Toni Vermelle Griffin Curry, 72: Counselor brought addicts from the depths of hell

It's often said that recovering alcoholics can reach others because they know addiction.

In 1975, Toni Curry sobered up, earned a master's degree in social work and became a licensed addiction counselor who was well-known locally and nationally. In a 37-year career, she led many to sobriety, including her own daughter. Catherine Curry of Sandy Springs has been sober nearly five years.

"I swore with every bone in my body that I wouldn't be like her, but I spent my entire life growing up in Alateen and Al-Anon," her daughter said. "I lost custody of my twin daughters, and everybody gave up on me except my mother and God."

Mrs. Curry, a 1956 College Park High alum and former DeKalb County English teacher, did likewise for thousands of addicts, from airline pilots to those who faced criminal prosecution, said Guy Edward Davis, a local attorney.

"You would be surprised at some of the people Toni helped," he said. "She would do everything she possibly could to help someone, and she did so quite successfully."

Toni Vermelle Griffin Curry was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer 18 months ago, and died Thursday from its complications at her home in Sandy Springs. She was 72. A memorial will be held at 1 p.m. May 17 at Dunwoody United Methodist Church. South Care Cremation Society and Memorial Centers of Alpharetta is in charge of arrangements.

In the 1970s, relatives say, Mrs. Curry lost custody of her three children due to alcohol. Her first husband, Ronald William Curry (now deceased), raised them until she became sober in 1975. She then earned a master's degree from Georgia State University and held various posts in behavioral care before founding Toni Curry & Associates, a private practice, in 1982.

For five years, she was director of aftercare services at Peachford Hospital and held the same post for an equal number of years at the Ridgeview Institute. She traveled worldwide to lecture and partake in seminars and conferences on addiction treatment. She helped found Anchor Hospital, a treatment facility in Atlanta.

"Back in the mid-1980s, we had very few alternatives to offer the court in sentencing for drug matters, unfortunately," said Mr. Davis, the attorney. "We needed something to provide a judge alternatives to sentencing these people to prison and things like that, and she got involved to established the [Anchor] center for addiction problems. She was a very dedicated person."

Catherine Curry said her mother saved her life.

"It is only because of her that I stand here today," she said. "She brought me back from the depths of hell and gave my daughters back their mother."

Additional survivors include her husband of nine years, Tony Webb of Sandy Springs; another daughter, Angie Curry Mabry of Atlanta; a son, Chris Curry of Dunwoody; stepsons, Greg Webb of Dacula, Bryan Webb of Atlanta and Darrin Webb of Norcross; and 11 grandchildren.