Maxwell Eugene Courtney (“Pockie Max”) went home to be with the Lord at 7:15 a.m. on Saturday, June 19, 2010. He went peacefully at the age of 77 years while resting in his home after a long bout with terminal lung cancer.
A son, Terry Wayne Courtney, preceded Max to the Throne of Grace.
Maxwell Eugene Courtney was born in Licking, Mo., on May 21, 1933, to Marvin and Johnna Mae Courtney. He was raised just outside of Licking, Mo., with his sister, Marilou. They had many adventures together during their growing-up years. Max’s fondest memory of childhood mischief was of a time when he jumped from a barn loft while holding an umbrella with the intention of flying. He even told his sister that he would write back when he landed. A manure pile broke Max’s fall.
Max would spend his summers with his cousin, Perry Lee, hunting, fishing and creating their fair share of mischief. Max loved Perry dearly and was very close to him throughout his life, right up to the point of his passing.
Max attended school at Whitlock School and Cantrell School until the country schools were consolidated. He attended junior high and senior high at the Licking R-8 school, graduating in 1952.
Max accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Savior in 1950 and was baptized on June 10, 1950, by Elder Leonard Cornelison. Christ became his closest friend and dearest loved one as He would remain for the rest of Max’s life and on into eternity. In 1950, Max answered God’s call for him to enter the ministry at the age of 17 and preached his first sermon at Prescott Church. Max studied for a week for his first message. Just before he took the pulpit, his pastor took his Bible, shook the notes out and said, “Let God fill your mouth, boy.” Max’s subsequent messages were far better than his first.
In 1953, the United States Army drafted Max into service. Max was in active service in the Army for two years, being honorably discharged after his inactive reserve duty on May 31, 1961, holding the rank of Sergeant First Class. While in the Army, Max excelled as a cook and in his training as a medic.
On Dec. 31, 1953, Max married his long-time friend and the love of his life, Ruth Walling, at Glad Tidings Church in Eunice, Mo.
During Max’s time in the military his first child, Terry Wayne Courtney, was born on April 12, 1955. Max and Ruth lost their first child shortly after birth, but Ruth gave birth to a daughter, Phyllis Jean Courtney, on Nov. 27, 1956, in Houston, Mo.
After being discharged from the Army, Max entered the full-time ministry, where he served his entire life. During his life, Max served as a pastor to 11 congregations over 60 years, serving as one of God’s shepherds with meekness, love and strength. He served multiple times as moderator of the Missouri State Association of Free Will Baptists and Chairman of the State Youth Camp Board at Camp Niangua.
Max was deeply interested in bluegrass music. While walking through his home, one could often hear Max enter into impromptu sessions with his Dobro, guitar or harmonica. He also enjoyed jam sessions with his friends and fellow pastors.
In June 1993, Max and Ruth retired to Licking, Mo., after pastoring in Springfield, Mo., for seven years. While retired they ran a discount store together, “Courtney’s Bargain Outlet.” Retirement was to be short-lived for Max and Ruth as God called him to pastor at the New Life Free Will Baptist Church in Licking, Mo., for a second time. Max pastored there from 1997 until 2009. During his second tenure at the church, his grandson, C.W., accepted God’s calling on his life to enter the ministry. Max took great pride in serving as a mentor to C.W. and teaching him what it meant to be a pastor.
In 2009, Max and Ruth founded a small mission church, Hilltop Free Will Baptist Church, in Houston, Mo., with a group of believers whom they loved dearly. Max pastored at Hilltop as long as he was able, even after cancer weakened his voice.
Max is survived by his faithful wife of 57 years, Ruth Courtney; his daughter, Phyllis Hadley; his son-in-law, Greg Hadley; his grandson, C.W. Hadley; and his sister Marilou Candela. Max’s family stayed close by his side during his final days, caring for him with love, grace and great humility.
Visitation for Max was 6-8 p.m. June 21 at Evans Funeral Home Chapel in Houston, Mo. Funeral services were also at Evans Funeral Home at 10 a.m. June 22 with the Rev. Dale Skiles officiating and C.W. Hadley reading of his grandfather’s obituary. Graveside service followed at Licking Cemetery with full military honors. Pallbearers were David Barker, David Hicks, Lee Burch, Clay Wallace, Ronald Wallace and Brad Vanderhye.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Hilltop Free Will Baptist Church in lieu of flowers.