Obituary of Mack Curtis Durbin
A long life, well lived, has come to an end.
Born the 11th of 12 children to Elias Curtiss and Mary Elizabeth (Ingram) Durbin, on March 21, 1926, Mack Curtis Durbin left us on February 17, 2022.
After growing up on a farm outside Lexington, Kentucky and obtaining his pilot’s license before he got his driver’s license, he proudly served as a gunner on heavy bombers (B-17 and B-25) in the Army Air Corps during World War II. Once he returned home, he became a member of the Lexington Fire Department rising to the rank of Captain.
While there he started a home construction business. 3D Construction became one of the largest builders of residential and commercial real estate in the area. During the war he trained in the West and fell in love with the countryside. By 1976 he had moved to Denver and started a real estate brokerage.
He met his life, Andi, and together they opened and ran Rooftop Realty for over 30 years, finally retiring at the end of 2020.
Mack was preceded in death by his parents, the mother of his children, Lou Ann (Drymon) Durbin, his daughter Elizabeth Joan, known to all as BJ, and 9 brothers and sisters.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by his sons, Douglas (Gina) of Lexington, KY and James (Mary), of Winter Garden, FL along with two sisters, Nettie Kriegel of Las Cruces, NM and Virginia Myers of Lexington, KY. He is also survived by 7 grandchildren, 9 great grandchildren and numerous nieces, nephews and in-laws.
All that says what he did, but not who he was. He was a kind, loving, gentle man who always showed the world a happy face. He doted on his wife and children. He laughed with his friends. A man of few words, he led by example. He only occasionally used the leather wedgy on the golf course and he followed the Kentucky Wildcats with a passion.
He will be sorely missed.
Services at Fort Logan National Cemetery on March 4, 2022 at 3:15 pm. Reception to follow at Mack and Andi’s home.
Donations in Mack’s name can be made to Shriners Hospitals for Children.
Due to limited time available at Fort Logan for family speeches, I decided to post this here.
Eulogy for Mack by his wife Andi
Mack was born the 11th of 12 children to a sharecropper in rural Kentucky. He grew up in a huge, antebellum mansion outside of Lexington but it had no electricity, no running water and no indoor plumbing. Even though the house was enormous, they only used parts of it so he shared a bed with his brother.
They got up early and finished late. His father believed that you should work, work and work ‘til you dropped and then get up and keep on working. Mack adopted that work ethic for the rest of his life. His greatest frustration at the end of his days was that he got so exhausted. Almost every day he’d tell me, I didn’t get this tired working out in the fields all day. I should be out doing more! Not sure at age 95 that was really possible.
But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t time for other things. Mack always had his head and heart in the clouds so he wanted to learn to fly an airplane. His father didn’t have the money for flight lessons so Mack borrowed the money from his best friend’s father and hitchhiked to the little dirt strip close to the farm. On the day he soloed he said he landed on the strip, the instructor got out and said “you got it” and walked away. Mack said he’d never been so nervous in his life. But off he flew. He would fly the plane as often as he had the time and money for rental and fuel. He’d land in the hayfield of the farm after buzzing the house and scaring his mother to death. He’d take the kids in the neighborhood on flights, once returning the plane with a croquet mallet in the back. He had a hard time explaining that one. He wasn’t yet old enough to get his driver’s license.
He volunteered for World War II as soon as he turned 18 – or maybe a little sooner. Because he wanted to be in the Air Corps (there wasn’t a separate Air Force yet, it was still part of the Army) he wrote “pilot” on all his paperwork. He did get assigned to the Air Corps but as a gunner rather than a pilot. He was assigned out west for training – in Oklahoma and New Mexico – and fell in love with the countryside. His entire wing was set to go to England the next morning when orders came down that they needed to train on a new plane because they were needed in the Pacific rather than Europe. So they had to start training all over again in a B-25 rather than a B-17. By the time they were finished, the war was winding down and they weren’t needed. He never left the States, but he was so proud of his military service.
When he got home, he joined the Lexington Fire Department – there was and is a long tradition of firemen in the Durbin family – eventually rising to the rank of Captain. He told me many stories of his fire service but one always stood out. He was on a big fire – I think at least 3 alarms – at a commercial complex. He found himself between the building and a 10 foot tall fence and he could tell from experience that the building was about to explode. He said he never could remember exactly what happened, but somehow he found himself on the other side of that fence or he would most likely have been killed. It wasn’t the first or last time fate intervened in his life.
