Steven “Steve” James Curtis

Steven James Curtis, 68 of Des Moines, Iowa, passed away in his sleep Monday, May 18, 2020 after a long fight with lung cancer and cardiac myopathy. The many people who knew and loved him remember him as a man always moving, working hard, and being both honest and kind.

The son of David and Euthetta “Jean” (Minic) Curtis, he was born in Kirksville, Missouri on September 24, 1951. He spent his youth working on the family farm and attending local rural or “country” schools. He enjoyed drawing and showed a keen aptitude for art, which he published in the Kirksville Daily Express from 1968 to 1969 as a cartoonist. He also penned several original comics of Ancient Egypt along with sketches commemorating the movie Gone with the Wind and its starring actress, Vivien Leigh.

Shortly after his graduation from Kirksville Senior High School in 1969, he enlisted in the United States Navy in the summer of 1969. He followed in the footsteps of his mother, Jean, who also served as a storekeeper (records and inventory) during World War II. He served for fifteen months until his father unexpectedly passed away and he returned home to help take care of the Curtis farm.

Over the next few years, he worked as a lead cook at the Hi-Ho restaurant in Kirksville, where he met his first wife, Shannon (Brackney) Curtis. They were united in marriage in December 1970. They purchased the Hi-Ho in 1974 and jointly operated it as Steve’s Drive-Inn until 1978. By this time, he had one son, Daniel David, born in 1975 and one daughter, Stephanie Gayle, born in 1977.

Shannon and Steve parted ways in 1980. By 1983, he married Carol Case. They spent many fond years in the historic town of Sundance, Wyoming, before relocating with Carol and his two stepchildren to Iowa City, Iowa. He filled their house with dozens of ceramic Native American sculptures, all painted in realistic detail as a tribute to his Cherokee heritage, albeit from many generations past.

Steve was his happiest after he met his longtime partner of 21 years, Phillip Murrell, of Des Moines, Iowa. The two both shared a mutual love of art, books, classic movies, and traveling. Both his partner and his children undoubtedly helped expand Steve’s impressive collection and tribute of all items related to Judy Garland and the Wizard of Oz.

After some persistent encouragement from his daughter, Stephanie, Steven returned to college and finished an associate’s degree in Computer Information Systems from Vatterott College in 1996. This accomplishment led him to a data systems management position at Iowa Methodist Hospital until his retirement in 2016.

Steve’s most significant contribution, however, came from his last hobbies, which involved researching genealogy and collecting historic postcards and photos from both Iowa and Missouri. He was a member of the Adair County Historical Society and contributed substantial material for both online and bound publication. Two Facebook clubs for Kirksville and Adair County memories would see frequent posts from his latest finds of photos carefully scanned and digitally enhanced.

He was preceded in death by both of his parents, David and Euthetta Curtis, one sister, Karen, and his former spouses Shannon, Carol, and his partner Phil. He is survived by one brother, Larry Curtis of Kirksville, one son, Daniel Curtis of Springfield, MO, one daughter, Stephanie Bauer of Kirksville, one nephew, Mike Curtis of Kirksville, and two nieces, Tammy (Curtis) Scearce and Lisa (Curtis) Winemann of O'Fallon. He is also survived by several grandchildren: Shana Curtis and Ethan Curtis of Springfield and James Bauer, Kurt
“Kurta” Bauer, and Gabriel Bauer of Kirksville.

He will always be remembered as having a hot cup of coffee in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Social drinks with friends habitually replaced the coffee, which was often until the last few years.

He was cremated by Hamilton’s Funeral Home and interred next to his partner, Phil at Glendale Cemetery on May 22, 2020. A celebration of life will be held at a later date.

Service Details

Inurnment at
Glendale Cemetery
Des Moines
Hamilton's Funeral Home
605 Lyon Street
Des Moines, Iowa 50309
(515) 243-5221

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