Graveside services for Leonard Berdette Courtwright, (87), of Lawrence, Kansas, will be held Thursday, October 1, at 2:00 PM in Mt. Calvary Catholic Cemetery, Lawrence, Kansas. All are welcome. Please be aware that, due to COVID-19, the family asks loved ones and friends to wear face masks and practice social distancing.
Leonard was born on June 10, 1933, in Aleppo, Pennsylvania, the son of Thomas Lawrence Courtwright and Ethel Marie (Glover) Courtwright. He died peacefully in his home on September 22, 2020.
Leonard grew up the second oldest of seven surviving brothers in rural Pennsylvania. After high school, he decided to join the Army. When he met with a recruitment officer, he didn’t know what “job” he wanted to do for Uncle Sam. The recruiter asked him what kind of job experience he had, so he mentioned working for the doctor in his hometown. The recruiter suggested Leonard try the medics, and that sounded good to him. He served in the Army as a medic in Germany from March 21, 1951 to March 12, 1954 and was honorably discharged. He achieved the rank of corporal and received the National Defense Service Medal, the Occupation Medal (Germany), and the Good Conduct Medal. Leonard loved his time in Germany, where he treated fellow service members and the local population with injections, wound care, delivering babies, etc. (The joke was on the Army. Leonard worked for his hometown doctor as a handyman and grounds keeper. He had no medical experience whatsoever. They didn’t ask and he didn’t tell.)
Leonard was greeted by his father upon his return from Germany. He liked to tell how his dad’s first words were “There will be meat on the table now!” His hunting gun was clean and ready. He was a crack shot and provided his family and the neighbors with fresh game for their supper tables.
After the Army, Leonard moved to Chicago, Illinois, to attend a trade school and learn to be a machinist. While there, he met his wife, Martha (Streit). The couple married on October 19, 1957, and subsequently raised three fine children of whom they were very proud – Glenn, Gail, and Gloria.
Leonard and Martha spent most of their married years in Tonganoxie, Kansas, where they raised their family on a hobby farm. Leonard loved to teach his children about the circle of life, as evidenced the night he gathered his family around the dinner table and introduced them to their steak dinner, Blackie — the first bottle-fed calf the children had raised on the farm. At least one temporary vegetarian was created that fateful night.
Leonard worked as a machinist for the Colgate Palmolive company in Kansas City. The owner of the factory was so pleased with him, he created a large shop for him to work in and had Leonard train all the new machinists. There’s a rumor NASA asked Colgate to fabricate a part for a satellite. Leonard was given the task, and the satellite is still circling space today. We don’t have proof, but we are sure he wasn’t telling tales. He was always an honest and generous man. He worked many double shifts and went above and beyond to provide for his family and send his children to trade school and university.
According to Leonard, his father always told him to be good to others and they will be good to you. He lived his life by that advice. No matter what your background, color, or faith, Leonard treated you well, and he said his dad’s advice held true. That is the legacy Leonard leaves for all of us.
Leonard was preceded in death by his wife, his parents, five brothers — Bert A. Courtwright, John T. Courtwright, Harold R. Courtwright, James R. Courtwright and Herman E. Courtwright, and two sisters – Betty Lou Courtwright and Myrtle Faye Courtwright.
Leonard is survived by two brothers – Raymond E. Courtwright and Joe Courtwright; three children – Glenn T. Courtwright, Gail M. Courtwright and Gloria A. Courtwright Grazia (Todd Grazia); three grandchildren – Richard A. Courtwright, Aidan A. Schaplowsky and Sara A. Courtwright; and several nieces and nephews. He is also survived by Jerry Wheeler, longtime friend, caregiver, and honorary “son”.
Leonard really loved his family. He told us every time we saw him, and it showed in everything he said and did. If we needed anything, he wanted us to know he was always there for us. We will all remember his wisdom, humor, and love.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the Gary Sinise Foundation, https://www.garysinisefoundation.org/, supporting veterans, first responders and their families.