Baldwin City resident made goal to be 100
During Vivian Courtney’s 100 years, she was described as positive, giving, caring, helpful, always fun loving and up for new adventures.
That’s how her children remember her.
“She was a true Christian in every sense of the word,” said Vernell St. John, her daughter.
Vivian Courtney was born Feb. 18, 1910. She died Friday, Feb. 19, 2010, in Lawrence Memorial Hospital from pneumonia. She’d been hospitalized since Feb. 14. But she made it to the century mark. She was 100 years old.
“That’s what she wanted, that was a goal,” said Kathleen Thomas, another daughter.
Courtney’s history in Baldwin City started in 1953, when she moved here from western Kansas, where she’d helped run Courtney’s Department Store in Quinter. Her parents, Claude and Clarinda Reeves, who had moved here in 1942, owned Reeves’ Five and Dime. Her brother Virgil Reeves was next door, running Reeve’s Bookstore, which provided Baker University and school district students their books.
Courtney took a job in the Baker treasurer’s office in 1954.
“The 25 years she worked at Baker was all BC — before computer,” said Robert Courtney, her son. “She hand wrote receipts for all the students. She knew all of their names.”
She retired from there in 1978, but didn’t stop working. For the next six years, she served as housemother for the Alpha Chi Omega sorority house. Then she had even more time for the vast number of civic, community and church groups she belonged to.
At the head of the list was her involvement with Baldwin First United Methodist Church. But she was a 50-plus-year member of the Order of the Eastern Star and she had similar service in the Baldwin Business and Professional Women’s group, PEO, Kensington Club and the American Legion Auxiliary, to name a few. She met and befriended countless people.
“I’d say she was a good friend to many,” said St. John.
But don’t forget the bridge club. Many of those friends came about through the club, with playing dates on various days. She put her many years of number crunching at Baker to work with those cards.
“She didn’t start playing bridge until she was 65, but with her number’s aptitude, she caught on quickly,” said Janet Venable, one of many friends. “She was also a whiz at adding up scores. After she could no longer see well, we sometimes called off the numbers and she added them up for us.
“When she made an especially ‘smart’ play, we always asked, ‘Who taught you to play bridge?’” said Venable.
She had a love for the outdoors and doted over her garden and yard. She also loved to fish and her son told the story of when Don Nutt had a farm pond near town where he fed the fish. Nutt would throw some food out and Vivian would quickly cast her line.
“She’d catch a fish every time,” her son said, bringing a smile to all the siblings’ faces.
He added that she had done a lot of interesting things in her life. She’d been to 48 of the 50 states, only missing North and South Dakota.
“She loved to travel,” said St. John. “She wouldn’t take a nap in the car because she’d miss something.”
Vivian was the latest in a long line of family members who lived extended years. Her mother lived to be 89 and her grandmother lived to be 98.
“She had a good life and admitted that her good health was mostly luck and genes,” said Venable. “She had a loving family who made it possible for her to enjoy her home and be more independent. She was a lady in every way, her demeanor, her speech, her ability to see the best in people. Oh, gosh, I’ll miss her so.”
Vivian lived in her home at 819 Seventh Street from the time it was built in 1965 until the Sunday she entered the hospital. She celebrated her birthday there and there were plans for a birthday party at Baker over the weekend.
“We had a party scheduled for her, but God had a more important party for her to attend,” said St. John.