James Edward Courtney 1932-2020

Jim passed away on Tuesday, February 4th, 2020 in the Wray Community Hospital at the age of 87. He was born in 1932 in Wray, on May 30th, which at the time was the old traditional Memorial Day. His parents were William Henry and Effie Marie (Maxwell) Courtney, with Jim being the fifth born of their seven children. His grandparents, William and Mary (Stults) Courtney were among Wray’s early residents, arriving in 1886. In his teens, Jim worked for and lived with Byrd and Charlie Waters on their farm South of Wray. They were a very positive influence in his life and partially responsible for his turning out the way he did.
Jim attended grades 1-12 in Wray, graduating in 1950.
After graduating high school, he went to work for the Colorado State Game Fish Dept, at the Wray Fish Hatchery near Stalker Lake.
In 1951, Jim, and four of his buddies from Wray, joined the U S Navy. They were able to stay together in boot camp but were later separated, but managed to cross paths over the years in Japan, Hawaii, and California. Jim was aboard the USS Hamul, a maintenance and supply ship for the destroyer fleet. Jim loved his country and was very proud of his service in the US Navy. After retiring from his job in Denver, he moved back to Wray in 1990 and became a member of both the VFW and the American Legion, serving in the Color Guard for many years, and was the Commander of the VFW for a time.
Willmenia Olson, originally from Haigler, NE, came into his life in a chance encounter one Sunday afternoon in Eckley . They married July 25th, 1953 at the Wray Methodist Church and were together until she passed sixty-three years later. In 1955, after Jim’s release from the Navy, they moved to Denver where he began his career. They had four boys, Bruce, James (Jim), Robert (Bob) and William (Bill). Family vacations were usually a road trip in their pickup and camper traveling to places like Yellowstone and Mesa Verde or a lake where they enjoyed waterskiing and fishing. Jim was a coach for the Cub Scouts softball league and involved in many of outings in the Boy Scouts.
Jim was a Licensed Journeyman Plumber, working in Denver his entire career. While in the Navy, he was trained as a pipe-fitter. He started an apprenticeship program in Denver through the plumber’s union while being sponsored by a company by the name of Good Plumbing. The program required that he work full time for five years as an apprentice while attending classes at night and passing the city and state exams. After becoming licensed, he continued to word for Good Plumbing. In 1965, he switched to the Denver Public Schools where he remained for the rest of his career, working in their over 100 buildings.
He was a member of the Wray United Methodist Church for many years with his association with the church going all the way back to when he was a small child attending Sunday School. He had fond memories of how nice everybody was and of sometimes receiving a chocolate bar for attending which was a huge deal for a poor kid growing up in the depression.
Even though Jim hated large crowds, he loved people. He had the gift of gab and was known for his ability to tell a good story and could be counted on for a good a joke or two. He also had an amazing collection of sayings, like “he was on it like a rooster on a junie bug”. He was entertaining and fun to talk to, a straight shooter and someone you could count on. His life was filled with friendships that had lasted for decades with several lasting a lifetime.
Jim was a Sportsman and was passionate about fishing and hunting. He learned to fish as a child while growing up along the Republican River in Wray, and he learned to hunt at a young age when spending the summers with his sister on a farm in Vernon, CO. Whether it be big game like deer and elk or fowl, he was always excited for the opening day of a season. In his later years he particularly enjoyed hunting geese and wild turkeys.
The Denver Broncos and the University of Colorado Buffalos were his favorite football teams, being a fan of the Broncos all the way back to the beginning of the franchise in 1960. Other favorite teams included whoever happened to be playing the University of Nebraska on any given day. Since many of this family and friends lived in Nebraska, a huge family rivalry developed dating back to the 60’s and which lead to an annual gathering wherever the game was played. This was a cherished annual event in Jim’s life.
Jim was proud of being what a friend called “one of the better boys from Wray Colorado.” While living in Denver, he always referred to Wray as “down home” and couldn’t wait to retire so he could move back. His recounting of his childhood sounded like it was from the pages of “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn”, growing up between the railroad tracks and the Republican River. The river is where he ran a trapline, learned to fish and how to swim in the old mill race. There were stories like making Mulligan Stew in a coffee can on a campfire built in a cave up in the cliffs overlooking town; another, of building of a huge homemade toboggan made of old corrugated tin, loaded with kids racing down the sandhill on the North side of town with a mean old Billy Goat waiting for them at the bottom.
Jim was the longest living member of his family. He was preceded in death by his wife Willie, his youngest son Bill, his parents William and Effie Courtney, his siblings Mary, Mable, William (Bud), Betty, Norma, and Janice. He is survived by sons, Bruce of Laird, Jim and his wife, Janet of Pine, CO, Bob and his wife, Barbara of Denver, grandsons, Ben and Sam of Denver, brother-in-law Bob Yates of Lincoln, NE, and numerous nieces and nephews.
Visitation will be held Tuesday, February 11, 2020 from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Schmidt-Jones Funeral Home in Wray, Colorado. Funeral services will be held on Wednesday, February 12, 2020, 10:00 a.m. at the Wray United Methodist Church in Wray, Colorado with Pastor Jaime Nieves officiating. Interment will follow services in the Grandview Cemetery in Wray, Colorado. Memorials can be made to VFW in Wray. Schmidt-Jones Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.