[button color=”silver”] By Karen Purcell[/button]
People are always asking Mark McCurley what he does to get the plants in his yard to grow as well as they do, to which the enthusiastic nature-lover replies, “I use native plants that grow well in this area and then I just leave them alone to do their own thing!” Mark’s strategy has worked very well. The thriving plant life visible out of the bank of windows at the rear of his home is impressive. Mark and his wife Pam share a passion for the environment and a love for the outdoors. It is reflected both in their home and the surrounding landscape. However, it took a long time for the McCurleys to find themselves in a location where their true appreciation for nature and conservation could thrive.
Mark was raised on a farm in Lewisville, Texas. He begins, “The area where I grew up is now actually at the bottom of a man-made lake.” Lewisville is located directly north of Dallas/Fort Worth and was a small, semi-rural farming community until a population explosion that began in the nineteen-sixties and still continues to this day. “The town is barely recognizable from when I was a kid.” Mark shared. Pam grew up far from Mark on Mercer Island outside of Seattle, Washington with a family that laid the foundation early on for an appreciation for nature and conservancy. “My dad was a forest ranger and my mom was the original earth mother,” remembers Pam. “Growing up we were always outside.” The McCurleys mutual respect for nature was evident early on in both of their lives. These days Mark and Pam often spend summers in Big Sur, Montana and are active members of a fly fishing club there. “That was one of our compromises when we moved here,” Pam said. “I missed the mountains so we go up there for a few weeks out of the year.” Mark has also become enamored with the mountains, and his passion for fly fishing has continued to grow over the years.
The couple met their senior year of college at Abilene Christian University where Pam was earning a degree in Communications, while Mark was studying Business Management and Marketing. “We weren’t going to get married right away,” Mark said, “but I got a job right after graduation and well, things happened very quickly.” Mark’s goal early on was to work for an international company and Pam had always wanted to travel. Immediately after graduation Mark started working for an oil field service company and it wasn’t long before they both got their wish.
The company Mark worked for relocated the couple often. In addition to living in different parts of the United States, the McCurleys spent 15 years living abroad. They lived in Southeast Asia for five years. Their second daughter, Meagan, was born while they were in Singapore, and they even spent some time in London after one of Mark’s transfers. When asked what it was like to live in the famous city, Pam replied, “To be honest, it’s a great place to visit, full of history. But living there at the time was inconvenient. The grocery stores and shops are not setup like ours to give you easy access. It was difficult to get around. I understand it’s different now. With the internet, they have begun modeling their stores after ours.”
The family eventually moved to Aberdeen, Scotland where they lived for seven years. In addition to their passion for the outdoors, they also are quite passionate about their family. And Pam decided that the family needed to grow with a four-legged addition. She called around to several different breeders and finally found a lady who was selling puppies two hours away. She explains, “Mark had no idea we were going to an interview,” she laughed. “He just thought we were going to pick out a dog. I arranged for us to go after Church so we were still dressed up. The woman put us through the ringer but we managed to leave with a puppy.” And that puppy was a loving member of their family for 15 years. After she passed last year, Pam wasn’t sure she was ready for another dog but at a recent benefit, she fell in love again with a sweet, mixed-breed, shelter dog that they have named Schotzie, and so again, the family is whole.
The McCurleys bought the lot where their home now stands in 2000. At the time, the plan was to retire here in ten years. They had been living in Houston since 1998 and had spent some time traveling around looking for the perfect piece of property to build their dream home on. They enjoyed a weekend in Boerne with friends. Mark was golfing and Pam was spending the day shopping and looking at property. “She was waiting for me when I came off the course,” Mark said. “She said, ‘I have something you have got to see!’” They drove out to the Cordillera Ranch sales office and after seeing several lots, finally came upon their current one. They purchased the lot that same day. “We just fell in love with the Hill Country and the Boerne area quickly and knew that this area was simply perfect for us,” Pam remembered.
Though still working in Houston, the couple was anxious to retire to the Hill Country and begin a new chapter of their lives. Pam explains, “Mark had always wanted to retire at 55. And we knew where we would be headed. Well, he walked in the front door in 2005 with a huge smile on his face and explained that his company had offered him early retirement four years ahead of schedule.”
And with retirement looming, the couple wasted no time. “We already had plans drawn up for the house,” Mark said. “So we picked up the phone and called Authentic Custom Homes and start the ball rolling.” Building began in early 2006 and by November of that same year they were able to move in. “We left skid marks on the streets back in Houston as we left,” Pam laughed. “We were both just so excited to start the next phase of our life together, and in an area that better suited the pursuit of our passions. I told Israel [Pena]”–of Authentic–”that I wanted the house to look like it had dropped out of the sky and he gave us everything we asked for.”
Now out of the workforce, Mark and Pam are finally able to put their energies toward some of their other passions, one of which is conservation. Mark currently serves on the board for the Cibolo Nature Center. “I love my involvement with the CNC. I love the education aspect of the center, and what a strong impact it has on children. I just love how strongly the message gets out about protecting our local environment for the enjoyment of future generations.” Over ten thousand children a year come to visit the Center and this also is a great source of pride for him. “There is simply nothing more rewarding than helping people discover more about the world they live in.” As for Boerne itself, the McCurleys couldn’t be happier. Pam continues, “We have just fallen in love with Boerne. We so enjoy the charm of the area, we love how the whole community works hard to protect the rich history, and the entire area is like something out of a storybook.” Along with his work at the Cibolo Nature Center, Mark has been involved with the restoration of the original Herff homestead and other preservation projects throughout the area. He has written several articles about conservation and similar topics for the Nature Club newsletter and the Boerne Star. He adds, “As I’ve learned more and more about this area and fauna, I’ve come to understand much on the landscaping we’ve done around the house. So many people move here and then try to landscape their homes with non-native species that don’t do well. It’s been great fun to use these native species, see them thrive, and to see the beautiful end result. Our house is an example. People around here call it The Treehouse because it’s built up on a hill, and you can’t really see it from the street. That was all by design. We worked with what the land gave us, and the result is just fantastic.”
In addition to the passion for nature, the couple also has a strong passion with their religion. Pam and Mark are active members of the Oak Hills Church. “Max Lucado (Sr Pastor) is a fellow graduate of Abilene Christian University, so we felt an instant connection there. Pam sings in the choir now and I volunteer with other members at the Hill Country Daily Bread Ministries.” Additionally, he’s actively working on developing training materials for family mentors. Mark talked about life after retirement and changing the focus of your life from a pursuit of success to a pursuit of significance. The former executive has found new purpose and drive for his life in the relative quiet of the hill country. “We feel so incredibly blessed to have this opportunity in the second half of our lives to spend time enjoying our hobbies and pursuing our interests. It’s so nice to be able to stay in one place and relax after all the years of moving around.” Pam remarked.
The deep and abiding love the McCurleys share is evident to anyone who spends time with them. They are a vivacious couple who feel they have been embraced by the community of Cordillera Ranch. Mark adds, “The community of Cordillera Ranch is simply amazing. It is just such a warm, family-friendly group. We’re close enough to Houston so that our two daughters visit frequently. Pam is active at the Club and with tennis, and I enjoy the Nature Club that is out here. It’s just been an amazing combination of the beauty of the topography in this area, the wonderful people, and the community as a whole.” Pam finishes, “We feel an integral connection with the people in this community. This is the first time in our lives we got to choose where we lived and we couldn’t be happier.”