Cooking provided something lacking in Curtis, he’d later realize: a sense of ownership and control, an illustration of cause and effect.Get your hands in the dough, give a damn about something, and watch results bubbling from the oven 12 minutes later. In Curtis she saw a boy who put on a hard exterior but behind it was sullen and painfully shy, a student still adjusting from being uprooted. In many respects, she was the woman who had saved Curtis.But he chose p.m., the last table of the night, when they could have the whole restaurant to themselves. One day, Curtis announced he was leaving the family — this time, forever. It ended with a contrite Curtis in his mother’s embrace. couple of years later, in 1987, when Curtis was 12, his father, Robert “Bear” Duffy, gathered his wife and three kids for a family meeting. In Colorado, Curtis had his skateboard, his friends, his own bedroom, a big backyard to run around. Bear, a Vietnam War veteran given his nickname by his biker friends, pulled in decent money at his father-in-law’s tire retreading company. They believed Bear saw a convenient escape: Move closer to his family near Columbus. At one point, he was even an officer in the town’s small police force. Still, the Duffys went from a five-bedroom house in Colorado to a two-bedroom apartment in Johnstown.He had been a Golden Gloves boxer in his youth, and now when rage seeped to the surface, he had no problems getting physical with his wife.In 1989 he pleaded no contest to domestic violence charges and was ordered to undergo alcohol and family counseling after he punched Jan in the chest and mouth. The hypotheticals lingered, but on this December night, the what-ifs became secondary. She kept an eye on him during his travails, through family turmoil ... Of connections forged and lost on the path to becoming the best — no matter the cost.
After baseball and wrestling practice, Curtis went there and washed dishes for four hours, and was paid cash.
“I know he trusted me.” On the first day of seventh grade, with home economics no longer mandatory, Curtis walked into Room 12 on his own. In Johnstown, population 3,200, gossip traveled with the wind.
And in eighth grade, he took Snider’s class a third straight year. Even after Curtis left her classroom, she vowed to keep tabs on him.
The thought of home economics class was even less palatable, especially when it was mandatory for all sixth-graders. His teacher, Ruth Snider, knew what to say to middle school boys who thought only girls cooked or sewed.
There Curtis sat, choosing a table as far back as possible in Room 12 of Adams Middle School. It was an attitude she had seen in many other adolescent boys with machismo to burn.