JENKINTOWN >> Beneath the historic roof of Homestead Hall in Jenkintown, vested constituents and leaders of Pennsylvania’s Democratic party came forward June 7 to honor Shirley Curry’s lifetime of political contributions to Jenkintown Borough, Montgomery County and the state of Pennsylvania.
A 50-year resident of Jenkintown, Curry’s political message began in 1960 through a local campaign for John F. Kennedy’s presidential ticket. Fifty-seven years and 23 elected officials later, Curry announced in March her retirement as chairperson of the Jenkintown Democratic Committee, a position she served in for more than 40 years.
“She was the impetus to change the borough,” said Penny Cutler, secretary of the 154th Democratic Committee. “She consistently worked to build the party. We now have a completely democratic borough. Every elected official in Jenkintown is democratic, from borough council down to the tax collector.
“The county followed and is now mostly democratic as well,” Cutler said.
At the time of Curry’s first campaign, Ward 3 of Jenkintown Borough included 42 Democrats and more than 500 Republicans.
Curry was elected as the Democratic state committeewoman in 1972, a position she held until her retirement in 2014. Curry was later elected Democrat of the Year for the 154th State House District in 1978.
More recently, Curry was honored by the Montgomery County Democratic Women’s Leadership Initiative Committee as the Democratic Woman of the Year for 2016.
A native of southern New Jersey and a graduate of Bucknell University, Curry owned and operated Curry School of Ballet 1958 to 2010. She danced with the Philadelphia Civic Ballet in 1962 and has been the associate director of Jenkintown Music Theater since early 1970.
“My hope for the future is peace,” Curry said. “People learning to get along with each other and learning to listen to each other. We have to live the maxim ‘Do unto others.’
“If you’re going to get into politics, you have to do so for the right reasons,” she said. “You have to want to make things better for people — all people. Not just the rich, not just the poor, but all people.”
“She never ran herself. She was very good at rounding up people who were interested in running,” Cutler said. “And every little girl in Jenkintown took dancing with her.”
“Shirley Curry has been an inspiration for young Democrats for decades,” said Noah Marlier, current chairman of the 154th District. “I count myself among those who drew inspiration from her to go out and make a difference in the world.”
“She’s contributed to each of the major victories over the years, from ending the war in Vietnam to the Women’s Movement to the Gay Rights Movement,” said state Sen. Art Haywood, D-4. “I’m here to honor you for that gift to us. Thank you, Shirley.”
“When I think of Shirley, I think of a person who was constantly pushing to elect Democrats. We stand on her shoulders, and I thank her for building the Democratic party in our area,” Montgomery County Sheriff Sean Kilkenny said.
“She’s created a party that’s going to live on long after we’re gone,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said. “She’s left this political world a better place.”