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Joe Curcio honored as Belfast Citizen of Year

Photo by Kathryn Ross

Joe Curcio (left) was named Belfast Citizen of the Year by the Lions Club. Sheree Gielow presented the award.


By KATHRYN ROSS

BELFAST — Giving back to the community is what Joe Curcio is doing with his renovation of seven Main Street buildings and his ongoing efforts to purchase the Genesee Canal warehouse.

At a recent dinner organized by the Belfast Lions Club, members named Curcio Citizen of the Year. Although he has traveled the world and lived across the country his interests and his heart remain in Belfast, where he grew up, graduated from high school in 1984 and where his family still lives.

“I lived in a lot of populated areas, but I long for the environment you used to see in the past and I think Belfast can be that. We have all the pieces,” he said.

Once the supervisor of the Town of Belfast, in recent years Curcio has gone a long way into making that dream come true. He has purchased several buildings on Main Street, which he is renovating for both residential and commercial purposes.

The buildings, built in the late 19th or early 20th centuries, need infrastructure improvements — water, sewer and electric work as well as roof and structural improvements, which are not highly visible but have been ongoing with the help of local contractors.

The effort started when the late John Hasper asked if Curcio was interested in purchasing his building. Curcio was and his first project began in what he calls A-block in honor of his deceased daughter Amanda. Curcio and his late wife Jody continued the process with his wife’s dream of creating an artist’s residency program.

That’s the building with stick figures painted on the second story windows. Curcio’s wife painted the figures.

“I’m doing this because I believe the heart of America is in small rural communities,” he said.

There is already a successful jewelry business among the block of buildings and Curcio has an apartment in another building. He said that he would love to bring a micro brewery to the block and hopes to get permission from the town to create a parking area at the rear of the buildings.

He owns buildings 25, 31, 33, 35, 37, 39 and 41.

Recently taking on a project near and dear to the hearts of Lions Club members, Curcio is in negotiations to purchase the Canal warehouse building, which is also near and dear to Curcio, who grew up near the building and played there as a kid.

He hopes to stabilize and preserve the building and work with the community to “see what can be done with it,” he said.

After high school, Curcio attended Houghton College, earning a degree in business administration. He continued his studies at Alfred State, where he earned a degree in engineering. He then spent six years in the U.S. Navy — he was trained as a nuclear reactor operator.

He traveled the world on the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Enterprise, which contained eight nuclear reactors. After his stint in the Navy, Curcio worked at West Valley in Cattaraugus County but was later hired to manage projects for a variety of companies in Albany.

He worked in Hanford, Washington, cleaning up 500 square miles of nuclear waste. From there he went to South Carolina to manage a company developing pellets to handle waste and, finally, to Richmond, Kentucky, where he is working for Bechtel as a manager at the Blue Grass Army Depot, where the U.S. military stores conventional and chemical munitions.

He was recently awarded the Kentucky Colonel Award from the governor of Kentucky.

As a part of the Citizen of the Year ceremony, Scott Atherton, a friend of Curcio, wrote in a support letter, “Joe has an unwavering selflessness to Belfast and continues to do his best to make an impact by improving all that he can in the community. He has lived and worked all over the country but has never forgotten where he came from.

“He genuinely cares about people and helping others find ways to help themselves while expecting nothing in return. Joe has and continues to serve the community very well and there is nobody more deserving of the Citizen of the Year award or for that fact the Citizen of the Decade award.”

Curcio said he attributes his success to the people who helped form him growing up.

“I want to give back to them and the community and inspire those who have gone away to come back and contribute back to where they came from,” he said.