Flag Flies for Tom Curtis

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In continuing its mission to take history out of the textbooks by honoring a local veteran each month of the school year, the Hampton Bays School District is paying tribute to Tom Curtis by flying an American flag in his honor throughout April.

“The Hampton Bays School District is proud to honor Mr. Curtis for his service to the United States during World War II,” said Superintendent of Schools Lars Clemensen.

The American flag was raised during a ceremony at the Hampton Bays Elementary School on April 17. During the event, students sang, read Curtis’ biography and presented artwork in his honor.    

Born in Michigan in 1922, Mr. Curtis graduated high school in 1940 and worked locally until he enlisted in the United States Coast Guard as the war escalated in 1942. He was sent to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for boot camp on Lake Superior and then to Duluth, Minnesota, as an armed guard to protect the local shipyards and various lake steamers.

In 1943, he was accepted to radio school in New Jersey, where he graduated 16th out of a class of 122 students.  He was soon assigned as a radio operator at a Coast Guard station in Michigan, but was reassigned after he volunteered for advanced radio tracking training.  After he was trained to use radio signals to track German submarine movements, he served in Virginia as a radio operator for Air-Sea rescue missions. At that time, he was assigned to a Navy troop transport ship headed to Marseille, France, where they picked up 6,000 troops and sailed them to the Philippines to fight in the war in the Pacific.    

Mr. Curtis, who also played piano in the Coast Guard orchestra, was honorably discharged from the Coast Guard on Oct. 20, 1945. He made a living as a piano player working in several bands until he returned to school to obtain his government radio operators license.

In 1948, Mr. Curtis was hired by TWA and worked as a flight radio operator, flying all over the world, until 1957.

In 1962, Mr. Curtis moved to Southampton and worked as a radio operator for “Macky,” a company that later became ITT World Com until his retirement in 1984. He also worked part-time as a piano player, playing at Gurney’s Inn in Montauk and Bobby Van’s in Bridgehampton and with a band called Moonlighters.

Mr. Curtis, who has lived in Hampton Bays since 1973, married his wife, Rosalie in 1983 and together they have a combined eight children.