Volunteers, neighbors planning memorial for 'unsung hero'

Richard Courtney helped rebuild more than 100-homes across the Mississippi Coast after Hurricane Katrina. He passed away last Thursday doing what he loved. Many call him their unsung hero.
Richard Courtney helped rebuild more than 100-homes across the Mississippi Coast after Hurricane Katrina. He passed away last Thursday doing what he loved. Many call him their unsung hero.

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - His name is Richard Courtney. You may not know him, but for many families, he is the reason they have a place to live.

Mr. Courtney helped rebuild more than 100-homes across the Mississippi Coast after Hurricane Katrina.  He passed away last Thursday doing what he loved. Many call him their unsung hero.

Richard Courtney came to South Mississippi at the end of 2005 to help rebuild homes and lives devastated by Katrina. It was supposed to be a one-week mission trip.

"He saw a need and he wasn't going to leave until it was finished," said Ashley Robison, a marketing employee at Hope CDA.

And he never left.

Mr. Courtney moved here from Chicago and lived in a trailer in Gulfport. He joined the staff at Hope CDA as a person in charge of pricing and ordering materials. Fellow employees said he never sought the limelight, but to them he was the life blood of the agency.

"Even though he was 70, you would not have guessed it at all," said Hope CDA Case Manager Supervisor Amanda Bauman. "He was always willing to help, willing to work the long hours, willing to help move different materials to different sites however possible. And he was never one to complain."

Mr. Courtney worked on more than 100-homes, including Elsie Dixson's house in Biloxi.

"Every now and then I would see him pass the house and stop, 'Miss Elsie, is everything all right? Are you all right?' His words were, this was the Lord's calling for him, and he was going to stay here until He called him home," said Dixson.

Mr. Courtney passed away last Thursday while working in his office.

"We know he died doing what he loved and that gives us comfort. And I know he would be grumpy at all the fuss that we're making of him right now," said Robison as tears filled her eyes.

"He had some kind of role in everybody's job and how do you replace that?" she asked. "It was very unexpected and very sad, and definitely will leave a hole."

Now, the Hope CDA staff and people whose lives he touched are planning a memorial service to honor a wonderful man's memory.

"He would want us to carry on without him. I hope he knows how much we miss him," said Robison.

"He was definitely an unsung hero of this agency with all the work and the tireless hours that he put in in the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast. He found an adopted family down here. With the homeowners and with the staff, it was truly his life calling," said Bauman.

The memorial service for Mr. Richard Courtney will be held Friday at 11 AM. It is at New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church on Main Street in Biloxi. His body will be returned to Chicago.

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