Victim in early morning apartment fire remembered as Concord’s ‘watchdog’

Last modified: 12/4/2015 10:11:08 AM
Kevin Curdie was the keeper of Concord’s West End.

A burly figure almost never without a camera, he was known to roam the neighborhood’s streets at night, snapping pictures and sending updates to residents, city officials and the newspaper.

Thursday night was his last.

Curdie, 60, was the lone victim of an accidental apartment fire that erupted early Friday morning at 96 Rumford St., according to authorities. Nine other tenants were displaced, including three UNH law students.

“Kevin is one of those Concord residents who truly cared about our city and the people in it,” Ward 2 Councilor Allan Herschlag wrote in an email.

“It seemed to me that his heart was as big as he was,” he said. “Taking the time to talk with those less fortunate, going out at night to feed stray cats and always caring about our city.”

Firefighters were dispatched to the four-unit complex shortly after 3 a.m., and were able to contain the blaze before it ripped through the entire building. Curdie’s body was recovered from a first-floor apartment, officials said.

Dave Matta, director of finance and administration at the University of New Hampshire School of Law, said all three students had been temporarily rehoused by the school. Friday was the last day of classes for the semester, he noted, and students were busy cramming for final exams.

“The timing couldn’t be worse for them to be displaced from their homes,” Matta said, adding, “Our goal is to really minimize that impact.”

An investigation by the state fire marshal’s office is ongoing, and the immediate cause of the blaze was not yet known. Authorities noted Curdie’s room did not have a working smoke detector.

Scott Shattuck, a neighbor across the street, said he was awoken shortly after the fire broke out to the sounds of “screaming and hollering.” Flames were billowing from the bottom left front windows.

“It was just lit right up,” he said.

Shattuck said he recognized Curdie, but didn’t know him personally.

Curdie was known as much for his gruff demeanor and outward quirks as his quick, often prosaic emails notifying reporters of the developments of the day – a stabbing here, a robbery there, a dead fish washed ashore along a city waterway. He was never shy about his love for animals, especially cats.

“I’m not a night watchman, but I do keep an eye on my neighborhood when I am out, night or day,” he wrote in an email last year. “Right now I am about head out (sic) the door for a walk – I have my cats to tend to, I wasn’t making that part up. The ones I look for are ones that have been abandoned, sadly. I maintain a friendship with them, offering a little food and friendship. It’s nice to see a smiling face, even if it’s a cat.”

But Curdie also remained something of an enigma, reluctant to give so much as his last name, let alone details about his background or upbringing.

As his name began circulating among other neighbors and city officials Friday, many expressed shock and anguish at the loss.

“Every chance I got to talk to him, he cared so much about the community – his interest in animals, his interest in the community,” Mayor Jim Bouley said. “He was the watchdog of the community.”

Bouley said Curdie was an avid rider of the Concord Area Transit buses, and he helped shape their routes through the city.

“He wasn’t always vocal, but when he spoke, he had well thought out opinions,” Bouley said. “I think everyone on city council can say we all enjoyed receiving his emails, bringing us up to date on all the happenings in the city.”

The mayor remembered talking to Curdie at the Black Ice Pond Hockey Tournament at White Park in January, teasing him for never appearing in his own photographs. So Bouley’s wife, Tara Reardon, snapped a photo of the two of them. Curdie printed it out and gave it to Bouley as a gift.

“I have a copy of the picture on my desk,” Bouley said.

Kathy Conners, a resident of the neighborhood, remembered Curdie as “part of Main Street Concord.”

When Conners led an effort last year in the city to adopt a disruptive property ordinance, Curdie attended meetings on it. “He is one of those people who you miss seeing when they are gone,” she wrote.

Herschlag said he ran into Curdie frequently downtown, and that Curdie often emailed him pictures and observations. An amateur photographer, Curdie posted his photos on an online Flickr account.

“One of the last posts I received from him was about a remote control motor boat with a particularly noisy engine that was in the pond at White Park,” he wrote. “Kevin – as always – was concerned that this was affecting the ducks in the pond.”

In the last email Curdie sent to the Monitor, a message from September, he wrote again about stopping to “make a new friend – as in a cat.”

“And time to roll on,” he wrote. “Till next time.”



(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319, jblackman@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM. 
Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321, mdoyle@
cmonitor.com or on Twitter 
@megan_e_doyle.)








Concord Monitor Office

1 Monitor Drive
Concord,NH 03301
603-224-5301

 

© 2019 Concord Monitor
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy