Photography

Donald M. McCurdy

June 7, 1930 ~ June 19, 2022 (age 92)

Obituary

Donald Mervyn McCurdy AGE 92 ON June 19, 2022.  Born June 7, 1930, in Philadelphia and raised in the Bywood neighborhood of Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, Don grew up in the midst of the Great Depression, punctuated by World War II as a teen.  He served his country as a Navy helicopter pilot and carved his own path in the practice of law.  Above all, Don devoted his life to the care of his better half, Ingrid, their three children, and seven grandchildren.  He described, with awe and love, the experience of being a grandparent as a glimpse into eternity.

During college, Don hitchhiked out to Jackson Hole, Wyoming to work a summer season at the Bar BC dude ranch where he witnessed the movie Shane being filmed right across the Snake River.  Don also worked summers making saltwater taffy and fudge at the Copper Kettle in Ocean City–funding his early independence–and had many fond memories of summer days down at the shore.  Despite the obligatory eye-rolling, his children really did cherish the trips to Ocean City, Wyoming, and cities across the country that became walking tours through their father’s history.

After graduating from Dickinson College in 1952 and Dickinson Law School in 1955, with stints in the merchant marines, Don earned a commission in the U.S. Navy and attended flight school in Pensacola, Florida.  He went on to serve six years active duty as a pilot and fourteen years in the Reserves, as both a pilot and Judge Advocate General officer, eventually retiring with the rank of Commander.  While on active duty, Don was stationed in Okinawa, Japan and flew the HUP (Helicopter Utility Piasecki), an early two-rotor helicopter produced in Morton, Pennsylvania.  In Japan, Don visited Hiroshima, the site of the first nuclear bomb used in World War II.  He was so moved by the destruction, still remaining twelve years after the war, that he stated with firm belief that anyone with the power to unleash such a weapon should see Hiroshima as a prerequisite to holding office.  

In 1972, Don made the best decision of his life when he married the love of his life, Ingrid (Weiland), and they made their home in Springfield, Delaware County.  With Ingrid’s patience and their combined sense of humor, they raised their three kids, Anthony, Karin (Melfi), and Ian, amidst the chaos of dogs, pet lizards, never-ending household projects, farm-scale gardens, kids’ sleepovers, teenage antics, a solo law practice, camping trips, and a general sense of looking for the next adventure.

Don practiced law for over fifty years in his office on North Olive Street in Media, Pennsylvania.  He was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and served three terms from 1968-1974.  Don recalled that, on a few occasions during his campaigns, protesters picketed in front of the family home.  Instead of engaging in the divisive behavior that is commonplace today, Don invited the protesters into his living room and listened to their concerns, despite being in complete disagreement with their position.  This was typical for the civil politics to which Don aspired.  

Don was later appointed to the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission on which he served honorably from 2001-2013.  Don was also a Master Mason and a Past Worshipful Master of University Lodge No. 610 F&AM in Philadelphia and attained the 32nd Degree with the Valley of Philadelphia Scottish Rite, serving as the Thrice Potent Master of the Philadelphia Lodge of Perfection. 

Despite these honorifics, Don endured and covertly enjoyed his children’s irreverence (which came from no place strange), even if it was (lovingly) at his own expense.  Although a difficult lesson for someone of his vintage, Don learned from Ingrid and his kids that status conferred by society is meaningless to offspring who would rather get a cheap laugh out of their parents; might as well just abandon one’s pride and enjoy it.  Don was also known to have an acerbic wit, which sometimes was put on display when he forgot to use his “inside” voice. His children and family will miss his irreverence and promise to carry on the tradition with pride.

Though he was a very protective father, Don himself was intrepid.  He flew helicopters off aircraft carriers out of San Diego (often flying up the coast to San Francisco and once under the Golden Gate Bridge!) and went on training flights out of Willow Grove as a Reservist.  Don shuttled admirals across the East China Sea in his HUP helicopter, traveled to Okinawa and Taipei with the Navy, and visited the USSR in 1957—even meeting Yuri Gagarin in the Kremlin under the watchful eyes of minders.   

Don and Ingrid developed a lifetime love of camping after a trip along Skyline Drive.  Thereafter, Don’s continual refrain was, “Where to next?”  With their three rambunctious kids, the pair took a five-week cross-country trek in an un-airconditioned VW pop-top bus, generally following Don’s twice hitchhiked path from decades before, but often, in his famous words, “playing it by ear.” Don’s wanderlust prompted their honeymoon to Portugal, trips to Bermuda and Hawaii with the kids, and visits to Germany when their children were studying abroad.  Don absolutely loved talking with people on their travels: he never gave up the chance to ask strangers about scenic routes, watering holes, local cuisine, or about their own histories and stories.  Trips to Germany afforded Don the opportunity to fill in some of the blanks from his beloved wife’s young life in a different country and from some of the shared history of his German in-laws whom he had respected and loved dearly.  

A story 92 years in the making is bound to contain tragedy in good measure.  We, his family, dearly hope we were able to give Don (our Dad, our Opa) comedy and joy in proper balance, that he is now able to see eternity through us and through his grandchildren, and that he can enjoy the view with Ingrid, his best friend whom he has so sorely missed these past four years.  Dad, we love you, we miss you, and we’ll keep telling your stories.

Don is predeceased by his beloved wife, Ingrid McCurdy (née Weiland) and his younger brother, Howard.  He leaves behind his three children, Anthony (Heather), Karin Ingrid McCurdy (Chris) Melfi, and Ian Friederich (Alaina).  Don is also survived by grandchildren Paige Elizabeth, Madeleine Grace, Sabina Ingrid Melfi, Kira Margaret Melfi, Justine Erika Melfi, Ethan Donald, and Isla Oswine, as well as his niece, Kathy McCurdy (Scott) Thomas, and his nephew, Dan McCurdy (Steve Huffines).  

Details about a celebration of Don’s life will be forthcoming.  In lieu of flowers, friends and family are invited to donate to the National Parks Conservation Association at www.npca.org.

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