“It was frustrating to read it, and it was also hurtful,” said Jimmy Curcuru, 71. “We know that our house needs painting — they didn’t need to point it out to us.”
In addition to feeling embarrassed, it bothered him that the letter writer didn’t have the guts to sign it.
“If they’d knocked on the door and asked about it, I could have told them why this was happening to our house,” he said.
Curcuru had a heart attack and quadruple bypass surgery about 15 years ago that left him physically unable to take on big home repairs or afford to hire someone to do them, he said. And his wife, Marilyn Curcuru, 72, developed multiple sclerosis about 30 years ago and is now mostly confined to her bed.
“I used to enjoy working on the house when I could, but now it’s hard for me to do it,” said Jimmy Curcuru, a retired picture framer. “It’s not a good idea for me any more to get up on a ladder.”
As it turned out, he didn’t have to.
Hundreds of people have chipped in with offers to help since late July, when one of the Curcurus’ daughters, Michelle Baran, learned about the letter and received her dad’s permission to post it on Facebook.
“I don’t usually like to post things like this that are very personal, but in this case I will,” wrote Baran.
“My parents and sister live together in a house that my mom grew up in,” she posted. “My family for many years took care and maintained this house as best they could, but due to some circumstances, the house repairs have got to be too much for them. Today they received this note.”
“I invite all my friends to share this post, so this coward may get to see this letter my sister has written in response,” Baran concluded.
Lynanne Curcuru, who is her mother’s caregiver, wrote that she had often driven past houses in disrepair like hers and wondered what was happening in the families’ lives.
“I don’t judge them not knowing what they may be going through,” she wrote. “And to the concerned ‘neighbor,’ I don’t hate you. I feel bad for you that your parents didn’t teach you to be kind to your neighbors.”
The morning after Baran posted on Facebook, she was stunned by the community response, she said.
Supportive comments poured in from people in Gloucester and beyond with offers to help paint her parents’ house in the community’s Portuguese Hills neighborhood. The home was last painted about 35 years ago, she said.
The Curcurus’s neighborhood in Gloucester, population 28,789, got its name because it was once home to a large Portuguese community, said Baran. She described the community as now comprised of mostly working-class families.
Local retailers offered discounts on renovation materials, she said, and the mayor of Gloucester, Sefatia Romeo Theken, dropped by the house to see if there was anything she could do.
One of the Facebook commenters, Faye Passanisi, started a GoFundMe page for the Curcurus that has now grown to help cover the cost of paint or siding, an updated wheelchair ramp and a new roof and windows. Nearly $30,000 has been raised.
“My heart went out to the Curcurus — I thought that letter was incredibly hurtful,” said Passanisi, 69. “Yes, the house is in bad disrepair, but if somebody is really upset about it, why not ask if there’s something you can do to help?”
“I decided to tell people, ‘Let’s turn this hurt into the biggest blessing this family has ever known,'” she said.
Jimmy Curcuru said he is overwhelmed by the kindness of his community.
“People look out for each other in Gloucester,” he said. “If somebody needs some help, we just get together and do it. It’s all just very heartwarming.”
Marilyn Curcuru grew up in their two-story home, which was built around 1900, he said, and she’s happy it will finally get the facelift she had yearned for.
“Some days are better than others with her talking and remembering things, but she smiled when I told her about all of this,” he said.
“She’s always been wanting to have the house done over, especially the windows,” he said. “The ones we have now are the crank-out type, and it gets a little drafty in the winter.”
He and his wife met at a drum and bugle band concert while attending Gloucester High School, and recently celebrated their 51st wedding anniversary, he said.
“When Marilyn developed MS about 30 years ago, she did pretty well for a long time,” he said. “Then four years ago, she ended up getting a bed sore that got infected, and she’s pretty much bedridden now.”
The couple raised three children in the four-bedroom, two-bath home, including Lynanne, who now lives upstairs.
“It’s been a good home for us,” said Jimmy Curcuru. “I still do the yard work and the housecleaning, but the things that need repairing have started to add up.”
Baran, who is getting estimates on the renovations, said she hopes the person who wrote to her parents is aware of how Gloucester residents have come together to help.
“At this point, it no longer really matters who the person is — we’ve been overwhelmed with kindness,” she said. “I do hope they realize that.”
Her dad said he has much love for his hometown.
“What can I say? I wish that I could thank everybody personally,” he said. “I’ll have to write a ‘thank you’ letter at the end of all this and publish it in the paper.”
“Nothing will be anonymous,” noted Curcuru. He and his family will make sure they sign their names at the bottom.
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