Bruce Nelson Curtis entered into eternal rest at the Beehive Home in Thatcher on July 17, 2017, surrounded by his loving family; he was 90 years old. Bruce was born Aug. 23, 1926, in Safford. He was the fifth of nine children born to Cleveland and Eunice Nelson Curtis. His parents were born of Arizona pioneer parents in the 1890s.
Bruce grew up working on his father’s farm, used both horse-drawn and tractor-drawn implements, and picked cotton by hand. The Curtis family built a one-room wood cabin at Turkey Flat on Mount Graham, and they lived there each summer after school had closed. He attended grades K-12 in Thatcher Public Schools, and graduated from high school on May 13, 1944.
World War II was raging, and he volunteered for the U.S. Navy, serving two years as a combat-trained aviation radioman-gunner in a Martin PBM. He was discharged from active duty in July 1946, but remained several more years in the U.S. Naval Reserve as an aviation electronicsman third-class.
After leaving the service, Bruce took pilot training through Gila Junior College (now EAC), and received his private pilot’s license in December 1946. He and Lee Allen owned a Cessna 182 together, which allowed him to attend many meetings that he otherwise would not have made.
Bruce graduated from Gila Junior College with an AA degree in 1948. He then served a two-and-a-half-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Mexico and El Salvador, Central America.
After his mission, he attended Brigham Young University (Provo) and graduated with a BA degree with a major in Spanish and a minor in chemistry in 1955. He then attended medical school from 1955 to 1958 at the University of Maryland in Baltimore, graduating with an MD degree in June 1958. Bruce was planning to complete a surgical residency in Maricopa County, but Drs. Charles Karr and Fred Knight, of Safford, persuaded him to enter practice with them. Bruce joined the Academy of General, then Family Practice in 1961, and later became a certified diplomat of the American Board of Family Practice.
Bruce’s practice, the Safford Clinic, furnished school doctors for the Thatcher School District for 30 years. Dr. Curtis retired from active practice in December 1994.
Dr. Curtis served on the board of directors of the Arizona State Medical Association for 10 years, and was alternate director to the AMA. Dr. Curtis was the chief of staff at the Safford Inn Hospital twice and the Mt. Graham Community Hospital twice. He was also on the board of directors of the Mt. Graham Hospital Foundation, and was on the scholarship committee. Bruce also served many years as a Rotarian. He joined the Safford Rotary Club in 1961, but left that club to charter a new club called the Gila Valley Rotary Club, of which he is currently an honorary member.
In 1966, Bruce was appointed to the Thatcher School Board and served there for more than 24 years. Dr. Curtis loved his community and he loved to serve.
On Sept. 16, 1959, Bruce married the love of his life, LaDawn Noble, in the Mesa Arizona Temple. The couple was blessed with five children: Todd, Lee, Cami, LaNeece and Jarrett. Bruce and LaDawn served a humanitarian mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Mexico City, Mexico in 1997. They also served for many years as Temple workers in the Mesa, Arizona Temple, and Bruce served as a worker in the Gila Valley Temple.
Dr. Curtis had a love of the outdoors and a passion for hunting. He was known for his excellent marksmanship (a trait passed down through generations of Curtis men), and was a lifelong member of the NRA.
Bruce is survived by: his loving wife of almost 58 years; his five children and their spouses; 14 grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; three brothers, Dean, Kay and Phil; and numerous nieces and nephews.
Funeral services for Dr. Bruce Curtis will be conducted Saturday afternoon, July 22, 2017, at 2:00 p.m., at the Thatcher L.D.S. Stake Center by Brother Brady Bryce of the Thatcher Seventh Ward. Concluding services with military honors conferred by the Gila Valley Veterans Honor Guard will follow at the Thatcher Cemetery.
The family will receive friends Friday evening, July 21, 2017, from 5:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m., at the Vining Funeral Home and Saturday afternoon from 1:00 p.m. until 1:45 p.m., at the Thatcher L.D.S. Stake Center Relief Society Room.
Online condolences may be offered at viningfuneralhome.com
Arrangements are entrusted to Vining Funeral Home.