A funeral is being held this morning for Joseph Curtis, former parks and human services commissioner for the City of New Rochelle, who died Sept. 3 at age 88 after an illness. Earlier this summer, the city had voted to honor Curtis by renaming Five Islands Park, which he had helped transform, as Joseph E. Curtis-Five Islands Park.
Curtis sevred New Rochelle from 1975 until 1989, and also was Parks and Recreation Commissioner in White Plains for a decade, from 1959 to 1969. In New Rochelle, his launch of a city-wide fitness program gained national attention and led to his membership on the President’s Council for Physical Fitness.
In lieu of flowers, his family is asking for donations in his memory to the Friends of Westchester County Parks or the Rotary Club of New Rochelle.
Click “more” to read the story written by Hannan Adely this summer, when Curtis was honored with the park renaming.
New Rochelle to rename park for former commissioner Joe Curtis
Thursday, July 1, 2010
NEW ROCHELLE — Former city parks commissioner Joseph Curtis used to lecture senior citizens about the importance of exercise and helped launch a city-wide fitness program.
These ideas are hardly groundbreaking now, but in the 1970s and 1980s, Curtis was at the forefront of physical fitness and recreation. His expertise made him a nationally renowned speaker, author and recreation leader, according to his former colleagues.
Curtis’ contributions will be etched in the city’s history at Five Islands Park, which will be renamed in his honor. The City Council voted last month to rename the park as Joseph E. Curtis – Five Islands Park.
“He was an ethical, honest person and you could always count on Joe to come with good, innovative ideas,” said Len Paduano, who was New Rochelle mayor and a councilman during Curtis’ tenure.
Paduano is among a host of former colleagues and members of the Rotary Club of New Rochelle who wrote letters to the City Council supporting the renaming of the park. They described Curtis, a past Rotary president, as a leader and volunteer who had a way with people.
“He is so deserving and what he has done for the City of New Rochelle is amazing,” said Kathleen Fanese, a member of the Rotary Club’s executive board.
Curtis, now 88, lives in New Rochelle but is ill and was not available for an interview.
Curtis served in the Army Air Corps in World War II and later became a New York City policeman. Then he took advantage of the GI Bill and got a master’s degree in community recreation from New York University.
He held jobs as parks and recreation commissioner in Boston, Mass., and in White Plains before taking the job in New Rochelle in 1975. When he retired in 1989, he was the city’s human services commissioner.
The city-wide fitness program Curtis helped launch in New Rochelle gained national attention and included a City Hall weigh-in. He encouraged city residents to walk around the New Rochelle High School grounds and stop at exercise stations.
Curtis also worked with city officials to transform Five Islands Park from a leaf-dumping ground to a picturesque waterfront park.
According to his Rotary biography, Curtis authored two textbooks and more than 75 articles and studies about the field of parks and recreation.
Samuel Kissinger, a former New Rochelle city manager, said New Rochelle was lucky to have him.
“He was an icon in his field,”he said.