OTHELLO — Othello-native Alfonso Zavala, recent museum studies graduate from Central Washington University, presented the story of local legend Deodies Curry at a special lecture Saturday at the Othello Community Museum.
Zavala's research worked to separate fact from the fiction surrounding Curry, who holds an contradictory place of virtue and vice in the annals of Othello's history.
Curry was a well-known figure in the small town of Othello, famous for his generous treatment of area children and leadership in the burgeoning African-American community, and infamous for tales of prostitution, drugs and murder. Some legends describe Curry as having fed his victims to his pigs, while others allege the numerous bodies found floating in the Potholes Reservoir over the years had befallen Curry's wrath.
The boogeyman mythos is possibly overblown, said Zavala in his presentation, and the only time Curry was ever charged for murder made The Old Hotel a local legend.
In 1974, Curry found his wife in bed with another man inside what was then known as the Othello Hotel, and Curry shot the man. Even this account comes with an asterisk, as Curry claimed in court that the other man had actually taken the first shot, but Curry was eventually charged with second-degree murder.
The Othello Hotel was abandoned for a short period before it was restored, repaired and opened as The Old Hotel Art Gallery on Halloween, 1975.
Zavala conducted over 24 interviews during his research, with sources ranging from ex-mayors to ex-sheriffs. Zavala said he appreciated the chance to simultaneously stretch himself in his museum studies and also dive into a legend from the place he grew up.
“It was a chance to give back something to Othello,” Zavala said.