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Neighbors mourn postal worker

CLINTON, Maryland (CNN) -- The death of a postal worker Monday of a suspected case of inhalation anthrax shook his neighbors and friends in this suburb of Washington.

Joseph Curseen Jr., 47, was one of two workers at the Brentwood post office to die Monday of symptoms that are suspected to have been caused by anthrax. Two other employees are being treated for inhalation anthrax, the most dangerous form of the illness.

Curseen was taken from his home in an ambulance around dawn Monday, his neighbor William Jones told CNN. He died a few hours later at South Maryland Hospital.

Curseen was a longtime fixture of the neighborhood who had spent more than 15 years working the overnight shift at the Brentwood post office, where officials believe a letter addressed to Sen. Tom Daschle that contained anthrax was processed last week. Officials have urged 2,000 workers at the mail facility to undergo screening for the disease.

One of the first people to move into the Cambridge Estate subdivision, he founded its neighborhood association and served as its president, presiding over the group's monthly meetings with a quiet that belied his interest in the community's well being, Jones said.

"He was a very good person," Jones said.

For the 15 years he has lived in the neighborhood, Tyrone Pruitt saw his neighbor regularly, working in his yard or jogging.

The two men used to jog together, Curseen faithfully running three miles, three days a week. Though Pruitt gave up the regimen, Curseen continued for at least seven years, despite a bad case of asthma.

"He would run, and he would wheeze while running," Pruitt recalled. "But, you know, he had the foresight to know that this was for his health, and he just stuck with it and that's the kind of person he was -- driven basically."

At a neighborhood meeting this month, Curseen arranged for a police officer from the local precinct to address the group about measures residents can take to prevent crime.

"He was sort of like the beacon that always we would go to get information concerning what's happening in the neighborhood," Pruitt said. "He was really plugged in to the neighborhood."

Sometimes, Pruitt would see Curseen returning home in the morning as he was preparing to depart for his own job. "We would sit down and talk shortly about his day -- you know, how things were going -- weather, sports -- whatever."

Their final talk took place last Thursday, as Curseen was coming home from the facility. Curseen was married but he and his wife were childless, which "really disappointed" the couple, Jones said.

Instead, he lavished attention on Jones' children. "We'd have cookouts and things such as that."

The son of a preacher, Curseen was himself "a very religious man," Jones said.

In addition to his neighborhood involvement, Curseen made weekly visits to see his ailing sister, said Kathy Ball, who used to do yard work with him.

"He just is the best neighbor anybody could ever ask for," she said. "We'll all miss him terribly. I can't believe this has happened."



 
 
 
 



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