Cover photo for Wandalene Payne McCurdy's Obituary
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Wandalene Payne McCurdy

December 20, 1936 — February 27, 2024

Wandalene Payne McCurdy

Let me tell you about my mother, Wandalene Payne McCurdy. First off, you should know that Wanda was absolutely spectacular in every way. The BEST mother. The toughest negotiator. The fiercest advocate. Possessor of impeccable taste and style. Funny, charming, snarky, beautiful. A note taker and a list maker. A critical thinker and a strategist. Intuitive and perceptive about the people and world around her. A voracious reader who loved debut novels the very best. Someone who suffered neither fools nor BS gladly.

Mom was born in Arkansas and moved to Portland when she was a little girl. She graduated from Franklin High School and began college at Portland State. Soon she transferred to the University of Oregon, where she earned her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and was often the only woman in many of her classes. Was this when she first became a feminist? I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that is a “yes.”

After college she moved to San Francisco and started graduate studies for her MBA at San Francisco State University. It was there she also began working in banking, an early career she had great talent for and very much enjoyed.

When she came back to Portland she continued her banking career, working for U.S. Bank in the Trust department. And it was during this time that she met my dad, Glen McCurdy, at a swingin’ 60s cocktail party.

Mom and Dad married on March 19, 1966. Soon after they headed east in their baby blue ragtop VW Beetle for Dad to attend grad school at Harvard. Mom’s career continued with a job as a municipal bond trader at New England Merchants National Bank. She worked hard to get Dad though his MBA program with zero debt – a feat of which she was rightly very proud. In 1968 she was featured as a Sunday Advertiser “Office Orchid,” the newspaper’s “weekly biographical sketch highlighting one of Boston’s career women.”

In grad school and for the rest of their 55-year marriage Mom and Dad were each other’s partners, sounding boards and confidants. They even spent their careers in tandem: Mom marketed and sold the homes Dad designed and built. The Portland area is peppered with their developments and also includes two wonderful homes they built for our family.

Mom was the toughest negotiator around, bar none. During her career she honed her skills buying land, selling homes, and working with contractors. In life, she was astounding at negotiating for absolutely anything, be it time, expertise, or a discount. She was persistence personified, to all our benefit.

“The phone is your friend!” was one of Mom’s trademark sayings, and she could work the telephone like no other to get any kind of business done. From miraculously tracking down a long out-of-stock item at Nordy’s, to securing appointments with fully-booked health care providers, she was tenacious with the biggest capital T you can imagine and the phone was her no. 1 tool.

Mom was an incredible mother to me, her one and only “miracle baby.” She was my biggest champion, fiercest advocate, and guiding light. She worked tirelessly to ensure I had a wonderful, beneficial childhood, from schooling to summer camp to birthday parties to memorable family trips. She taught me what’s important in life, and how to follow my own compass. She let me get away with just enough but never too much. And if I pushed it, there was always a lesson for me to take away and learn from, even if I didn’t realize the importance until much later.

Mom was caring and creative and made the best holidays for our family and for me. She created fabulous Easter baskets and hunts for eggs and other treats. She hand-painted beautiful Christmas ornaments and found the most wonderful, special presents for the advent calendar and under the tree. She made amazing Halloween costumes that were the envy of all the other kids.

She was an incomparable seamstress in general, sewing all the things using her incredible talent and attention to detail. She sewed with love beautiful clothes for herself and for me, including an amazing patchwork dress that she wore with so much panache. She made with her own two hands luxurious comforters, bed linens, throw pillows and window coverings, and was a genius at upholstery to boot. And one Christmas I asked for a Teddy bear I saw in a catalog and Mom did me one better: She sewed me one that was bigger and plusher and a million times better than the original.

Mom was a great cook and took pride in her signature dishes, many sourced from her large cookbook collection and treasured recipes clipped from newspapers and magazines. These included (but definitely weren’t limited to) the best chateaubriand you will ever taste, ambrosia salad, Asian beef and pea pods, “killer dip,” rosemary chicken, egg salad and milk chocolate macadamia nut cookies.

Mom loved the beach, picnics, scenic drives, the California coast, chocolate, antiques, tacos, ice cream, foot rubs, Jeopardy!, Billie Holiday, shopping, eating out, and finding bargains at yard sales and anywhere, really.

She took the best care of her own mother, who lived to be 91 thanks in large part to Mom’s love and attention. She took the best care of my dad, her one and only lifetime love. She took the best care of me, the one she said would always be her baby, no matter how old I was.

It’s hard to how distill her into these relatively few words because she was everything to me and always will be. Thank you, Mom, for all you were, all you did, and all the love you gave. I love you, and I know you’re always with me, like I’ll always be with you.

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