling Morse; an aunt, Mary Curling Gammon; as well as numerous nieces, nephews, cousins and a large extended family.
The funeral will be conducted at 1 p.m., Monday, Aug. 9, at Great Bridge Presbyterian Church, 333 Cedar Road, Chesapeake. The Rev. Tom Mercer will officiate. The interment will follow in Chesapeake Memorial Gardens. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Great Bridge Battlefield and Waterways Foundation (GBB&WHF), P.O. Box 15425, Chesapeake, VA 23328 or to Great Bridge Presbyterian Church, 333 Cedar Road, Chesapeake, VA 23322. Friends are invited to sign the online guest book at www.omanfh.com.
Here are comments by three of Durwood’s friends and associates:
John Hadfield, former executive director of SPSA:
We all remember Durwood’s sense of humor and his eagerness to dance anytime he had the chance. In fact, that’s what Aimee (our daughter) reminded us about him—his eagerness to dance!
He was never afraid of a challenge, whether for fun or business.
One of the first SWANA conferences that we attended was in San Antonio, TX, probably 15 years ago or more. One of the “events” during the icebreaker was a cow-chip toss. That’s right, cow chips, or dried-out…well…you know! Without much hesitation but with a great deal of fanfare he gets right into the action to see who can toss dried cow dung with the most accuracy. Of course, his past experience as a baseball player made him an expert and his experience in politics gave him a fair number of times in tossing s—.
During the early years at SPSA, we spent a lot of time in New York, negotiating bond sale agreements. As you may remember, we did that twice in 1984, again in 1985, and 1989. One time, probably 1984 or 1985, Charlie Meachum, Durwood, and I were out for a late dinner after working late. Charlie instructed the limo driver on where to take us and we ended up in Times Square. That was before NYC cleaned up that part of the city and there were bars, brothels, and drug dealers. Anyway, at some point that evening (it was about 2 a.m.), riding through Times Square, Durwood stood up and put his head out the sun roof of the limo and started talking to people along the street. Not long after, he and Charlie got out of the car, leaving me behind to go into a bar…just to look around. When he came out, someone stopped him and asked for change for a $20. He pulled out his wallet, right there in Times Square and proceeded to count out change. Charlie read him the riot act when they got back in the car for doing such a foolish thing in the middle of the night in one of the more dangerous areas of New York City! Durwood trusted everyone, unless he knew that he could nottrust you. He was always that way.
As you already know, he was responsible for building SPSA into the great agency it became. His experience as city manager of Chesapeake influenced his attitude, I believe. You may remember that the city’s landfill was right next to the city hall complex, along the river. That landfill was still in operation when he came to SPSA. The city manager’s office was very close to that landfill and to the river at the time. One of the stories he told was when a state inspector came to his office after inspecting the city’s landfill and advised Durwood in some amount of haste that he had completed his inspection, that the landfill gas was migrating off the landfill and had been found in the building they were in at that moment and that it was very explosive. “I am leaving right away and I recommend you do the same,” was how Durwood described the report. They all left the building and stayed away until it had been cleared of the gas. Durwood’s attitude as we built SPSA’s facilities was to do no less than what the rules called for and in many cases for us to do more. The SPSA landfill was the first in the state to be built with a liner and leachate collection system, well before the state and federal rules required every landfill to do that.
That attitude and sense of public responsibility permeated everything he had to do on SPSA. That led SPSA to become the most well regarded and most frequently modeled solid waste agency in the country.
By the way, the write-up for Durwood asks that in lieu of flowers, donation could be sent to one of two places. The “Great Bridge Battlefield and Waterways Foundation” is an interesting story. The battle of Great Bridge was the very firstbattle of the American Revolution. It is not well known, perhaps because, I’m told, it only lasted for about 15 minutes. The revolutionaries were successful! Durwood was involved and, in fact, leading the effort to create an historical park there and re-establish the battle as one of the turning points in the country’s history.
H. Lanier Hickman, former SWANA executive director and CEO:
Durwood Curling was another of the great pioneers in the evolution of solid waste management approaches to regionalization of independent government–based and user fee–funded independent solid waste management organizations. The founding leader of SPSA not only had the management and technical skills, but the political savvy to negotiate the shark- and alligator-infested political waters that surround solid waste management. Durwood served for many years in a variety of positions for SWANA. He was the driving force for the formation of the Virginia Old Dominion Chapter of SWANA. He served as a member of the SWANA International Board of Directors, representing Virginia. He then moved through the chairs and became the president of SWANA during the transition year of the changes of executive directors from myself to John Skinner. His management skills certainly helped SWANA continue its successful journey under the stewardship of two effective chief executives.
John H. Skinner, Ph.D.; SWANA executive director and CEO:
Durwood Curling was president of SWANA when I first joined the association as CEO, 14 years ago. He was a man of principle who stood up for what he believed in and was always of great support to me throughout his many years of service to the association. I was honored to work beside him and will miss his friendship and sage advice.