Lynn immigration attorney Kathleen Curley remembered for selfless work

LYNN — For someone whose profession could put her in contact with depressing, hopeless situations, Kathleen M. Curley loved life and lived it to the fullest.

The immigration attorney, whose offices were on Munroe Street, died from a heart attack last month while at work.

She was serious, but happy, her friend, Marilyn Dean said Friday. She loved life and everything about it, and was a perfect example of a person who was certainly more than her job.

"She was very dedicated," Dean said. "She had a map on her office wall with pin points of all the countries where people had emigrated from. She had some tough cases … unbelievably complicated. There were situations where people who came here were literally running from their lives. She took on a lot of people, and her clients loved her. She worked hard for them."

Dean and Curley were close friends for 34 years, ever since they worked together as vocational counselors for the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission in Lynn.

Curley's empathy is what set her apart, said Dean. When she accepted a client's case, she really took it on.

"She didn't flinch from a lot of the stuff that people had gone through," she said. "She'd have to go into their stories, what happened, names, dates, a lot of it. People left countries. They left children behind, families behind, or couldn't get their families out. These were very serious, and very sad, traumatic things. She dealt with a lot of traumatized people."

And, said Dean, she ended up helping those clients.

"She would have been the first to say that immigration law needs to be re-examined," Dean said. "There are a lot of things wrong about it."

Yet perhaps as a balance to the serious nature of her work, Curley was happy with a variety of interests, Dean said.

"She knew people in so many different circles," Dean said. "And so many of them, from so many different areas of her life, reached out to me once she passed. People I'd never met. She had a broad and diverse circle of friends, both in and out of the legal community."

Dean said Curley was comfortable talking to anyone, and could reach out to people of all backgrounds.

"For one thing, she was a great gardener and she was a fantastic cook," Dean said.

Curley loved having people over to her home in Melrose and cooking for them, Dean said.

She also loved to sing, knit, and attend theatrical productions. In fact, Dean said, one week before she died, she went with Curley and two others to see the play "Hamilton" in Boston.

"She'd managed to get four tickets about seven months ago," she said. "She loved to go to plays and did that on a regular basis."

Her interests also included music. She traveled, Dean said, and never missed the New Orleans Jazz Festival.

Among her other passions: she knitted socks for all her friends, cut down her own Christmas tree "and kept it up, and lit, until St. Patrick's Day."

And Curley belonged to a book club, Dean said, whose members were so friendly with one another that it didn't matter whether anyone had read the book on the docket to be discussed in a particular month.

"They had to finally tell people that they could come even if they hadn't read the book," Dean said. "They'd talk about everything but the book."

More Stories From Lynn