He had known Lou Ann Drymon for a long time. Her father was a horse breeder and trainer and they lived down the road from his house. They rode the school bus together. He had dated her sister for a while but decided that Lou Ann was more his style. It got serious while he was on the fire department and they decided to get married. Now her father the big time horse trainer – he gave the eulogy at Man O’War’s funeral so he really was a big deal – did not think that Mack was at all suitable for his daughter so they eloped. And when they got back from Indiana that night he took her home like it was just another date. Except she spilled the beans as soon as she got in the house so they moved into a larger apartment and set up housekeeping.
She became a school teacher but was also a member of the Junior League so he started to attend those type of fund raising functions with her. Like firemen everywhere, he had started a side business in home construction. He would build one house and sit on the porch ‘til he sold it and then start another. Eventually he became successful enough that he quit the fire department and opened 3D Construction – along with a couple of other companies. Soon he was one of the largest builders of residential and commercial real estate in the area. As he described it “boring with a big auger”. But real estate and home construction always cycle up and down and soon the cycle hit the bottom.
It was about that time that the three kids he and Lou Ann had raised, Doug, Jim and BJ, were grown or out of the house. Like empty nesters everywhere they grew apart and soon divorced. Even though they weren’t together and the kids were grown, they still talked from time to time and each year on Mother’s Day he always sent her a bouquet of flowers. That is the essence of Mack. To still remember and honor the mother of his children. When she died unexpectedly, he immediately went to Lexington to be with his children and to honor the memory of their time together.
After their divorce, he came out to the West that he had fallen in love with during the war to start over. Little did he know what he was about to get into.
People often ask how we met. Here is that story. I was working in a law office as a paralegal when he came in with his then girlfriend and her son. While they were in talking to the attorney, he and I started talking. The attorney gave Mack a referral for a listing of one of his divorce clients. Mack had received his real estate broker’s license but didn’t have any sort of office so I did the paperwork needed on the listing for him. Once the sale had closed, Mack called and asked if he could take me to lunch as a thank you. I was always up for a free lunch so I said sure. On the day of the lunch he picked me up in his cream colored Cadillac, snappily dressed with coat and tie and his beautiful blue eyes and white hair shining. I had been secretly in love with him since the day he walked in that office door but thought I was hiding it pretty well. Maybe not so much.
Two glasses of wine and a salad later, I called the office and said I was going to be back late from lunch. Late ended up being the next morning and we’ve been together ever since. Don’t ask me what happened to that girlfriend he had when we met. I have no idea.
We were very soon sharing an apartment. He was working in resort areas selling mostly time share type projects and I was still working in the legal industry. When the Christmas Blizzard of 1982 happened, Mack was working in Vail. I didn’t expect to see him ‘til it was over – remember there weren’t cell phones then – but pretty soon he walked in the door. I said “What are you doing here? Don’t you know there is a blizzard out there?” He said, “I wasn’t about to leave you alone on Christmas.” He drove through that blizzard over Vail Pass, through the tunnels and down I-70 to get to me. He finally got stuck in the parking lot of our apartment building and had to walk the last few feet. How can you not love that?
Marriage was never a big deal for either of us. When he wanted to get married, I didn’t and when I wanted to get married he didn’t. Finally I said to him “I need to put you on my health insurance” because he didn’t have insurance on his own and needed some procedure or other. So that was the impetus for getting married. We had already been together for over 7 years. We had celebrated our 33rd wedding anniversary 6 days before he died.
I was working for a large law firm downtown as the computer system manager so I was responsible for making sure everything was up and running at all hours. I had terminals in the condo we owned so I could monitor around the clock. More than once, I had to go downtown in the middle of the night to fix something. He would never let me go alone. No matter what he had going on the next day, he would always get up and go with me. And he would sit patiently while I did whatever I had to do before going back home to grab a few more hours sleep.
Once I left the law firm, I was kind of at loose ends so he said, “Why don’t you get your real estate license and come work with me.” So that’s what I did. We worked as a team in the real estate industry for the rest of his life. That meant we were always together – pretty much 24/7. If you saw one of us you could be sure the other was within 5 feet or so. People who didn’t know us would ask, which one is Mack and which one is Andi? I’d always answer, “We’re interchangeable” and we were. Sometimes it seemed like we shared one brain.
Our business partnership worked to perfection. I would come up with some harebrained scheme for marketing and he would talk me off the ledge. He would want to do things the old fashioned way and I would show him how the computer might make things better. Some clients preferred to work with him while some wanted me to take the lead. Always, though, we could sit and talk through the options and come up with a good solution. It is a testament to our working relationship that our success was based on referrals and repeat business.
