Dick Curran: Memories of my neighbor

by susan on January 30, 2012

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[Longtime Southborough resident Dick Curran passed away last week after a long illness. In this post I wanted to share my memories of one of Southborough’s legends.]

The Spa has been called The Spa for about as long as anyone around here can remember. But growing up, my family didn’t call it that. We called it Dick’s.

My parents bought the house next door to the Currans when I was five months old. They still live there today. Most Sundays we would walk downtown to have breakfast at Dick’s. I remember the penny candy, the donuts, the old wooded phone booth in the corner (the one that’s still there). I remember what I would always order – a poached egg on toast. But most of all I remember how special it all felt. Mr. Curran’s friendly face behind the counter, the hearty greeting from Bea, neighbors crowding the tables. Even as a child I knew Dick’s was the heart of the community, and I knew it was that way because of Mr. Curran.

There are stories that say Mr. Curran would trudge down to The Spa in the middle of a snowstorm to open up in the wee hours so plow drivers could stop in for coffee. There is the tale that he would run out with a bag of donuts and a cup of coffee to hand to the train engineer as he rumbled through town. I don’t know whether those stories are true or just part of the lore of my childhood, but it’s not hard to imagine Mr. Curran would do those things. It’s just the kind of man he was.

Here’s one story I know is true. I was maybe five or six when after one of our Sunday breakfasts, I begged my parents for some candy. They said no. I was angry and feeling bold, so I snatched a piece – a one-cent hunk of pink Bazooka gum – and stuffed it in my pocket. No one saw, but when we got home, my parents found the gum and marched me right back to Dick’s. Terrified, I handed the gum back to Mr. Curran and mumbled an apology. Mr. Curran was a tall man, imposing under the circumstances, and I thought he might tell me he was angry, I thought he might yell. But he never said a word. He folded the candy into his palm and patted me on the shoulder. He didn’t need to say a thing.

All of us who grew up in Southborough have these stories, the lessons we learned from Mr. Curran. Lessons about right and wrong, about what it means to be part of a community. Lessons about family. Mr. Curran may be gone, but these stories will last forever.

1 Dave January 30, 2012 at 7:32 PM

When I was in the 7th grade at Woodward. I was in that phone booth, talking to a girl who lived nearby. When I came out of phone booth, I was alone, locked in the Spa, the candy store.

I paniced. Keyed deadbolt on the street entrance. I didn’t reach the back door when Dick was opening up the front door. He had forgotten something. He was shocked to see me.

I forget his comment before I walked out, but I remember that he always used to call me by my nickname.

We talked about it years later, and laughed. Good Man.

Every community should have a Dick Curran.

2 Ebaldelli January 30, 2012 at 8:26 PM

As I looked at the faces of the “townies” tonight I was again reminded why my husband and I decided to raise our children here. It’s because of people like Mr. Curran and the valuable lessons he was able to teach us without us even knowing.

He was a wonderful man and behind every wonderful man is a wonderful woman and Mr. Curran was no exception to this rule. I hope Mrs. Curran and family will find peace in knowing the impact Mr. curran had on numerous generations.

3 Ginny Martins January 30, 2012 at 8:34 PM

Your story made me cry Susan. I wish I had a childhood icon like Dick Curran to have as my hero. As a Southborough resident for 20 years, I don’t remember a single visit to the SPA (and it will always be the SPA to me) that Dick and his lovely wife were not there. He had retired but always seemed to be behind the register or sitting at a table or visiting with the patrons. He seemed to be admired and loved by each and every community member. I was incredibly touched by the outpouring of friends at his visiting hours earlier this evening, but what really touched me was a poem that was on display, written by his granddaughter Caitlyn. I believe she was 12 years old when she wrote it,but it was as articulate as any adult piece I’ve ever read. It embodied the love that a grandchild has of their grandparents in such a way that we can only hope and pray to be remembered. What a wonderful family he raised and a legacy he left on this very special and close knit community. I wish his family happiness and peace.

4 Bill Binder III January 30, 2012 at 8:46 PM

I was so saddened to read about the passing of Dick Curran. I lived in Southbgorough from the 50’s until 1975 and still have family in Southborough. Growing up, Dick was a great influence on me. He was a father figure, mentor, business partner (I would pick up my papers for my paper route and Dick always made sure my numbers were right) and just a friend anytime. The things he taught me have been and will be with me forever. My thoughts are with the Curran family.

Susan–I can testify to the truth of the two stories in your post. My Dad plowed snow for the Town and I remember going to the Spa in the early hours for coffee and something to eat, Dick was always there with a smile. As to the railroad story, Dick was in love with trains. He knew all the engineers and would walk out back and watch the train go by, and hand coffee to the engineer.

5 Daphne Phalon January 30, 2012 at 9:47 PM

Our little town sure has lost some tremendously awesome people in recent years…People who created our memories, shaped our lives, and who deeply cared about our town and all of the people in it. Some of our town legends may be gone from us now, but something tells me they are all together right now kicking back and laughing about the good times they had right here in Southborough.

