CFSA Lifetime Recognition Award Presented Posthumously to Kenneth I. Curtis of Lockwoven

The CFSA Board of Directors, upon the recommendation of the Lifetime Recognition Awards Committee, recently conferred, posthumously, a Lifetime Recognition Award upon Kenneth I. Curtis of Lockwoven Company. The award was presented at the President’s Reception on Thursday, November 19, 2015, during the Fall Conference & Trade Show in Indianapolis. CFSA President Tina Houck presented the award (above) to Mr. Curtis’ son, James, who represented the Curtis family.

The Lifetime Recognition Awards Committee – chaired by CFSA Past President Joel VerPlank of VerPlank Enterprises, himself a Lifetime Recognition Award winner in 2011 – included Tom Fretwell (Freeman Metal Products; CFSA Past President and past Lifetime Recognition Award recipient in 2014), Vince LoIacono (Batesville Casket; CFSA Past President), and Tina Houck (Schuylkill Haven Casket Company; CFSA President). The committee also selected John D. Marsellus for a Lifetime Recognition Award, and he was profiled in the December 2015 issue of the CFSA Newsletter.

The excerpt below was distributed to all attendees at the event, and we print it here so that all CFSA members can share in the celebration of Ken Curtis’ lifetime achievements.

Kenneth I Curtis was born in 1930 in Boston, Massachusetts, and moved to the Bronx when he was five years old. When he was 15, Ken worked for the Buchanan Company talent agency for two years. His busy work schedule left little time for extracurricular activities in high school.

Ken joined the Army in 1948 and served four years in Germany. He served in the Constabulary and also served as Clerk to the Adjutant General’s office in Germany. He had a love for travel and spent much of his time overseas exploring the great diversity that Europe had to offer. After his honorable discharge from the army in 1952, Ken attended Nichols College in Dudley, Massachusetts.

Ken was working for an office equipment store in Asbury Park, New Jersey, in the 1950’s when he decided he needed a change in his life and wanted to travel more. He called Cliff Lewis, who was a friend of his father, Frank Curtis. Frank sold ads for the American Funeral Director magazine. Cliff hired Ken to work for him at Lewis Funeral Dry Goods. At that time, Lewis Funeral Dry Goods had no distribution in the south. So, being a single man, Ken moved to Dallas and would spend two to three weeks on the road at a time. 

When Ken’s heart was captured in 1958 by a pretty southern girl from Texas named Eileen Leder, he gave up half of his territory so he could be home on weekends. Ken and Eileen married in 1959, and they had three children: Jackie, James, and Bobby. They also had four grandchildren: Jonathan, Jeffery, Jacob, and Joshua. And, two great grandchildren: Sadie and Kylie. Kylie carries on Ken’s name.

Ken was so successful that Cliff Lewis made him General Sales Manager of Lewis Industries, which owned Lewis Funeral Dry Goods, Alabama Garment Company, and Lillian Roeder. In 1967, the family left Dallas for Birmingham, Alabama, where Cliff had moved the corporate office and had opened a manufacturing and distribution facility.  

In 1976, Cliff Lewis sold the business to AMEDCO, which later was sold to SCI under Lockwoven. Through all of the transitions, Ken continued to run all of the manufacturing and sales operations of Lewis Industries. Tom Bearman met Ken at a North Carolina convention around 1991, and told his dad they should hire Ken because he was exceptional at his craft. Tom went on to purchase Lockwoven from SCI. Ken then became the General Sales Manager for not only Lewis Industries, but also Lockwoven, A.R.K., and Estelle. Ken worked for Tom until December, 2003, when he retired.

Ken’s experience, high energy, and leadership abilities were recognized by CFSA in October, 1996, when he was elected to a three-year term as a director on the Board of Directors.

Ken always had a passion for family and children. He was known by all the grandkids as “Papa Ken”. As part of his participation with the Irondale Exchange Club, Ken would read to children in the area. His love of reading has extended to all of his grandchildren, and they all have that same love of reading.

Ken passed away at home with the love of his life on January 4, 2004.

The CFSA officers, board, staff, and entire membership now congratulate Ken Curtis’ family on his 2015 Lifetime Recognition Award.