Daniel B. Curll III, 79, of Alstead, died at Hillside Village, Keene, on Monday, April 5, 2021, with his wife, Joyce, at his side. He battled cancer and myasthenia gravis, among other assaults on his health in his last several years, but never lost his sense of humor or intellectual strengths and curiosity in spite of debilitating pain and loss of mobility.
Dan was born in Providence, R.I., on Jan. 8, 1942, son of Daniel Curll Jr. and Priscilla Rawson Curll. He was a grandson of Marion Nicholl Rawson, long a summer resident of Alstead and author of numerous books on early American history. Alstead was Dan’s summer, then full-time, home for more than 55 years.
As a child, he lived by the shore, where his love of the ocean began and his first word was “seagull.” The family moved to Connecticut when Dan was 4. He attended Exeter Academy, spending summers in Korea, where his father worked for USAID helping to rebuild the country after the Korean War. It was there that Dan developed a love of Asia.
Dan entered Harvard in 1960, where he majored in Chinese. During the summer after his freshman year, he traveled as a member of the Harvard Glee Club on its first Far Eastern tour. His membership with the glee club did not end with graduation; he continued to be a member of the alumni chorus for most of his life, including numerous collaborations with the Kyoto Glee Club Alumni in Japan and U.S., combining his love of music with his love of Asia and of travel. He served on the Harvard Glee Club Foundation board for many years and as president for several.
Other music highlights for Dan were singing in the Mozart Requiem at the Mass for John F. Kennedy in Boston and, in 1964, the North American tour of the U.S. and Canada of the Harvard Glee Club and Radcliffe Choral Society. It was on another tour that he met his future wife, Joyce Putnam, a fellow singer. Through the Harvard Host Family Program, Dan and Joyce together over the years befriended — though one might more aptly say “adopted” — many Harvard students from foreign countries, particularly Asian, many of whom remain close friends, including the next generation.
After a two-year management program at a precision machine tool company in Providence, Dan earned an MBA at the University of Michigan. Dan’s broad range of professional and volunteer positions included management consulting; manager of logistics for a mining company; VP for Transportation, New York Chamber of Commerce; President of Towboat and Harbor Carriers of New York and New Jersey, where he worked with the owners and operators, government officials and the Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers; and VP of American Waterways Operators, where he represented the industry in Washington, D.C. He served on the board of the non-profit “Save Our Port” and as a commissioner of the Brooklyn Bridge Centennial, and later as president of the Boston Harbor Association.
But Dan would tell you that the segment of his career he loved best was leading tours of China and Southeast Asia. The more than 40 tours over 13 years that he conducted made use of his education and considerable executive and diplomatic skills, while allowing him to share with participants the culture, history, and geography of a part of the world he loved and felt so connected to.
After retirement in 2007, Dan and Joyce settled year-round in Alstead, where Dan revitalized the Alstead Democrats organization and lent his creativity and technical skills to town issues. But probably the accomplishment most meaningful to him was convincing members of the Mill Hollow community that restoring and developing the near-derelict Chase’s Mill as a public resource was possible, and worth the considerable effort it would take to form a non-profit to acquire the building and carry out the plan. Without his enthusiasm and support, it is unlikely that the Mill Hollow Heritage Association would have been formed, the necessary funds raised, or the project brought to the threshold of opening as a working museum and educational facility this coming summer. One young woman who was persuaded to accept his invitation to the board said “his vision of a place that could be a workshop and a community center, where people could could gather and learn and make, that might connect the way things used to be done with new technologies and new kinds of rural ingenuity, was so inspiring that I decided that I wanted to help make it happen.”
Dan recognized the importance of community and social connections. During the current pandemic, he initiated regular Zoom meetings with his friends in Alstead and at Hillside Village to keep people in touch and mentally active, or focused on how to improve community life. A lifelong Quaker, he never shied away from controversies where he could take the role of peacemaker. He supported numerous local institutions.
The stories of Dan’s influence on young people are numerous. Among them are his help in turning around the career and confidence of a young woodworker by insisting on paying him more than he dared ask for. To another young friend, he was a father figure whose inspiration steered him into his chosen academic field. All host family members benefited from his moral support, his wisdom, his humor and his love of Chinese food, especially dim sum on Sundays. He loved his nieces, nephews and young cousins and provided interesting adventures and events to share with them.
Dan and Joyce moved to Hillside Village in Keene in 2019 but maintained home and involvement in life in Alstead. Both communities benefited from his ability to see what could be improved, how it could be done, and who could be persuaded to help make it happen. Dan leaves many friends in many places.