God Bless you Dick. You were a good man with a great smile and a wonderfully warm smile.

6 Glen January 30, 2012 at 11:39 PM

Southboro has lost a great person. My heart goes out to the Curran Family. I remember him at the spa and always smiling and laughing. God took a great person and gave him wings ,may we carry out the memories and Dick you will be missed by all.

7 Beth Mazin January 31, 2012 at 6:56 AM

I didn’t know Dick but I work with his daughter Clare, one of the kindest, friendliest people I have ever met. It’s clear she is cut from the same mold as her father.

8 Linda Petry February 1, 2012 at 11:52 AM

Claire used to be the Southborough Library Director and she was so incredibly kind and friendly to me and my boys. She would welcome us into her office and let the boys climb up on the chairs and chat with her (they were little then). It was our routine every week and the boys were disappointed if she wasn’t there. She has since moved on to another job and I miss her smiling face. We wish your family peace through this difficult time.

9 Ron Mattioli January 31, 2012 at 8:36 AM

I knew Dick since I was 5 years old and I would walk downtown with my mother Rita to the Spa for milk and a donut. Dick used to tell me, “You are going to work for me one day”. That day came when I was 14 years old and a Freshman at Algonquin. Dick was a mentor and a second father to me. I worked at the Spa until I graduated from college. I learned a lot about business; how to treat customers regardless of whether or not they were from Southborough and other life lessons that I apply to my job in business and on the streets of Southborough and 911 dispatch as a Reserve Police Officer. I will be forever grateful to Dick Curran. Dick would, on occasion, have the opportunity to ride the train from the tracks next to the Spa and I would have to go and pick him up in Clinton for the ride back to town. He would always have a huge smile on his face. This is how I will remember him.

10 Susan Faccenda Peghiny February 2, 2012 at 6:42 PM

Dick was a wonderful man and I’m so glad I knew him and that my son had the opportunity to grow up as his neighbor (we live across the street from the Currans). I saw Dick for the last time a couple of years ago, on a beautiful Summer evening. I was on my porch and saw him walking down the street, all alone. Knowing this might not be a good thing, I went to him and said hello. He beamed and seemed delighted to see me. When I asked where he was going he said “For a walk!”. I asked if I could join him and he smiled and, being the gentleman he was, gave me his arm. Tucking mine through his I managed to turn him around and we sauntered back to his house (to a very relieved Eileen). It was such a sweet moment, and I’ll remember it and him forever.

11 Chris Wenning February 8, 2012 at 8:31 PM

As a life long resident of Southboro until the age of 22 when I moved to Atlanta GA , my family was interwoven with the Spa and Dick. In this day of cell phones, face book and all electronic gizmos , I often think fondly of yester year when we as a town were a family and institutions like the Spa and Dick Curran have made an indelible mark on our being and soul. Thank you Dick , may God Bless you and keep you in his hand like you did with me as a school kid stopping into this hallmark place of Southboro lore.
Chris Wenning
Atlanta GA

12 Scott Wenning February 9, 2012 at 7:39 AM

As a kid who grew up in Southboro (attending elementary and middle school at Woodward, and later graduating from Algonquin), I realize with each passing year what a special place our town was, due in large part to people such as Dick Curran.

Dick was more than just the proprietor of “The Spa”, but someone who was a beloved friend of my parents and their fellow townspeople, and someone whom my siblings and I looked up to with a measure of deference and respect that seems uncommonly rare among young people in today’s world.

Some of the best memories of my youth are those from my high school years, sitting at the counter early on a Saturday morning with my father, Bob, and his cronies, having coffee and a muffin before an early tee time at St. Marks. While the banter between the adults invariably dominated the conversation, Dick always greated me with a hearty “Hello, Scotty!”, took time to ask how I was doing, what the latest happenings were at Algonquin, plans for the upcoming summer, etc.

Years later after I had married, I returned home to Southboro with my wife (and later, our two young sons), and soon thereafter made a bee line to The Spa. Upon meeting Dick for the first time, and seeing the warm “welcome home” he extended to her new husband, my wife realized that this place with the curious name was more than just the town coffee shop, but rather a place that had shaped the child I had been, and the adult that I had since become.

Every time I heard the phrase “It takes a village to raise a child”, I think of it as being a perfect description for Southboro during the 1970’s, with good people such as Dick Curran having taken on an intangible yet important role in raising me. May we always treasure his memory, and may his legacy of service to our community never be forgotten. He shall be missed.

Scott Wenning
Dallas, TX

13 Michael Bent March 5, 2012 at 12:12 PM

Michael Bent- I grew up in southboro. Ran the yearly road race. Won most of the time:) went to Woodward, Algonquin, enjoyed the gulf coarse in the winter for sledding,and was a alter boy at Saint Ann’s with father Fontien. Did you know in one way or another Mr. Curran was someone who was always there. Closer to that I developed a friendship that has marked my future for the better. He was kind, respectful, and very caring. Thank you Mr.Curran for helping me understand what life really is about. Your guidance and love will never be forgotten. You will always be Mr.curran the nice guy at the Spa…..

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