Father Rick Curry, Co-founder of Dog Tag Bakery, Dies at 72

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Co-founders Rev. Rick Curry, S.J., and Connie Milstein (center) break bread and open the bakery on Grace Street in Georgetown on Dec. 6, 2014. | Courtesy Dog Tag Bakery.

UPDATE, Dec. 28:

Funeral services will be held Saturday, Jan. 2, for Fr. Rick Curry, S.J., at Holy Trinity Church on 36th Street in Georgetown. Visitation at the church will begin 9 a.m., followed by a 10:30 a.m. Mass of Christian Burial for Fr. Rick Curry, S.J. A funeral reception will be held noon at Trinity Hall on O Street.

When the Georgetowner interviewed Father Rick Curry, the co-founder—with philanthropist Connie Milstein—of the Dog Tag Bakery, we found him at the good stuff you’d find at bakeries, the aroma of freshly baked food, the quiet talk of friends over coffee.

As Curry talked about the bakery, about his days at the National Theater Workshop for the Handicapped, about the purpose of the baker and the Georgetown University-sponsored  Academy for Veterans, and the art of story telling and theater and sundry other things approached with a Jesuit attitude of keen intelligence, skepticism and great compassion, I thought, boy, there’s a man I want to spend some time with.  Because the time challenged your mind, was punctuated by warmth and laughter and words, sentences and conversations which seemed to be, like bread itself, the staff and stuff of life.

Sadly, that won’t be possible. Rev. Richard Curry, S.J., passed away Dec. 19 at the age of 72 of heart failure at the Jesuit infirmary at St. Joseph’s University in Curry’s hometown of Philadelphia.

The program he and Milstein founded, which resulted in Dog Tag Bakery, assists wounded veterans with emotional rehabilitation and employment assistance and training—and jobs.

Curry, who was handicapped himself (he was born without a right forearm), talked at the bakery, but he was really holding court and holding forth—you can just imagine him in a classroom, talking plays and stories.  As we talked to him during the summer, Georgetown University students, who knew him (or took his class) would come up and talk and joke with him—rugby players or rowers near the end of the school year.  He had qualities that were both challenging—he appeared in the Jesuit manner a combination of tough intelligence and Irish warmth and humor—and engaging in all senses of the word.

A Jesuit brother for most of his life, Curry decided to become a priest late in his life, enriching himself and those he ministered to in the process. He often told the story of a veteran who offered his confession and asked for absolution. Curry replied that he could not as he was a brother in the Society of Jesus, the largest religious order in the Roman Catholic Church, and has not been called, as it were. The veteran replied to Curry: “Well, I’m calling you.”

One of Curry’s many colleagues and friends, Rev. James Martin, S.J., eulogized him online as a “marvelous speaker and peerless raconteur; and a great supporter, mentor and friend to many.” 

To mouth the old cliché that “he will be missed” is one of those understatements that cannot fill the vacuum but is true, as clichés are, nonetheless.

Indeed, Curry’s life was an inspiration for many. Above all and also nonetheless, it fulfilled —and went beyond —the Jesuit motto, “Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam,” which means “To the Greater Glory of God.”

Check here to read the July 1 Georgetowner cover story about Dog Tag Bakery.

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