It is with great sadness that we have learnt of the death in New York on 2nd June 2016 of Walter J. P Curley, former United States Ambassador to Ireland (1975-1977), former United States Ambassador to France (1989-1993), and a Vice President of the Irish Genealogical Research Society.
Walter Curley was born on 17th September 1922 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and had an extraordinary career. He studied at both Yale University and Harvard Business School as well as at the University of Oslo; and he held an Honorary Doctorate in Law from Trinity College, Dublin. During World War II, Ambassador Curley was a young Marine Corps infantry combat Captain and served in the Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Guam and North China campaigns. He held decorations from the Army, the Navy, the Marine Corps and The Republic of China. He wrote a memoir about this time entitled Letters from the Pacific 1943-1946.
After the war he worked in India and Italy before becoming a partner in J.H.Whitney & Co, the venture capital firm, from 1960-1974. He went on to become the Commissioner of Public Events and Chief of Protocol of New York City, prior to being appointed as Ambassador to Ireland.
He was a Trustee of The New York Public Library and other educational establishments and was a former Director of the New York Life Insurance Company, the Bank of Ireland and Guinness Peat Aviation (U.S), The New Yorker Magazine and Chairman Emetritus of Sotheby’s International Advisory Board. Ambassador Curley was also Honorary Chairman of the French-American Foundation, Trustee Emeritus of the American Hospital in Paris and of The Frick Collection.
A true man of letters he had several publications to his name. These include Vanishing Kingdoms: the Irish chiefs and their families (Lilliput Press. 2004) and Monarchs in Waiting: the descendants of Europe’s Royal Families (1975). This last publication examines the various pretenders to mostly European thrones and includes genealogies and biographies of the major pretenders. His wide interest in European, and particularly French history, led him, as departing American Ambassador of France, and to enormous applause of the watching crowds, to lay a wreath in the Place de la Concorde to commemorate the execution of King Louis XVI. This was on the 200th anniversary – January 21st 1993 – of Louis’s appointment with the guillotine. With Cherubini’s Requiem for Louis XVI blasting from loudspeakers and royalist supporters carrying white flowers and fleur de lys banners, Ambassador Curley’s sense of history led him to say that he was there because Louis had been instrumental in aiding American independence and that it was most appropriate that the US should recognise the French input into the establishment of America by the laying of this wreath. He was certainly a man with a great sense of occasion.
Ambassador and Mrs Curley, the former Mary Taylor Walton of Pittsburgh, lived mainly in New York but also had a home in county Mayo. We extend our deepest sympathy to Mrs Curley and to their two surviving children and are grateful for the time that this remarkable man was able to give us. Rest in Peace.