A servant to the truth: John Cureton remembered

Published 8:01 am Tuesday, March 4, 2014

John Cureton

John Cureton

During one of his final conversations with his daughter, the only thing John Cureton could talk about was all the people he wanted to meet in heaven.

“He told me about the people from the church he wanted to see again,” said his daughter, Louise Sadowitz. “When I told him he was forgetting about Jesus he told me, ‘oh yeah, I need to tell him that I read his book.’”

Even in the later stages of his life, Cureton remained as sharp and witty as he ever was, Sadowitz said.

Cureton, of Dowagiac, died on Thursday, Feb. 20, at The Timbers of Cass County in Dowagiac. He was 95 years old.

To the people who knew him, Cureton was known for two things: His passion for covering the happenings of his hometown of Dowagiac and his devotion to the church and his faith.

Born on June 2, 1918, to Fredrick and Hazel Cureton in Chicago, Cureton spent much of his youth traveling around the country by train with his uncle, who became his surrogate dad after John’s father died when he was 2 years old. It was during this time that his love of travel and railroads were born, two interests that he would carry with him throughout the remainder of his life.

Cureton was also a natural learner, reading by the time he was 6 years old. He entered high school at the age of 12, graduating when he was only 16 years old.

“He was a very, very intelligent man,” Sadowitz said. “He was very well read. I remember he was always up reading in his chair every evening.”

In 1946, Cureton was ordained into the ministry at Midwest Bible Church in Chicago. Later that year, he and his wife, Gladys, traveled to Hartford, Mich., where Cureton became the pastor of the Federated Church.

However, after three years, Cureton moved to Dowagiac, where he began working at James Heddon’s Sons. He also began attending services at Calvary Bible Church, where he met Fred Mathews, the founder of Southwestern Michigan College.

“When I first came to Dowagiac, I was single,” Mathews said. “[Cureton] and his wife invited me over often to have dinner with them.”

Cureton and Mathews would eventually form a softball team with other members of the church, with the former playing first base and pitcher while the latter played second base and outfield. In addition, the two also formed a friendship that would last for more than 60 years.

During his time in Dowagiac, Cureton and his wife had four children together, Louise, Carol, Ruth and Anita.

In the 1960s, Cureton took the job that would make him a household name in many Dowagiac households, becoming the news director of WDOW, the local radio station.

“He worked for WDOW for many years, most of that time he covered activities at the college,” Mathews said. “We interacted a lot back then. I always found him to be a very good, and very fair, reporter.”

Mathews said he was most impressed by Cureton’s meticulous, detailed approach to gathering facts for his stories.

“He was a first-class news reporter,” Mathews said. “If he ever wanted to leave Dowagiac, he could have been a big time reporter for a larger newspaper.”

Cureton served as news director for the radio station for nearly 30 years before his retirement.

Cureton remained active in the Dowagiac community, even after hanging up his headphones and microphone. He was an active member at Berrien Center Bible Church, where he taught the adult bible studies class for many years.

“His church family was very important to him,” Sadowitz said. “Our own family activities were centered around the church.”

Cureton, who was an active Republican for much of life, was elected to the Cass County Board of Commissioners in 2004, at the age of 85. He served two terms as a commissioner, before losing in the Republican primary election in 2008.

“He never saw a millage vote that he liked, but his opposition was always responsibly said,” Mathews said.

While he may have had his disagreements with some of its residents from time to time, Dowagiac was always one of the things that he cherished the most since he moved to the city more than a half-century ago.

“He loved it here. He loved the community,” Mathews said. “He was like so many of us who loved this community. The people here made less money than they did in a bigger community, but the lifestyle here more than made up the difference to him.”

“I think of lot of people in town will remember John for a long time to come,” Sadowitz said. “I consider myself blessed that he was my father.”