CLEARFIELD — For Assistant Chief Nathan Curry, being a police officer is more than a job and he had to overcome many obstacles to become one.
As a child Curry wasn’t expected to live to adulthood, but he beat the odds and was recently promoted as assistant chief of police of the Clearfield Borough Police Department.
Curry said he was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at the age of 2 and his doctors said he likely wouldn’t live long enough to reach school age. Once he reached school age, his doctors didn’t think he would live to reach adulthood. But once again he beat the odds.
When asked how he was able to get through it Curry said, “Modern medicine and modern technology. I also believe in God and that he looks out for us.”
Growing up with the disease wasn’t easy. He said he was always an active child, despite the illness, but there was a lot of medications he had to take and he had to spend a lot of time doing things to keep himself healthy.
When he got to middle school he wanted to be like all the other children and was embarrassed about going to the school nurse to get his medications. He didn’t do everything he needed to do and ran into problems. However, he said he soon realized his friends didn’t hold his illness and his treatments against him and continued to be his friends.
Living with the disease and having a normal healthy life takes a lot of work. Because of the adversity he faced, Curry said he appreciates every day and he can look back and take pride in how far he has come.
Plus he said it has helped him be a better police officer because he realizes that one can do anything they put their mind to.
He will often tell this to people who get into trouble with the law – that their life isn’t over, and this is just one chapter in a book.
“We will tell them whatever happened today, that was in the past, that’s done, but you can be whoever you want to be, you just have to put your mind to it and give it all you got,” Curry said.
Curry is the son of Barry and Pam Curry, of Curwensville. He graduated from Curwensville Area High School in 2000. He then went onto Lock Haven University where he received his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice in 2004. Following graduation he went onto Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s police academy and after graduation he was hired by the Clearfield Borough Police Department in May of 2005.
Curry said he didn’t always want to be a police officer. Originally he went to college to be a secondary school teacher but switched to criminal justice once in college. However, he was concerned his father would worry about him choosing such a dangerous profession so he didn’t tell him right away.
“My dad didn’t find out that I switched to law enforcement until graduation day,” Curry said.
But Curry said police work is something he wanted to do.
“I know it sounds cliche but I wanted to make a difference, I wanted to help people,” he said. “If I can make a difference in one person’s life then it’s all worth it.”
Curry said he loves his job and all its many facets. As a police officer he has been with babies when they take their first breath as well as when people take their last.
“It gives you a different perspective on life,” Curry said.
He said police work can be difficult and police officers have to wear many different hats – sometimes they have to act as a parent, a therapist, a preacher or an enforcer.
“Sometimes you will arrest someone and be the enforcer, and the next call you have to be a dad to a child who is having problems, who never had a dad in their life. Or you will be consoling a mother who just lost a child,” Curry said.
Now that he is assistant chief, Curry has more administrative duties but he doesn’t spend all his time behind a desk. He said it is important for police officers to be out and visible in the community, and to treat people with respect and be honest and ethical. Police officers also have to act as as professionals, be dressed neatly, and their vehicles should be clean.
Curry said this is important because police officers are here to serve the public and without the public’s support there would be no police department.
He said if there is one thing he is most proud about the police department is the commitment the police officers have to the community and to each other.
“They make sure that if you need the police, the police will be there,” Curry said. “We really do have a great group of people here.”
Curry said when he was hired the police department had 16 police officers, now it is down to 11 and Curry said the police department is busier now than it has been in his entire 14-year career so they have to do more with less.
“This is a big sacrifice these officers are making to make sure this community is covered,” Curry said.
For example he said there will be times when a police officer is getting ready to sit down for dinner with their family when they get called out to cover a shift.
“They are not doing it for the money, they are doing it because they took an oath to protect the community and to protect each other,” Curry said.
But on a human side, Curry said police officers are people just like the rest of us.
“We are no different than anyone else out here and we should not be acting like we are,” Curry said.
But police work is difficult and sometimes there are extremely bad days and and like all first responders their schedules are often unpredictable.
Curry said he is fortunate, his wife Julie Curry is a sergeant in the Lawrence Township Police Department. He said their schedules often conflict and their dinners often get cold on the table, and they miss many family functions and holidays but because she is a police officer too she understands the sacrifices they make because she makes them herself.
Curry said he has no plans to leave the Clearfield Borough Police Department.
“As long as my health holds up and the good Lord keeps me, I will be here,” Curry said.
He said he appreciates what the community, the police department and administration have done for him over the years.
“I can’t pay back what they’ve done for me here,” Curry said. “But the least I can do is do my job and give them 110 percent.”