July 13, 1971 – Dec. 29, 2017
Michael J. LoCurto never let his health problems define him or limit him in a life devoted to his city and to fighting injustice.
That is the person remembered throughout the community when word spread last week that LoCurto had died at the age of 46 from complications related to the multiple organ transplants he received during his life.
LoCurto was best known for representing the Delaware District on the Buffalo Common Council, where he was viewed as a progressive voice from 2006 to 2015, before he left to become deputy commissioner of the Erie County Department of Environment and Planning.
But more than shaping him, LoCurto's years on the Council reflected the values he developed while growing up on Wellington Road in North Buffalo, where he lived his entire life. The son of a teacher and cement mason, he graduated from City Honors School in 1989, then attended the University at Buffalo, graduating cum laude in 1994 with a bachelor's degree in media studies. He went on to receive a master's degree from UB in architecture and urban planning.
LoCurto loved Buffalo, Hertel Avenue and city living. Friends say that, given a choice of a vacation at the beach or a week in Cleveland or Pittsburgh, he would pick Cleveland or Pittsburgh over the sand and ocean.
He was also known for his love of movies, arts and culture. He once taught a course at UB on "The City Through Film" and he particularly loved the "Mad Men" television series.
LoCurto also spoke frequently of his love for family holidays, and Italian cooking.
And he also was outspoken about combating injustice of all kinds.
His master's thesis, in fact, addressed attempts by suburban communities to disenfranchise the poor, with the title "Exclusionary Zoning: A Commitment to Injustice."
One topic LoCurto did not discuss much, his friends and family said, was his health. LoCurto was born with thalassemia, an inherited blood disorder that required him to have monthly blood transfusions as a baby, according to his mother, Joan LoCurto.
The transfusions, she said, resulted in iron collecting in her son's heart and liver, which led to heart and liver failure. In 1996 LoCurto became one of the first people in the nation to undergo a heart-liver transplant, and by 2009, he would also receive a kidney transplant.
LoCurto started in politics as an intern for former U.S. Rep. John LaFalce in the early 2000s. In 2005 he became a legislative aide to former Assemblyman Sam Hoyt until being tapped in 2006 to fill the Delaware District council seat vacated when Marc A. Coppola was elected to the state Senate.
Over the next three years, LoCurto would twice seek re-election, first to fill Coppola's full term, then to win a full four-year term of his own. It was around that time that his kidney disease began to progress and he was receiving dialysis three days a week.
"He didn't want to be defined by it," LoCurto friend Sean Cooney said. "He would go door to door (campaigning) all summer long, getting dialysis three times a week, and no one knew."
"He never complained about it," Joan LoCurto said. "He only told people that needed to know where he was, and he did his job."
In 2009, LoCurto underwent a kidney transplant, receiving a kidney from his partner, Kate Foster. The transplants required him to take immunosuppressant anti-rejection drugs, whose side effects led to other health issues, his mother said.
Of his many career achievements, friends and family said LoCurto was particularly proud of his work opposing Bass Pro coming to the Buffalo waterfront, getting a community benefits agreement for Canalside, and working with the Clean Air Coalition to introduce participatory budgeting to the City of Buffalo. He was also proud of his efforts to enforce a living wage in Buffalo and increasing city funding for the arts.
The Little Italy signs he worked for on Hertel Avenue were also a point of pride, they said, as was being chosen to be grand marshal of the Italian Festival, receiving the first City Honors alumni award, and receiving a leadership award from the Coalition for Economic Justice.
In addition to his parents, Joan and Dennis, LoCurto is survived by his sister, Tina LoCurto.
"He was amazing, compassionate, talented and very, very loving," Joan LoCurto said.
Friends may call from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday at Perna's Funeral Home, 1671 Maple Road, Williamsville. Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. Thursday at St. Margaret's Catholic Church, 1395 Hertel Ave.