Curtis 'Curt' Grega
September 21, 2023
Curtis John Grega, 69, died peacefully during a brief but dramatic storm at lunchtime on Sunday, August 27, 2023. "Grampy" was being cared for by his daughter, Erin Patricia Straley, in East Thermopolis. He had been bed-ridden almost exclusively since his 1st (of 8) brain surgeries for hydrocephalus on July 3, 1997. He is survived by his wife of 46 years, (Pamela) Elizabeth Straley (although they did not live together the last 14 of them); daughter, Erin Patricia Straley; Grand-'Son', Christopher Sean-Ellis Straley, and granddaughter, Payton Nevaeh Joy Straley-Schepker.
Born August 17, 1954, in Los Angeles, Calif., to Ed and Betty Grega, he was the middle child with two older brothers (Ed, Tony) and two younger sisters (Anna, Kathy). As Czechoslovakian catholics, the family moved to a Czech community in Michigan for a brief time but brought 'Granny Goose' back to Covina, Calif., where he met the love of his life: the iconoclast and girl next door (visiting her mother for Christmas holiday) when he was 12 and she 13 years old. Opposites do indeed attract. He claimed he knew then that they'd get married someday. They didn't see each other again for seven years, neither of them having even dated during that time, until Elizabeth came back during her last year in the Army where she was stationed at Ft. Polk.
Even so, Curt would be in the front yard of his parents' house (he and his dad went into business forming Grega Manufacturing in Azusa, Calif., so he lived at the family home) washing his El Camino or Kawasaki motorcycle after work while waiting to catch a pregnant Elizabeth getting on her Honda motorcycle on the other side of the fence. They agreed to take a ride together sometime. As it turned out, that ride came after her motorcycle broke down in LA and he had to swoop in and rescue her (a typical 'Curt' move). That led to nightly visits to her tiny house in Baldwin Park, Calif., whereupon she did all the talking and he listened intently. As a result, they were married 2.5 years later on February 18, 1977, in order to qualify for the purchase of their first house they bought in Baldwin Park. Four years later as The East Side Gang moved in all around them in East LA, they ended up moving to Castle Valley, Utah, buying five acres on the eluvium of a 2,000' cliff overlooking Castle Rock and the Priest and Nuns redrock formation. They built a barn to store their belongings, a chicken coop, rabbit hutch and faulty goat pen before planting an orchard and windbreaker lines all while first living in their truck's camper shell in the summer of '81 while the water well, electricity, septic system, roads and culverts were installed, they simultaneously lived and worked in Moab, Utah, for four years. Needing more stable work (and not learning their lesson), they moved to Page, Ariz., and did it all again in Paria Canyon, Utah, where they lived for 25 years while working in Page (and purchasing and remodeling second homes there for investment purposes).
Curt always had a strong work ethic graduating first in his high school class while performing in shows with his accordion and working all through his HS years in a gas station (Chevron/Standard) where he became the youngest manager in Southern California. In Page, Ariz., they bought and remodeled houses while he worked at the Navajo Generating Station as a machinist/mechanic until his first brain surgery destroyed him. Only four months earlier, he and his wife took in their grandson whom they ended up adopting. After his seventh surgery and while Elizabeth was battling cancer, she somehow managed to move the family to the healing waters of Thermopolis but he chose to stay in Page. Unable to take care of himself there, he lost the Padre Escalante house they'd remodeled (and later the Paria house they'd built from the ground, up) and his wife brought him to live in Thermopolis. He returned to Arizona/Utah where his daughter moved in her partner and his five kids to take care of him before he lost the Paria house during the later years of that time period, then Christopher graduated high school in Thermopolis and moved into the Thunderbird house in Page and took patient, excellent care of him 24/7 for years until COVID -19 hospitalized him during Christmas of 2021. After one month, the hospital forced him into a nursing home in Phoenix, Ariz., where his daughter once again rescued him and brought him to the apartment behind her house in East Thermopolis where he lived the past 1.5 years. In a strange twist, his 8th surgery a few years earlier removed the horrific pain and misery he had suffered every minute he was awake reverting him back into the sweet, gentle, kind man. He died holding his daughter's hand as she said "I love you dad", he smiled, then went limp.
Curt was a good, caring, honest, hard working generous man. A true altruist, people often took advantage of his good nature. Although he never wanted kids of his own, he was a surprisingly patient father to a daughter and then her delightful son 22 years later, whom he adopted.
Although his original plan was to get a bachelor's degree in business with his scholarships, the move from California halted that dream and he ended up working in a machine shop and doing taxes for H & R Block and on the side to fulfill that need. A math genius, he loved it and would lose all sense of time while working on people's taxes. We often said Curt was "born 65 years old" as everything he did was responsible (frugal, every dime went into buying/remodeling houses, no vacations) and moving toward the day he'd retire.
Working full time while he and his pagan wife bought and lived in fixer-uppers to meet his retirement dream, left him little time for hobbies. His one relaxation was being an avid basketball fan once he could no longer play racquetball after work as he had done for decades. His favorite opponent was also his doctor and best friend. He'd had the flu as an infant which led to encephalitis and he was expected to die. Instead he unknowingly developed and lived normally with hydrocephalus for the next 43 years.
His suffering was finally released into that brief, dark, windy storm after he ate lunch that Sunday afternoon.