Joe’s Angel: Community honors Harrold father figure, Curry gives transparent look back at his journey

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By Thomas Sellers Jr.

A boy from Millington married a girl raised outside of the Arlington area to build a family and legacy in the Harrold Community. 

That 54-year union produced six children and countless bounds throughout that portion of Millington. Norma Jean Curry passed away a few years ago and her husband Joe is still around overseeing the community he loves. 

It was Saturday afternoon when dozens of those impacted by “Mr. Joe,” “Coach Curry” and “Sam Cooke” put some meat on the grill, loaded up the cards with expressions of gratitude and came bearing other gifts to appreciate Mr. Joe Curry. 

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“I wasn’t expecting anything like this,” the 85-year-old said. “They’d call me about Saturday. I normally talk too much but I stopped questioning them. I let it be a surprise and I am surprised. I’m honored to God it is like this and not my funeral.”

Funerals were one of the formats Curry used his God-given gift of singing to contribute to the Harrold Community. “It means a whole to me,” he said of the tribute party. 

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“I’ve put 30 years into singing and not just one particular song. I sing them all and I sing on Fridays, Mothers’ Days, Men’s Day, Fathers’ Days, funeral. People would ask me to do a solo but I messed up one time. And I said after that if anybody asked me to do anything I would if it’s God’s will.”

Curry spent several years as part of the Millington Male Chorus. A member of the Historic First Baptist Church of Millington, Curry is still recognized from his days as the coach of the softball team Joe’s Angels. 

“They asked me to be there,” he recalled. “And they said I was the last person they wanted because I was a drunk. I’m not going to lie about it. I said, ‘I might not be the best thing going but if  you give me a chance I’ll get something going.’”

Former player Claretha Payne-Brooks was on hand for the celebration and said Coach Joe was a standout leader and taught his players life values. Bridgtette Howard is a close family friend and grew up around Curry. 

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“He did a lot for me like a father,” she said. “He made sure I had a Christmas. He made sure all of us had a Christmas if it was just one thing under that tree. That’s why I call him Pops, dad. He means that much to me.”

Howard, Michael, Linda, Carol, Rodney and Donna were born to Curry and Norma Jean. Carol said she was proud to share her father with the U.S. Army as a med-tech and with her neighbors in Harrold. Curry said his job in the Army was to take care of those wounded and get them better. 

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In coaching, he wanted to teach his girls discipline and accountability. With his singing, Curry used his soul to touch the spirits of others. 

Through it all, Curry’s road to the celebration in his honor was paved with his late wife along his side. 

“She kept me straight,” he concluded. “She really did. I messed up on her a few times, it wasn’t her doing. I said if the opportunity was there I would honor her. I just miss her.”