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Published: Friday, 9/28/2012

Nancy Curley, 1941-2012: Caregiver devoted to the disabled

BY MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Nancy Curley, who for decades was dedicated to the care at home of her son with disabilities and who volunteered in support of other parents and children, died Wednesday in Hospice of Northwest Ohio, Perrysburg Township. She was 71.

Mrs. Curley of Monclova Township had liver cancer, said her husband, Richard Curley.

Their son, Craig, was born in 1961 and has developmental disabilities, cerebral palsy, and autism.

Her husband followed the advice of an expert and told their son of the death in plain terms -- "Mom went to heaven today" -- and walked away. The son would bring it up again on his own, the expert predicted.

"It was two hours later," Mr. Curley said. "'Dad, I want to talk.' He grabbed my hand and said, 'Mom's in heaven?' 'Yes.' He said, 'It must be a good place because everybody goes there. That's OK, as long as Mom's happy."

Their son has been highly verbal for most of his life. But when, as a child, he wasn't walking or talking on schedule, doctors advised, "Just walk away. Put him in the home. He's going to be a vegetable," her husband recalled. 

"He hasn't stopped talking since they said that," Mr. Curley said.

The couple decided that he was staying home.

"We made a pact we would do the best we could do to make a decent human being out of him," Mr. Curley said. As Mrs. Curley was growing up, her older sister Ruth, who had cerebral palsy, was cared for at home. After their parents died, Ruth came to live with the Curleys -- and stayed for 15 years until, at age 60, she went to Sacred Heart Home in Oregon, where she lived until her death 20 years later.

"So we had two handicapped persons to care for," the husband said. "My little angel wife took care of them like you wouldn't believe.

"She always had a yearning to be a caregiver," he said, "and wanted to help other people, to be a good person. She dug in."

Their son, who still lives at home, went to Larc Lane School and works at Lott Industries. Mrs. Curley joined mothers' clubs and volunteered in Special Olympics as her son won medals for softball, bowling, and 100-yard dash. She spoke to parent and community groups.

"She was a good advocate," Mr. Curley said.

The couple received an award in 1993 from ARC of Lucas County for their service. In 2010, the Lucas County Board of Development Disabilities presented the Curleys its annual Spirit Award for their volunteering and advocacy.

"Nancy was a wonderful person and cared for everyone and did for everyone," said Mary Lou Wilhelm, a former board member and a friend for 50 years.

Mrs. Wilhelm and her husband, Jerry, care for their adult son Todd in their home. The women worked in many of the same groups, volunteered for the same activities, went to the same picnics and outings. They regarded each other as sisters.

Mrs. Curley was born in 1941 to Lacey and James Maher, and graduated of Central Catholic High School 

She didn't have time for elaborate pastimes.

"Her hobby was decorating our home," her husband said. The couple liked to visit Amish country, especially Holmes County. 

Surviving are her husband, Richard, whom she married May 7, 1960, and son, Craig.

Visitation will be from 2 to 8 p.m. Sunday in the Coyle Funeral Home, with a Scripture service at 7 p.m. Funeral services will begin at 10 a.m. Monday in Historic St. Patrick Church.

The family suggests tributes to Sunshine Respite Care; Hospice of Northwest Ohio, or Historic St. Patrick.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.


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