Curtis Van Demark of Hunter St. died Thursday, April 07, 2005 at Kingston Hospital. He was 73.
A native and lifelong Kingston resident, Curtis was born on August 20, 1931, a son of the late Clarence and Anna Dawson Van Demark. He married Rosetta Jackson on December 11, 1955. During the Korean Conflict he served in Germany and France in the US Army.
Curtis joined the Kingston Police Department in 1963. In 1971 he was promoted to Detective. A member of the Kingston Police Benevolent Association, Curtis belonged to the Gold Shield Society. He retired in 1984.
After retirement from the Police Department Curtis worked as a aide to former NY State Senator Richard Schermerhorn. He then worked at Ulster Sanitation and later for the income tax office at Ulster County Office for Aging. Curtis also worked as a monitor at Kingston Consolidated Schools.
In 2003, Pride of Ulster County Award to Curtis Van DeMark in recognition of being presented the New York State Legislature’s Outstanding Achievement Award. He belonged to the Joyce - Schirick Post 1386, V.F.W. and the Kingston Post 150, American Legion. Curtis belonged to the New Central Baptist Church and previously served as a member of the Board of Trustees.
One sister Bertha Cole died previously.
Surviving are his wife Rosetta Jackson Van Demark; one daughter Norma Van Demark of the Bronx; two sons Curtis Van Demark II of Brooklyn and Maurice Van Demark of Kingston; two sisters Marion Morton of the Bronx and Winifred 'Frenchy' Scott of St. Thomas, V.I.; two grandchildren Curtis III and Maurice II; a host of nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.
Reposing at Simpson-Gaus Funeral Home, 411 Albany Avenue, Kingston, on Sunday, April 10 from 2-4 PM and 7-9 PM.
The following organizations will perform services at the funeral Home on Sunday evening: Kingston Police Benevolent Association (Current and retired) at 7:15 PM,
Joyce-Schirick Post 1386, V.F.W. at 7:45 PM,
American Legion Post 150 at 8:00 PM.
The funeral procession will form Monday, April 11 at 10:30 AM from the funeral home and then process to Riverview Missionary Baptist Church, Catherine Street, Kingston for a 12:00 Funeral Service, Pastor John H. Gilmore will officiate. Interment, with military honors by Joyce - Schirick Post 1386 VFW, will be in Montrepose Cemetery.
Curtis Van Demark, one of Kingston's great characters, dies at 73, by Paul Kirby, Daily Freeman 4/08/2005 KINGSTON - Some remember Curtis Van Demark as Kingston's first black police detective. Others knew him as the 'South Pole Santa,' making his annual forays into area schools at Christmastime, dressed as St. Nick.
But all who knew Curtis Van Demark, who died at age 73 on Thursday in Kingston Hospital, recalled a colorful and outspoken man whose enjoyment of the finer things in life was eclipsed only by his love for his family and community.
'He was colorful - with a ring on every finger,' said Bill Slover, former deputy chief of the Kingston Police Department and Van Demark's former boss. 'He was friendly to everybody, and he worked hard. He was a good detective. He had a sense of humor that was out of this world.'
Born Aug. 20, 1931, to Clarence and Anna Dawson Van Demark, the lifelong Kingston resident fell ill last year.
Van Demark remains one of Kingston's great characters, a man everyone knew and loved, who stood firm in the face of racism and whose larger-than-life persona drew people to him.
Known for his love of cigars and fine clothing, the self-proclaimed 'five-martini man' cut a sharp figure, from his broad grin with a flash of gold to the long line of Lincoln Continental Town Cars with the custom 'Curtis' plate, in which he squired his wife of nearly 50 years, Rosetta, around town.
In a 1996 interview, Slover recalled how Van Demark treated his colleagues with the same familiarity as his friends, greeting everyone, regardless of rank or color, with 'Hey, brother.'
A graduate of Kingston High School, Van Demark completed two years of college in the U.S. Army, serving with the 29th Signal Corps as a staff sergeant in Germany and France during the Korean War.
It was in February 1971 that Van Demark, who by that time had been a city patrolman for eight years, became the first black detective on the force.
In interviews with the Freeman, Van Demark said he encountered racism in his early days with the Kingston police, but that didn't quell his passion for the job.
He said he never forgot the advice of his former partner, the late Richard Scherer. 'He used to always say, 'When you put on a badge and you put on a uniform, you have no color, you have no race. Once you start thinking of yourself in black or white, you're not doing your job,'' he said.
Kingston Police Chief Gerald Keller described Van Demark as a consummate beat cop who gained the confidence of many people through his outgoing personality.
'Curtis was larger than life,' said Keller, who worked with Van Demark from 1972-84. 'It was always a pleasure to work with Curtis, because not only did he understand the seriousness of police work, but he had a lighthearted way about doing it.'
Keller said Van Demark was particularly skilled at developing contacts.
'He knew everyone,' Keller said. 'When you are seeking out information ... that always helps. He made good contacts and had a way with people.'
Keller said Van Demark often was called upon by community groups and others to give speeches because of his humor and wit.
Van Demark retired from the force in 1984 and served as staff aide to the late Republican state Sen. Richard E. Schermerhorn, staying on until the senator's failed bid for re-election in 1988.
Afterward, Van Demark took on a number of paid and volunteer jobs, working at Ulster Sanitation, as a monitor in Kingston schools and at the Ulster County Office for the Aging's income tax office.
Children, unlikely to cross paths with Van Demark in his police role, were familiar with him because of his annual pilgrimages to local elementary schools dressed as Santa Claus. When a brash youngster at Harry L. Edson Elementary School once commented on the fact that Van Demark was black, as opposed to the traditional notion of St. Nick, Van Demark quipped that he was the 'South Pole Santa,' a moniker that followed him.
'I want to show Santa Claus is for all people. It makes no difference. I'm Santa for all races,' he said in 1980.
Van Demark was a member of the Kingston Police Benevolent Association and the Gold Shield Society. He belonged to the New Central Baptist Church and previously served on its board of trustees. He was a member of Joyce-Schirick Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1386 and Kingston American Legion Post 150.
Besides his wife of 49 years, Rosetta Jackson Van Demark, survivors include a daughter, Norma Van Demark of the Bronx; two sons, Curtis Van Demark II of Brooklyn and Maurice Van Demark of Kingston; two sisters, Marion Morton of the Bronx and Winifred 'Frenchy' Scott of St. Thomas, Virgin Islands; two grandchildren; and many nieces, nephews, and cousins.
A sister, Bertha Cole, died previously.
The funeral will be at noon Monday at Riverview Missionary Baptist Church, 240 Catherine St., Kingston. The Rev. John H. Gilmore, pastor, will officiate. Burial with military honors by the VFW will be in Montrepose Cemetery.
Arrangements are by Simpson-Gaus Funeral Home, 411 Albany Ave., Kingston.
Staff writer Paul Kirby contributed to this report.