Nautical 22

Robert Lester Curtis

June 26, 1938 ~ November 10, 2019 (age 81)

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Robert Lester Curtis (Bobby) died after a long illness on Sunday, November 10, 2019. Bobby was born in New Britain, June 26,1938, the son of Lester G. Curtis and Edith Rittner. He graduated from New Britain HS in 1956.  Bobby served two years in the US Army in Germany and attended University of Bridgeport.  For over 30 years, he was employed as an engineer for the Perkin-Elmer Corporation, Norwalk, CT.

In the mid-60's, he was sent on a job for the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.  Five days on the Range and weekends making music in Alamogordo.  Bobby had been playing the 5-string banjo and guitar since high school.  The Folk Music Revival was on and informal gatherings were common.  But Bobby's playbook was not the polished work of the Kingston Trio.  He was singing the Dust Bowl ballads of Woody Guthrie; the country music of the Carter Family and playing the bluegrass tunes of Earl Scruggs.  These songs and the singer struck a chord with a lady in the group there, Judy Irete.  They later married and made music together in the years to come - traveling to festivals in their yellow '63  VW convertible named "Mello Yello."  Music was always handy in the house, the car and the workshop - everything from Gene Autry to Joe Beck.

Bobby took an early retirement to pursue his new interest in sea kayaking.  He loved paddling in the ocean. He was an active member of the Connecticut and New York sea kayak clubs.  Alone, in the early 90's, he circumnavigated Prince Edward Island...before GPS.  Realizing that most kayaks were too large for him, he began designing and building his own. He built a 21-foot, wooden, stitch and glue sea kayak, for himself, over each winter for 9 years.  A little Jotel wood stove provided the heat in his workshop with a cat curled up nearby.  He sold or bartered his plans under the name, "Sea Spirit Kayaks."  His website showed the steps in the construction process.  He had customers from as far away as New Zealand.

He loved working on the 200 year-old house on Scratchville Road.  The first years he built the workshop and the addition on the west side.  Later switching the bathroom and the kitchen locations. Leaving the large kitchen sink in the "new" bathroom was a nice touch. He relished the challenge of problem solving, the designing of a solution and then the completion of his many projects over the years.

While he and Judy were divorced for almost 25 years, some connecting threads remained.  They remarried after Bobby's minor stroke in 2010.  They enjoyed going to plays, concerts, museums in New York City as well as events in Connecticut. 

In 2016, he traveled alone for a month, by train, to California & back.  He hiked in Death Valley & Joshua Tree National Parks.  In Kansas he visited the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, Brown vs Board of Ed Historic site and the National WWI Museum. He stepped out onto "The Ledge" in Chicago and roamed around the rusted hulks of the once great steel mills in Pittsburgh. His last hike at Hidden Valley was on Memorial Day, 2019. He was a friend of Bill W.

Bobby was a reader. His last book was Sapiens.  As volunteers for a year and a half, Bobby  and Judy mended books every week at the Woodbury Public Library. He loved old movies and radio programs from the 40's.  For over 50 years, he enjoyed the company of cats -  Arlo, Woody, Lamont, Benny, Curry, Duffy, Murph, Sam, and now Nelly, who grieves. 

He is survived by his wife, Judy Irete, sisters-in-law, Angela D. Curtis and  Anne M Irete, nephews Richard F. Curtis, Robert S. Curtis, Joseph A. Michetti, Jr, nieces Cindy A. Curtis Nelson and Tanya A.Michetti, 5 Great nephews and 4 great nieces. Bobby was preceded in death by his parents, Lester G. and Edith Curtis and by his fraternal twin, Richard F. Curtis.

A Celebration of His Life will be held at the house next spring. Donations in Bobbys memory can be made to the Steep Rock Assn, 2 Green Hill Rd., Washington, CT 06793. Munson Lovetere Funeral Home assisted with the arrangements. To leave an online condolence please visit

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Steep Rock Association
P.O. Box 279, Washington Depot, Connecticut 06794 (860) 868-9131 CT 06794
Tel: 1-860-868-9131

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