Saturday, March 20, 2021

In Memoriam: James Richard “Dick” Curtis

February 2, 1930 - March 17, 2021

James Richard “Dick” Curtis (age 91), formerly of Champaign, died peacefully at the Odd Fellow Rebekah Home, Mattoon Illinois, surrounded by family on March 17, 2021 after a battle with Alzheimer’s.

Richard was born on February 2, 1930 in Champaign, Illinois to John Wesley and Jessie May (Quackenbush) Curtis.  He married Constance Ann “Connie” Sticher on January 10, 1954.  She died on August 3, 1992.

Richard is survived by his three children: Christie (Tom) McMinn of Mattoon IL; Rich (Katrin) Curtis of Grand Rapids MI; and Steve (Pam) Curtis of Mahomet IL.  He is also survived by 10 grandchildren: Katie (Justin) Hanner of Leander TX; Becky (Stevie) Hall of Gifford IL; Jonathan (Patty) McMinn of Mahomet IL; Nate Curtis and Nick Curtis both of Grand Rapids MI; Lindsay (Paul) Van Hovelyn of Danville IL; Matt Curtis of Champaign IL; Kristi (Rusty) Woliung and Felicia Fordyce of Farmer City IL; and Maranda (Ryan) Harden of Tolono IL.

Additionally, Richard is survived by 18 great-grandchildren: Abbi and Peyton Gordon; Chase and Max Hanner; Caleb Bradbury; Stella Hall; Corban, Liam, Gavin and Adalyn McMinn; Eli and Gabriel Curtis; Makenzie, Sadie and Braelyn Woliung; Rhys Harden; Brody and Logan Fordyce. He is also survived by his sister-in-law JoAnn Curtis and a niece and two nephews.

Richard grew up on the family farm west of Champaign at the southwest corner of Staley Road and Kirby Ave. His grandfather settled the farm after the Civil War. It is now the site of Trails at Brittney subdivision and Countryside School.  He spent most of his adult life living in the house he and Connie built on the farm in 1965.

In addition to his responsibilities on the family farm, Richard went to work for Dean’s Dairy at age 13. He became plant manager while in high school.

Richard graduated from Champaign Senior High School in 1947, where he lettered in wrestling.   Having a love of aviation from a young age, Richard joined the Civil Air Patrol in high school.  He earned his pilot’s license at age 16, flying his first solo flight from the Champaign Airport. Richard attended the University of Illinois 1947-48.

He served in the United States Air Force with the Strategic Air Command during the Korean War 1950-1954. As Master Sargent, he led a crew of six mechanics servicing the B-26 Peacemaker. He was stationed at Carswell AFB in Ft. Worth, Texas along with a temporary assignment to Chanute AFB and artic training in Goosebay, Labrador.

In 1955, Richard followed his dream and went to work for American Airlines as a mechanic and shortly after became a Professional Flight Engineer.  He flew with American for nearly 40 years, based in Chicago; first at Midway and then O’Hare.  During his career with American as a Flight Engineer he sought advanced certification and designations allowing him to serve additional roles as Flight Engineer Instructor, Flight Engineer Check Airman, and Designated FAA Flight Engineer Examiner. In addition to training Flight Engineers for American, Richard also trained engineers for Spantex Airlines of Spain and Middle East Airlines of Lebanon in the 1960’s.  During his career, he accumulated countless hours flying the Douglas DC6 and, DC7, Lockheed Electra, Convair 990, Boeing 707 and 727 and McDonnell Douglas DC 10. He was the 3rd officer on the first international flight of American’s DC 10, flying from Chicago to Mexico City December 19, 1971. He retired from American Airlines in 1995 Richard was highly regarded in the industry and by his peers.  Richard loved his job and took great pride in it.  He often said he was fortunate to have flown in the glory days of the airlines.

Richard and Connie became avid ballroom dancers, spending most Friday and Saturday nights dancing with their friends at the Regent Ballroom.  They were fixtures at the Ribeye restaurant for years, occupying a corner booth every Friday night at 6pm, a tradition Richard continued after Connie’s passing.

They were also enthusiastic golfers and members of Lincolnshire Fields Country Club.  Richard enjoyed hunting and fishing, spending many hours on the lake.  After his retirement he continued to enjoy a good life of family time, dancing, fishing, golfing and traveling.

In addition to his wife Connie, Richard was preceded in death by his parents; brothers John Wesley Curtis, Jr. and George Wayne Curtis; sister Elizabeth Ruth Curtis; his in-laws Lawrence and Inez Sticher; and sister-in-law Martha Curtis.

Funeral services will be Tuesday, March 23 at 12:00, with visitation from 10-12 at Morgan Memorial Home, 1304 Regency Drive West, Savoy. Burial will follow immediately at Woodlawn Cemetery, Urbana, Illinois.

The family wishes to thank the staff of Odd Fellow Rebekah Home, Lincolnland Hospice and Dr. Aja Lystila for their excellent care of Richard and their kindness to the family in his final days.

Memorials may be made to a charity of the donor’s choice.

Condolences may be offered at

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