CHATHAM — A 95-year-old veteran not only spends hours taking care of his garden; he also plants flowers and cuts the grass for all of the neighbors on his block.
“I'd rather work than sit down. That’s the reason I work all the time,” said Lee Curry, who has lived in the 400 block of East 88th Place with his wife for more than 50 years. He said he sometimes spends 10 hours outdoors working.
“All the people who were here when I moved [in] are dead,” he said. “I’m the last person standing, so I try to keep it up because I just enjoy working.”
He met Bridgette Minyard-McLin 12 years ago when she moved into the house across the street. He planted her rose garden. She served in the military also — six years in the Army and six years in the National Guard.
“He’s been planting them for me, doing my lawn, and so many other things,” Minyard-McLin said. “A lot of people don’t do that anymore. It’s just like family, and I wouldn’t have a rose garden if it weren’t for Mr. and Mrs. Curry. They’re a blessing to me, and I love it.”
Curry’s next-door neighbor, Leroy McCray, 65, is the block club vice president. McCray said Curry motivates him.
“He’s a complete inspiration to the whole neighborhood,” he said.
“We’re more family than anything else. Everyone helps everyone else, and that's the way it should be.”
Curry won’t let him cut his grass, he said.
“Well, I was cutting it before he moved in, and so when he moved here I just continued to cut it,” said Curry, whose backyard is full of cabbage, collard greens, bok choy, tomatoes and broccoli. He even has peach and pear trees. An array of flowers and plants are displayed in the front yard.
Curry was born and raised in Georgia. He said his parents were sharecroppers, so they participated in a system with hundreds of other African-Americans after slavery was abolished that allowed them to use a plantation owner’s land in exchange for a share of the crop. He was a soldier in World War II.
He moved to Chicago, he said, because the racial tensions were too high in the South. He has been here ever since.
“He’s the man,” said Laura Johnson, 82, who was raised on a farm in Mississippi. “Mr. Curry is up at the break of dawn. He is the kind of person you would want in your neighborhood.”
What's driving him to do this back-breaking work at an advanced age?
“I just enjoy life, and I love people,” Curry said.
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