James Arthur Curtis passed away at the age of 94 in the early morning hours on Tuesday, July 31, 2012. A resident of Paducah for over 75 years, he was born in 1917 in Alto Pass, Illinois, the son of Edward Earl & Beulah Curtis.
Mr. Curtis is survived by three children, Dana Curtis and wife, Barbara, Mark Curtis and wife, Debby, and Cassie Klumpp and husband, Bob. He was preceded in death by his wife of 63 years, Martha Sue Curtis, and his oldest son, Stephen Curtis. He is also survived by fourteen grandchildren and fifteen great-grandchildren. The family would like to express their gratitude to Rebecca Sowell for her friendship, care, and support for Mr. Curtis over the past several years.
Mr. Curtis completed high school early to pursue a career as a riverboat pilot. To this day, he remains the youngest licensed pilot to ever navigate many of the heartland rivers. During the great flood of 1937, he operated a rescue boat above the flooded streets of Paducah. His river career was interrupted when he joined the Army as second lieutenant during World War II.
At the end of his military service, he returned to Paducah and joined his father, wife, and sister in the photography business at Curtis & Mays Studio and Camera Shop. He earned a degree as Master of Photography from The Professional Photographers of America and was recognized for his contribution to the profession with the prestigious National Award. He also served as president of The Kentucky Professional Photographers Association. Curtis & Mays was one of the first studios to convert to color photography. In 1968, he opened Curtis Color Lab. The business grew rapidly providing color processing and printing services for professional photographers throughout Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, and Tennessee.
Throughout his life, he served his community through numerous organizations including the Civil Service Board and the Downtown Kiwanis Club. He enjoyed golf, playing regularly at the Country Club of Paducah, where he served as a member the Board of Directors. He was most proud of his church, Broadway United Methodist, where he attended faithfully and served as finance chairman for many years.
Visitation will be from 5 to 8 P.M. Thursday, August 2, 2012, at Milner & Orr Funeral Home of Paducah. Services will be held Friday, August 3, 2012, at 11:00 A.M. at the Broadway United Methodist Church with Rev. Joe Beal officiating. Burial will follow in the Mt. Kenton Cemetery. The family asks that memorial contributions may be made to Broadway United Methodist Church, 701 Broadway, Paducah, Kentucky 42001.