GRANTS PASS — Robert Paul Curry, father of NBC “Today” news anchor and co-host Ann Curry, died Sunday at Three Rivers Community Hospital. He was 78.
Ann Curry spoke about her father — and his influence on her life — in a telephone interview with the Mail Tribune Tuesday afternoon.
“I am most proud when someone asks me if I am Bob Curry’s daughter,” she said.
A career military man, Bob Curry served in the Navy during the occupation of Japan after World War II. He also served in the Korean and Vietnam wars. Retiring after 24 years of military service, he spent his life teaching in many venues, including Southern Oregon University, Hanby Middle School and local hospitals and senior centers, his daughter said.
“Live a life of service” was her father’s motto — and his legacy, she said.
“Honor, love of country and simply having a valuable life, that’s what he always believed in. He is part of the greatest generation. He is my inspiration,” she said.
After his retirement, he served as an emergency room auxiliary volunteer for several years. He taught tai chi to seniors after a University of Oregon study showed that seniors could decrease risks of falling with a regular balance-enhancing program such as tai chi.
“I get more when I teach than I put out,” he told the Grants Pass Daily Courier last year.
News of his death hit students hard at the Medford Senior Center, said Executive Director Patti Proctor on Tuesday. Curry had been a regular member since 1991, teaching everything from astrology to haiku poetry, she said.
“I had to announce his death in class today,” said Proctor. “He was a wonderful, wonderful man. He definitely had a strong life force. You really knew when he was in the room.”
Ann Curry said her father had traveled the world, but loved the Rogue Valley. Because of his career, her early life was spent on the move, she said. But the Ashland High School graduate considers Oregon to be her home, too. After earning her bachelor’s degree at the University of Oregon, she worked at Oregon television stations in the late 1970s and early 1980s, including KTVL in Medford, before moving on to bigger markets in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago.
Since March 1997, her work on “Today,” “NBC Nightly News” and “Dateline” has taken her to global hot spots such as Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Her work in network news was a frequent topic of conversation between her and her father, she said.
“He loved to debate the news of the day,” she said, adding she credits her father for inspiring her success.
“There’s no way I’d be aiming as high as I have, or wished so much, had it not been for my dad. He said to me, ‘Whatever you do, Ann, do something of service.’ If I have served any successful purpose as a journalist, it is because of what he said to me.”
Bob Curry had five children with his Japanese war bride, Hiroe. They were married for 53 years before Hiroe died in 2001 at age 74. The loss nearly killed her father, Ann Curry said.
“He had a heart attack. We almost lost him then,” she said.
But her father found love once more when he met a woman who “made him feel like a teenager again,” she said. He moved to Grants Pass five years ago with his second wife, Peggy.
“Peggy says it’s not enough time. But she’s so grateful for the time they did have,” Ann Curry said.
Her father died Sunday from complications due to an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He’d beaten the disease into remission shortly after his initial diagnosis about two years ago, she said.
“But the cancer returned stronger than ever,” she said.
Bob Curry’s service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday at Faith Baptist Church in Grants Pass.
“We’ll have a big wake on Saturday. And by Jove, we’re gonna dance. My dad loved to dance,” Ann Curry said.
The Navy veteran is to be buried with military honors at Scenic Hills Memorial Park in Ashland.
“His medals are something our family will be very, very proud to have,” she said. “As he was dying, he was talking about bringing the ship around. He said he could feel the wind in his face.”
Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail email@example.com.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.