Educator-philanthropist Lamar Louise Curry: 1906-2012
Lamar Louise Curry, a lifelong educator, philanthropist and Miami-Dade County pioneer, died on Dec. 3, 2012, eight days shy of her 106th birthday, at her Coral Gables home.
The only child of Alfred Bates Curry and Jane Stobo Depass Curry, she was born in Key West on Dec. 11, 1906. Her father, who amassed significant real estate holdings in the Keys, moved the family in 1916 to Miami, where he also bought land.
Her mother set an example of civic involvement for young Lamar Louise, helping the City of Miami acquire the 62 acres on which Bayfront Park now stands, before the 1926 hurricane. To honor and recognize her mother, Miss Curry, at the suggestion of pioneer television news commentator Ralph Renick, funded and maintained a flower garden in the southwest comer of the park. A bronze plaque near the Challenger monument recognizes this effort.
Miss Curry’s maternal grandfather, Dr. James P. DePass, moved from South Carolina to Florida after the Civil War, and was president of the college that evolved into the University of Florida, when it was located in Lake City, in the late 1800′s. Dr. De Pass, a devout Methodist, is also credited with helping establish The Florida Methodist Children’s House in Enterprise.
Miss Curry graduated from Miami Senior High School in 1923, then earned a B.A. degree, magna cum laude, from Southern College, now Florida Southern, in Lakeland, in 1927. She began teaching at Miami’s Andrew Jackson Junior High School the same year.
In 1930, Dr. L.T. Pearson, superintendent of the Dade County School System, wrote that he needed a strong disciplinarian at Miami High, and assigned Lamar Louise Curry to the school. She taught American history there until her retirement in 1962.
Many of her students went on to notable careers, including Bob Graham, the former governor of Florida and U.S. senator; Robert Traurig, founding partner of Greenberg Traurig, an internationally recognized law firm, and actor Desi Arnaz.
“School is my life, I might as well admit it,” Miss Curry said in a 2010 interview with GablesHomePage.com. “I began teaching when I was a little girl. I got my dolls in a row and I taught them. … I loved (the students). They were mine. I don’t know why they behaved themselves but they did.”
Former Coral Gables Mayor Don Slesnick, who was among her students at Miami High, remembered why Miss Curry’s students behaved, as she was his study hall monitor and “a strict disciplinarian.”
“She did not take any back talk and kept students awake and focused with a ruler. Perseverance and steadfastness were the principle lessons that I learned from Miss Curry -- not from her teaching, but from her life,” Mr. Slesnick recalled in the 2010 interview.
Never married and with no immediate family, Miss Curry referred to her 5,000-6,000 former students as her extended family.
She received many awards over the years for her service to others and for her quiet philanthropy. Always a generous supporter and board member emeritus of The College of the Ozarks, she was presented the college’s Outstanding Educator Award in 1996 by First Lady Barbara Bush. She also holds an honorary doctoral degree from the college.
In 2001, the Miami-Dade School Board named the Lamar Louise Curry Middle School in her honor.
She maintained until her death memberships in the First Methodist Church of Coral Gables, the Coral Gables Garden Club, the Dade County Historical Association, the University of Miami Women’s Guild, the Miami Pioneers (founding families of Miami) and Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden.
Services for Miss Curry will be held at the First Methodist Church of Coral Gables, 536 Coral Way, Friday, Dec. 7, at 1 p.m. Interment follows at Woodlawn Cemetery, where her father purchased the first gravesite in 1916.
Information regarding memorial donations is available through Audrey Ross at email@example.com or 305-960-2575.