Generations of young athletes will remember the name of William Curran Jr., who worked as a staff photographer at the Portland Press Herald for 41 years until retiring in the early 1980s.

Years before the era of digital photography, Curran would cover one sporting event after another for the newspaper, carrying first a Speed Graphic camera – standard equipment for journalists until the mid-60s – before switching to 35mm film cameras later in his career.

Mr. Curran, a nearly lifelong Portland resident, died Thursday at Gosnell Memorial Hospice House in Scarborough. He was 90.

“Probably every athlete since he started taking pictures at the Press Herald … had their picture taken by him,” one of his two sons, Tim Curran of Portland, said Sunday night.

Although Mr. Curran took all kinds of pictures, he specialized in sports photography. He won an award for his photographs of the demolition of Union Station in Portland and even took the wedding photos when Tim Curran married his wife, Melinda.

Tim Curran remembers when he played basketball at Deering High School. It was his father who took the photos for the paper.

Melinda Curran said even after Mr. Curran retired, he would go to their three sons’ sporting events. He took their pictures, too. Or later in life, he just went to the games.

“He never missed a football game. It didn’t matter if it was freezing cold or rain. He was up in the bleachers,” Melinda Curran said.

Michaelene Thompson, one of Mr. Curran’s three daughters, described the family growing up at their home on Massachusetts Avenue and attending the former St. Patrick Roman Catholic Church as parishioners. Later in life, Mr. Curran lived in Portland’s Old Port on his own until he turned 90.

“Everybody knew Junie,” Thompson said, using her father’s nickname. “He liked everyone. Everybody knew who he was. He was just kind and gentle. He was ‘The Irishman.'”

Thompson, who now lives in North Yarmouth, said her father was a member of the Eagles Club and liked seeing his friends there. But in the end, he outlived them all.

“He was a to-himself sort of guy, but he loved going to the club with the boys,” Thompson said.

Thompson said it was special being the daughter of a well-known Press Herald photographer. He took photos of all of them through the years and of all of their athletic classmates in school.

“He loved that he was a photographer at the Press Herald. He loved being a photographer, and he loved the Press Herald,” Thompson said.

Press Herald photographer Jack Milton, who is now the systems editor, overlapped careers with Mr. Curran for a short time in the early 1980s, when Milton worked as a dark room technician before taking a staff photographer position.

Milton said that even after Mr. Curran retired he would continue to stop in the Press Herald to visit the other photographers and catch up.

“He was really a great guy. He was really friendly to everybody, especially in his later years. He loved to walk around Portland,” Milton said. “It was always fun, because he would come up to the photo department now and again and say hi to everyone.”

Milton also said photography in Mr. Curran’s day was very different from the digital photography today. The equipment was heavy and the process laborious – it involved developing large-format film under deadline pressure.

“You didn’t go to a basketball game and shoot 150 photos. You shot three photos. Sometimes you only shot one. It was a different kind of photography,” Milton said. “It really was a different era.”

 


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