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Sugarcreek couple adjusts to empty nest

Renatta Signorini
| Tuesday, March 24, 2009

In a home that used to house six people, David and Manuela Curran have found ways to eat up the empty space.

She has a craft room, overflowing with brightly-colored yarn.

There's a den for David and space for listening to records off the dining room.

It seems the Currans of Sugarcreek Township have made good use of the now-empty bedrooms left behind by their four children.

"In some ways I wish they could be here, but then they all need to have their own lives, so I kind of enjoy it," Manuela said.

The Currans, now empty-nesters, have found new things to do that don't involve shuttling four children to activities like marching band, Scouts and sports. They enjoy square dancing with the Alamo Squares and each have their hobbies and volunteering.

The couple moved in 1984 to Sugarcreek from California where David was stationed in the Navy. Their children -- Jen, Jessica and Carl -- came, along with David's son and Manuela's stepson, David Jr.

David Sr. is from the area, while Manuela is a California native.

"He wanted back in his hometown," she said.

Throughout the years, the family got smaller as the children trickled out of the house one by one. The last one -- Jen -- left in November 2005.

"It kinda felt kinda lonely," Manuela said. "We've gotten used to it now that she's moved out."

Jen now lives in Butler with her husband. Jessica lives with her husband in England where she is stationed with the Navy. David Jr. lives with his wife in Alaska where he is stationed with the Coast Guard. Carl was killed in Iraq in May 2004 while serving with the Pennsylvania National Guard.

Jen, Jessica and Carl graduated from Karns City and David Jr. received a diploma from Lenape Technical School, the Currans said. After that, three eventually joined the military and one enrolled in college.

Manuela keeps in touch with her far-flung children by e-mail, she said. It's a bit harder for David, who isn't a whiz with a computer.

"Junior does call every so often," Manuela said.

With no children to take care of, the empty-nesters have turned their attention to other things -- volunteering and crafting.

They spend time with each other while square dancing with the Alamo Squares. The couple started in 2001, much to David's apprehension at first.

"She suggested it and I went and I really enjoyed it," David said.

Other than square dancing, the Currans have their own interests.

Manuela works with the Visiting Nurses Association in Butler and has been volunteering at the ACMH Hospital for 19 years.

David works in the shipping department at Butler Color Press. He's active with the American Legion in Bradys Bend and the Chicora VFW. He likes hunting, woodworking and "just a little bit of everything," he said.

"Sometimes I do start doing something and I think that this is something (the kids) liked to do," he said.

The couple met in California while David was stationed in the Navy there. She belonged to a Catholic singles club and both ended up at a 1977 bowling event with the group. They talked for two hours that night -- days before David was sent to the South Pacific.

"It was right before I left that we met," he said.

They kept in touch while he was gone.

"We had a letter-writing campaign for seven or eight months," Manuela said, laughing. "That was our courtship -- letters."

They will celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary this summer.

As a family, the Currans have seen highs and lows. The marriages and grandchildren have come, but Carl's death was a hard time.

He was killed in May 2004 in Iraq.

"The day we found out ... was really hard," Manuela said. "I was at work."

"So was I," David said.

Their children made plans to get home to cope and grieve together.

Carl's death sparked plenty of reminders and memorials in the area -- a bridge carrying Route 68 over the Allegheny River was named after him. The bridge connects East Brady in Clarion County to Bradys Bend Township in Armstrong County. A scholarship at Karns City High School also exists in Carl's name, Manuela said.

Once the children leave, the family dynamic changes. There aren't anymore young ones needing help or a ride somewhere. The Currans have adjusted to changes in their lives and now are facing the rest of it together.

"I think we've started getting a little closer, actually," Manuela said.

"'Cause that's all we got is each other, basically," David added.

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