Chuck Winter of Sunnyside, Washington, has informed us of the passing of Melvin Curfman of Sunnyside. He and his wife, Charlotte, were founding members of the Toppenish Grace Brethren Church and later relocated to the Sunnyside Grace Brethren Church. Mel was passionate about Christian camping and was instrumental in developing Clear Lake Grace Brethren Camp. The following obituary appeared in the Yakima newspaper.
Melvin Curfman passed away peacefully in his home March 21, 2011, after a short battle with cancer.
Melvin was born in New Mexico on October 7, 1931. At six years old, the Dust Bowl devastated their family farm and forced his family to move to the Yakima Valley in search of more fertile land. Mel grew up in Granger and from a young age displayed a hard work ethic and an aptitude for ingenuity and creating with his hands.
Mel knew Charlotte from church and they were married in a double-wedding with Charlotte’s sister in Sunnyside on March 17, 1950. Three children – Ron, Bob, and Kathie – soon followed. Mel worked hard at farming but struggled to make ends meet. When Mel’s farm-grown ability to build and repair equipment was recognized by the owner of The Farm Shop, he was offered a job as a machinist on the spot.
Mel would later own and operate The Farm Shop, where he designed, fabricated, and repaired farm equipment. He found satisfaction in helping others solve problems by restoring, modifying, or creating new equipment. His spreaders and mixers can still be seen operating around the valley.
Faith in Christ was central to Melvin’s life. Along with Charlotte, he was a founding member of the Toppenish Grace Brethren Church. He worshipped and served faithfully alongside the church family there before relocating to the Sunnyside Grace Brethren Church.
He was passionate about Christian camping and served for many years on the board of Clear Lake Grace Brethren Camp, where he was able to use his talent and skill to develop the campground. In addition to shouldering several major construction projects there, he also spent countless Saturdays repairing and maintaining the facilities.
In his retirement, Mel refused to slow down. Everywhere he went, Mel saw opportunity to improve things until they were right and beautiful. He continued to improve the campground at Clear Lake. He worked tirelessly to transform an old gravel pit into beautiful “Curfman Park,” where family and church events are now held. When the Outlook cemetery fell into disrepair, he was instrumental in restoring it to its current beauty.
He loved to spend time in his wood shop, where he created and gave away bowls, cups, vases, and board games. Despite all the hard work, Mel always had time for friends and family, whether it was camping, playing yard and table games, working on a project together, or having lunch at Jack-in-the-Box.
In both his living and his dying, Mel placed his hope steadfastly in His Savior, Jesus Christ. In Christ, Mel died holding to the promise of resurrection. So too, in their grief his family now believes firmly that Mel’s death will ultimately be swallowed up in the victory of Christ’s resurrection. “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).
Melvin leaves behind a legacy of combining Christian faith and service with hard work and innovation. He is survived by Charlotte, his wife of 61 years, sons Ron (Melody) and Bob (Dinah) Curfman, daughter Kathie (David) Copenhaver, brother Troy (Kathleen) Curfman, sister Bema Lou (Claire) Floyd, and sister-in-law Avis Curfman. His grandchildren are Silas (Natalie) Curfman, Rachel (David) Cantu, Sara (Troy) Titus, Katie (Justin) Carter, Caleb (Tara) Curfman, Adam (Susie) Copenhaver, Alyssa Copenhaver, Ronnie Curfman, Bobby (Lindsee) Curfman, Collin Curfman, and Austin Copenhaver. He is fondly remembered also by his great-grandchildren, Jonah, Adia, Isaiah, Gabriel, Simon, Elijah, Calvin, Tyler, Micah, Aksel, Alaythia, RJ, Max, and Lailah. Melvin is preceded in death by his parents and by brothers Wilford and Clifton Curfman.
A viewing will be held Friday, March 25, from 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Smith Funeral Home in Sunnyside. A memorial service will be conducted Saturday, March 26, 10:00 a.m. at the Sunnyside Grace Brethren Church. A graveside service will follow at Outlook Cemetery.
Memorial funds will be used for new tables in the dining hall at Clear Lake Grace Brethren Camp, and can be sent to CLGBC, PO Box 938, Sunnyside, WA 98944. Those wishing to sign Melvin’s online memorial book may do so at www.funeralhomesmith.com.