Tri-City advocate dies at 84

The Tri-Cities lost a longtime advocate when Everett Ardell Curtis, 84, died at his Kennewick home New Year's Eve.

He owned the E.A. Curtis Co., a building and leasing business, and was a tireless supporter of development in the Tri-Cities, his friends said.

"The community has lost a big asset. Ardell had been here since the 1940s and was here for the growth of the Tri-Cities. He played a big part in the community," said Mark Griffin, Scout executive at the Blue Mountain Council, Boy Scouts of America.

Curtis moved to the Richland area with his parents and siblings when he was 16. After serving in the military, he returned to the Tri-Cities, completed his civil engineering degree and a few years later became a general contractor.

He and Warren Luke, another Tri-City developer, were close friends.

"There was nothing like him in the Tri-Cities," Luke said.

Luke said Curtis believed in the Tri-Cities and infused that belief in other developers to the point where he, and others with him, could cause things to happen, like the office building on Clearwater Avenue and Columbia Center Boulevard in Kennewick commonly called the "flashcube."

Curtis also was responsible for building the Desert Villa apartments for the elderly and handicapped, and the Hillside Apartments, near the Kennewick post office.

Ann Phillip worked with Curtis when she was hired in 1992 as director for the Kennewick Chamber of Commerce, now the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce. Curtis was on the chamber board until the mid-1990s.

Phillip recalls him as "a gentle giant, powerful in the community, but he never used it for anything but good."

"He was a man of deep religious faith, Mormon, and I know he donated a lot of scholarship money to Mormon institutions," she said. "He was a man you just did not see every day, someone of high ethical and moral character not only in his personal life but in business as well. You could do business with Ardell on a handshake and never worry about it again."

Phillip said she saw Curtis a month ago at the Olive Garden.

They chatted for a few minutes, and Phillip, whose grandson is a Boy Scout, remembers thanking him for his longtime support of the Tri-City area scouting council.

Griffin said Curtis was a great supporter of youths and Scouting, serving on the executive board for the Blue Mountain Council for many years.

He was instrumental in moving the Boy Scout council office to the Tri-Cities from Walla Walla, Griffin said, and in getting the Glenn C. Lee Scouting Service Center built off Gage Boulevard in Kennewick.

"One time about 20 years ago, the council was in financial distress and Ardell organized a group of community leaders. In essence, he and the group saved the council," Griffin said. "I don't believe we'd have a council without him."

Services for Curtis are 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 801 S. Buntin St., Kennewick.

w Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; lhulse@tricityherald.com