W. Curtis Montz started out as a whiz kid in Hazleton schools.
“They had a nutty thing if you did very well in school,” he reminisced as his 100th birthday approached in 2011, “they promoted you in the middle of the year. I went through six grades in three years.”
From the start, he was a man who knew his limitations. Born with a fear of heights, he managed to paint bridges for two summers in his teens until the foreman ordered him up the trestles of the old Eighth Street Bridge.
Montz recounted the moment: “I said,’You’re kidding.’ He said, ‘No, I’m not.’ I said ‘I quit.’ ” Then he added what now seems the ultimate irony: “Getting up in the stratosphere was more than I bargained for.”
As smart as he was humble, as active as he was durable, and recognized by any who met him as the quintessential gentleman, Curtis Montz climbed into this community’s stratosphere decades ago.
And he did it the old fashioned way: Commitment and unimpeachable work ethic. Montz spent 50 years employed at downtown Wilkes-Barre’s retail outlet anchor, Fowler,Dick and Walker - The Boston Store, staying on when Al Boscov bought the place and gave it his name.
When Boscov spearheaded the effort to save what is now the city’s entertainment jewel, the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, Montz not only joined the fight, he became a fixture at the Center, serving there until he turned 99. The Center’s annual film series bears his name.
“He came to work every day in a suit and tie,” Kirby Center Executive Directors Marilyn Santarelli said last Sunday upon news Montz had died at the age of 101. “He was our rock.”
Back in 2011, as the man’s centenarian celebration approached, Santarelli called Montz a “rudder” who brought “a calming sense to decision making.”
W. Curtis Montz grew up being too bright for his own age. He graduated from Wyoming Seminary the year the Great Depression began. He poured a lifetime of quiet service into this region. He was both product and pillar of all that is best in our community. He never commanded attention, but he did earn it.
So here is a tip of the hat to the passing of a true gentleman.