Dr. Mary G. McCrea Curnen returned to the Lord just two months shy of her 99th birthday on September 29, 2021, in Groton, Massachusetts. Mary Godenne was born the second of six children in Brussels, Belgium on November 25, 1922, to a Belgian father and an English mother who had met treating soldiers injured during in World War I. Following Belgium’s liberation at the end of the Second World War, the completion of her medical degree and internship at Louvain University, she traveled to the United States to complete her residency and undertake laboratory research. At Yale University, she met her first husband, John McCrea, Ph.D., a basic biologist whose contributions included workupon the organization of DNA. With him she raised four children in Bethany, Connecticut until his death to cancer in 1967. Throughout, Dr. Curnen pursued a variety of studies with a concentration in virology and was a central figure inthe first isolation of type 1 polio virus from human cerebrospinal fluid. In 1968, she married Dr. Edward Curnen, Jr., an academic pediatrician, and scientist at Columbia University, who had also suffered the loss of a spouse and was father to three children, two already independent. Dr. Curnen earned her Ph.D. in Epidemiology from Columbia University in 1973, and later became Clinical Professor of Epidemiology & Pediatrics at Yale University and the Director of the Connecticut Cancer Epidemiology Unit. In her advanced professional years, she was named Associate Director of the Yale Program for Humanities in Medicine, and she maintained a deep belief in the value of the humanities, spirituality, and scientific endeavor until her death. In addition to being an active mother, Dr. Curnen was also a sportswoman. This was evident from her first rock-climbing forays as a Girl Guide in Belgium and endured in the strikingly rapid pace of her walk up to her final years. Her laugh, warmth, and forward-leaning intensity will be greatly missed. Dr. Curnen is survived by six of her seven children, thirteen grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and extended family members, and was predeceased by her five siblings.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Saturday, November 13, at 1:30 pm, at Our Lady of Grace Parish, worshiping at St. James’ Church, 13 St. James Avenue, Groton, MA 01450. Family and friends are cordially invited to attend (vaccinated and with masking please). Interment will be the next day in Bethany CT, where Dr. Curnen lived for over sixty years.
In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate gifts being directed to RiverCourt Residences, 8 West Main Street, Groton MA 01450. (In the memo of your check, please write in “Reflections Activity Program”). Or you may prefer to donate to the charity of your choice.
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