In Memoriam: Kevin Courtney

We were saddened to share that former IAF organizer Kevin Courtney died on October 19, 2023 in Tucson, Arizona. He left this earth a better place.  Kevin organized with the West / Southwest IAF for more than 20 years, and he was the Lead Organizer for EPISO/ Border Interfaith (El Paso) and PCIC (Tucson, Arizona).

He was a lifelong advocate for adult education, GED, and ESL learners. His organizing career began in Tucson while assisting with Adult Basic Education students to advocate for increased program funding. During his two-stop tenure with PCIC, he was instrumental in the creation and continued funding of Job Path, which has since graduated thousands of Tucsonians into living wage jobs.

He believed deeply in democracy, was an avid reader of the Founding Fathers, and showed great care and concern for immigrants. In El Paso, his organizing helped pass a county bond to create the El Paso Children's Hospital. He organized immigration summits between residents and officials along the Texas / New Mexico / Mexico corridor and he worked with colonia leaders to bring water and better living conditions for thousands of border residents.

Obituary of Kevin Edward Courtney

Kevin Edward Courtney died suddenly on October 19, 2023. The son of Dolores (Goerdes) Courtney and James Courtney, Kevin was born in Newark, New Jersey, on October 8, 1950, and spent most of his childhood in Livingston, New Jersey, with his parents and four older brothers (deceased). His father and brothers, all outstanding athletes, nurtured in Kevin a lifelong love of sports. After graduation from Livingston High School, Kevin attended Columbia University (B.A. Economics 1972), where he not only played on the football team but also played baseball and ran track.

After graduation from Columbia, Kevin worked in North Carolina as a volunteer for VISTA, a government program set up to help improve impoverished areas in the United States. This was Kevin’s first step in a lifetime of commitment to helping people in need, furthering social justice, and empowering underrepresented community members. For over twenty years, Kevin worked for the Industrial Areas Foundation as a community organizer. He was the lead organizer of EPISO in El Paso, Texas, later working as the lead organizer of PCIC, the organization in Tucson, Arizona, until his retirement in 2020. Kevin also helped people as a teacher. (He earned a M. Ed. from the University of Arizona.) He taught ESL and GED students as an instructor at Pima County Adult Education, and, most recently, was volunteering his time as an ESL teacher at Our Mother of Sorrows Catholic Church in Tucson. In the late 1980’s, Kevin traveled to Arequipa, Peru, where he taught English to high school and university students.

Kevin is survived by his wife of 36 years, Ellen (Hazlehurst) Courtney, whom he met in Arequipa, Peru, as well as a daughter, Mary Ojeda (Suarez), and three sons, Robert, Jimmy, and George Ojeda. He is also survived by his daughters-in-law, Fely Ojeda and Leah Stauber, and his son-in-law, Steve Suarez. Kevin adored his nine grandchildren, who all survive him: Fernando, Isaiah, Mathias, Ximena, Sebastian, Valeria, Joaquin, Saya and Bianka. Finally, Kevin is survived by a great many cousins, nieces and nephews, with whom he maintained close, loving relationships.

Throughout adulthood, Kevin was a passionate writer. He wrote stories, historical vignettes, and, during retirement, an entire book about mentoring organizers. He loved participating in his grandchildren’s sports activities, both as a spectator and coach. This often entailed driving grandsons to soccer games and track meets in other cities and states. He loved every minute of these experiences. He was always on call for anything a grandchild might need of him. Kevin also loved camping as well as hiking with his friend, Tim. In fact, Kevin had a passion for the outdoors and for travel, which he instilled in his children and grandchildren. Finally, Kevin was a great dancer who really enjoyed a good party.