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Coquille celebrates Curran's 96th birthday
The World - 12/31/2020
Dec. 31—COQUILLE — They came by car and truck. They came on foot. A member of the city's fire department even came in a truck with lights flashing.
All stopped by to wish happy birthday to Jim Curran, who turned 96 Monday.
The World War II Navy veteran is well-known in his neighborhood and on the South Coast because of a long career as a teacher and coach, touching the lives of students in Bandon, Myrtle Point, Coquille and other communities.
But teaching wasn't always his dream. Curran wanted to be a surgeon or surgical assistant when he was one of the top ROTC students at Fort Lewis in Washington, but said he wasn't allowed into the medical program because of his vision.
That worked out all the better, as he had a chance to touch the lives of so many.
Several of those former students were among the well-wishers Monday.
"Mr. Curran's energy and enthusiasm got a lot of us inspired about science and sports at an early age," said Charlie Waldrop, who grew up in Bandon — he graduated with Curran's son Jim in 1972 — and stopped by Monday.
"He was my science teacher and track coach. I played football for him, too."
Waldrop has stayed friends with the family ever since. "It's been a long, wonderful relationship," Waldrop said. Several of the people Monday gave greetings from their vehicles, with a wave or by saying "Happy birthday."
He returned their greetings by raising his coffee mug and saying "Thank you."
Others visited longer, sharing stories with Curran. He enjoyed every minute of it.
"This is astounding, as you might well imagine," he said. "There are a great many people — they were once my students."
Curran got to celebrate his birthday on a stunningly beautiful late December afternoon, which briefly made him think of one of his past favorite activities. "I would be out on the Sheep Ranch if I were 20 years younger," he said of the newest course at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. "The body says no — the mind says yes."
But aside from not being able to play golf, Curran said he was generally happy with how he feels. "I'm doing fine — remarkably well for the number," he said of his age.
Curran lived in Coos Bay — then Marshfield — when he was young.
"I'm uncertain I ever grew up, but you can use that phrase if you want," he said.
He graduated from Corvallis High School, where he said he was the first athlete to letter in both spring sports.
"I got to run in the state track meet and play in the state baseball tournament," he said.
As a teacher, Curran coached football, baseball, basketball and track and field. In addition to his work on the South Coast, he also taught in Washington and Portland.
He's thrilled he eventually settled in Coquille. "It's the most temperate climate in the world," he said.He's been a welcome part of the neighborhood. Next-door neighbor Cheryl Fletcher moved in a year and a half ago. "He offered to help us unload our U-Haul," she said. "He's my inspiration. I want to be like him — to stay active as long as I can."
Monday's event was organized by Lisa Dulin, who watches out for Curran.
"He's just a sweetheart," Dulin said. "I've learned more from him than I did in four years of school. "He knows so much about Oregon."
Patti Curran, Jim Curran's daughter-in-law, praised Dulin for setting up the party and for all she's done for the family. "We're all blessed to have Lisa Dulin check in on Dad and make sure every day is special," she said.
Monday sure was.
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