William Curtis Lee died Tuesday June 8, 2021 at his home in Madisonville, Kentucky. Born January 8, 1925 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, his parents were Ernest C. and Eula Curtis Lee.
In addition to his parents he was preceded in death by his wife of 43 years, Lucena McGillen Lee, and later by his wife of 21 years, Martha Argend Lee; two brothers and two sisters, Harold Lee, Byrum Lee, Irene Lee and Betty Lee Stephenson, all of Tulsa, Oklahoma; and his daughter (-in-law), Margie Lee of Cincinnati, Ohio.
Curtis is survived by son Michael W. Lee of Cincinnati, Ohio; son and daughter (-in-law) Mark D. and Maria K. Lee of Madisonville, Kentucky; stepsons Billy C. Farlow (Peggy) of Athens, Alabama and John Louis Argend-Farlow (Amanda) of Grand Junction, Colorado; grandson Christopher Lee of Cincinnati, Ohio and Carson B. Lee of Madisonville, Kentucky; as well as nieces, nephews and other relatives and friends whom he loved very much.
He was an ordained pastor in the Church of God (Anderson, IN) and then the United Church of Christ for a total of 76 years, serving congregations in Connecticut; Illinois; Indiana; Kentucky; Ohio; Ontario, Canada; and Tennessee. He obtained a Bachelors degree from Anderson College (IN); Master of Divinity from Yale University; and Master of Gerontological Studies from Miami University (OH).
Always a man who stood up for the rights of others, Curtis received threats during the early years of his ministry when he actively sought equality and justice for all people. In the late 1940s, he invited a friend who was an African-American minister to preach in his church. Controversy and threats ensued, but Curtis stayed the course, believing that faith is hollow without love for all.
While he was in his 80s, Curtis was actively involved in Kairos, an international prison ministry. The volunteer team would share with the prison residents the bad things from which they had been saved when they surrendered their lives to Christ. As Curtis told it, at age 12, when he gave my life to Christ, he really had not done “bad” things. His testimony to the prison residents was that he had been saved “to” something wonderful: a life of dedication and service to God.
In the 1990s he was a co-founder of assisted living communities in Paducah and Madisonville, Kentucky. He believed that faith is most fully lived out through actively caring for others, a ministry to which all are called regardless of vocation. His final months after a recent heart attack saw him coming full circle, enjoying the fruits of his labor while residing in The Paragon of Madisonville and even more fully appreciating the compassionate care given by staff members.
Curtis was loving caregiver for each of his wives during their final years as they battled cancer and dementia, respectively. Throughout his years, he was calm during the storms of life, moored to and strengthened by his faith. He was a humble but shining example for his family and many others.
To his last days, Curtis was an avid reader in a constant quest to learn and grow. When he was 94, he purchased a sculpture of a brain in New Mexico from the artist, saying he wanted it to remind him to keep an open mind.
He wrote the last pages of his life story just a few weeks ago. Its ending accurately portrays the man: “I someday will dash off to my eternal future. There is more excitement to come! Perhaps in that eternal future, I will be invited to sing in that great heavenly choir. Perhaps I will be admitted to the advanced placement group studying the meaning and love of God. Perhaps I will have an opportunity to share with all the hosts of heaven what my faith journey has meant to me...EVERYTHING! Life has been good…not always easy, but good. It is still good. It will one day be better!”
A memorial service will be held at 2:00 p.m. June 19, 2021 at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), 1030 College Dr., Madisonville, KY. Memorial contributions may be made to First Christian Church, Madisonville, KY.