MARY ANN JOHNSON CURTIS
Personal Oral History Synopsis
On September 23 and October 29, Mary Ann (Johnson) Curtis was
interviewed in her home overlooking
James Wallace Curtis of
Mary Ann and Jim had summered each year of their early lives in Pier Cove. Being a few years younger than Jim, Mary Ann explained that she received little interest from Jim during their early years. Her early recollections include riding with Ossian Simonds’ in his canoe on the stream that once passed on the surface near her home, “The Porches”.
It was the famous landscape designer, Ossian Simonds who brought Mary Ann’s grandfather and his friend, John B. Johnson, to Pier Cove. John B. bought the waterfront property on which he later built “The Porches”. Joining him were his wife, Phoebe, and their five children: Marjorie (b. 1882), Paul (b. 1885), Agnes (b. 1888), Laura (b. 1890) and Robert Colton (b. 1894) who was Mary Ann’s father.
B. Johnson served as the chairperson of the civil engineering department at
After John B. passed, the remaining Curtis family,
led by mother Phoebe (Henby Johnson or “Granny Johny”), moved to France where it was “cheaper to
live” for a year. Marjorie, the oldest
sibling and already at age 17 an independent young woman, finagled to remain in
Europe when the rest of the family returned to the
John B. Johnson was working at
Returning to Jim and Mary Ann Curtis’s story, when the war ended in 1945 and after Jim had seen significant submarine service in the Pacific front, the couple returned to Pier Cove. In 1946 the Curtis family lakefront land west of the lakeshore road was divided between the five Curtis brothers. Jim wanting to try his hand at farming, a lifelong dream possibly enhanced by his war experience, took over the farmland to the east. The couple, with George Harrington as builder, constructed a small home on the lakefront that was enlarged several times through the years.
struggling with farming for some years, Jim and Mary Ann agreed that they were
not cut out to be farmers. Jim eventually
followed a call into the Presbyterian priesthood and, after supervised training
at All Saints Church in Saugatuck, he became ordained in 1953. In 1955 he took a pastoral call to
Ann and Jim returned to their home on the lake to enjoy retirement, but not
before purchasing a second-hand motor home in order to travel in support of
their son, Bob, who was seriously training to compete in the 1983 Iron Man
Neighbors, summer renters and, of course, extended family remember the Johnson-Curtis family gatherings with the annual croquet match marathons. The copper cup award remains on Mary Ann’s shelf.
lost his battle with cancer on June 5, 2006 and, after a service at All Saints
Episcopal Church was interred in
At this writing Mary Ann remains in her lakeshore home, active as usual and the oldest remaining member of her family.
John R. Shack (10-29-08)
Reviewed by Mary Ann Curtis (11-11-08)