That doesn’t mean we didn’t have our moments. We had our fair share of misunderstandings and spats. But way, way more often we loved being together and sharing our life. One night we snuck off to have a quiet dinner at a local restaurant. We were just sitting there having a conversation, holding hands across the table when the waiter came up and said “that is so nice to see. You would be amazed at the couples who come in here and don’t say a word to each other.” Even after all these years and all that time together, we still had lots to say to each other and were holding hands at the end.
Despite our real estate business, we still found time to travel. We took the RV to Alaska and Mexico. We went to Napa – probably way too many times. And then we decided to see the world. First to Hawaii and Mexico. Then we branched out – London, Monaco, Rome, Venice, Barcelona. Panama Canal, Edinburgh to see the British Open. Probably the most meaningful trip was to France where we explored Paris and saw Notre Dame just before it burned. Went to Bordeaux and stayed in a French chateau. Most meaningfully for both of us was our trip to Normandy where we visited the towns and fields where battles occurred and where my uncle died. Then we went to Omaha Beach and walked out to the water’s edge and looked up at those cliffs the men had to scale on June 6, 1944 under withering fire. Lastly we went to the American Cemetery and stood among those white crosses. He was moved to tears by the bravery and sacrifice of those of his generation.
We’d often look at each and say “did you ever think a sharecropper’s son and a coal miner’s daughter would be able to see and do all these things?” It was a wonder to both of us. We were still talking about and planning our next trip when he passed.
He wasn’t a big sportsman but during his life he did participate in two things. When he was younger he loved to fish. He and his brothers would make an annual trip to Tennessee where their guide was the local game warden. Suffice to say they always caught their limit. Up until almost his last days he loved to play golf. He said he started playing with a tobacco stick and a rock when he was little but really took up the game as an adult. He generally tried to play at least once a week. By the end he was trying to play 9 holes weekly with a group of old friends. I would drive the cart and take him right up to his ball because he couldn’t walk very far, but he still tried. The one thing he never let me take out of the truck was his golf clubs because “we’re going to go play again pretty soon.” I never played the game but I always caddied for him so we were together even on the course. He was able to play in Hawaii, Mexico and even Scotland and, of course, all across the US. I think it kept him young.
His sense of adventure never left him. When he was 88 years old, his son decided he wanted to go skydiving for his birthday and wanted his Dad to join him. At first Mack said, why would I want to jump out of a perfectly good airplane? But after thinking about it, he decided to do it. So at age 88 he jumped out of a perfectly good airplane and had one of the times of his life. He never quit talking about it. Then he kept saying he wanted to fly an airplane again – he hadn’t had an active pilot’s license in years. So for his 92nd birthday I arranged for a flight instructor to take him for a “check ride”. He was as excited as a kid on Christmas morning. He took over the controls after takeoff and it was like he had flown a plane yesterday. The instructor said “I have young men who don’t handle this plane as well as you do and you’ve never seen it before”. He was thrilled with the comment and with the experience.
Although we both hoped he could just go on forever, we both knew it wasn’t possible. He always said he never wanted to be a “pain in the ass” and when it became obvious that was exactly what was happening he said “it’s time to let me go”. He was gone within a week.
We spoke many times about what he wanted. He was very definite that he wanted to be cremated and ‘Do NOT put me in the ground.” But when I tried to press him on what he wanted for a service he always said “I won’t be there. So do what you think best.” He also said he wanted to “agitate everyone from coast to coast” so he will be spread over the Continental Divide so he can do just that.
How would Mack like to be remembered? First, I think he’d be surprised that anyone what want to remember him. At bottom, he always thought of himself as an ordinary person doing the best he could. Except to me, he was a man of few words and led more by example. He always tried to be considerate of others and never understood those who weren’t. He wasn’t particularly “religious” but was a man of great faith. Mostly he was a kind, gentle, man who loved his family and loved me. And that’s how he’d want to be remembered.
At the end of his life we had fallen into a habit where I would lean over and kiss him and say, “I love you” and he would always answer back – even if so faintly at the end – “I love you too”. Know I love you, Mack, and I always will. I know you love me too.
In honor of Mack's military service honors will be held at Fort Logan National Cemetery please view this map for the exact location guests will be meeting. Please arrive no later than 2:45pm, Friday, March 4th, 2022.