Former Bolivar mayor is remembered fondly

August 20, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

BOLIVAR, W.Va. - Mention the name Paul Courtney and the memories come flooding back for those who knew him.

The stories are about a man who helped put the town of Bolivar on the map, who helped his fellow man and who even stirred a controversy or two, friends said.

Courtney, who was mayor of Bolivar for 24 years, died at his home Monday at the age of 80.

Friends remembered Courtney as someone who worked tirelessly to get the things Bolivar needed and who would go out of his way to help someone in need.

Bolivar Town Council member Bob Hardy said he met Courtney in 1973 when he moved to the area. When Courtney first ran for mayor, Courtney asked Hardy to join him in running town government, Hardy said.


Hardy agreed to run as a council member and served with Courtney for about 20 years.

"We had nothing," said Hardy, recalling the days when Courtney took over as mayor. At that time, the roads in town weren't paved.

Courtney, who served as mayor from 1977 to 2001, went to work bringing the town up to a higher standard, Hardy said.

Today, Bolivar is a thriving town with a nice park, library, a community center and a medical center, Hardy said.

As a business owner, Courtney started Courtney's Auto Parts in 1956, said his daughter-in-law, Margaret Courtney. Courtney expanded his business to include car towing in 1960, she said.

Many police officers in the area got to know Courtney well through his car towing business.

Lt. Bobby Shirley of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department recalled a time about 20 years ago when he and his family went to Maryland's Eastern Shore for a vacation.

Shirley said he reached the Chesapeake Bay Bridge when his car's transmission went out.

Not sure what to do, Shirley said he called back home to ask Courtney for advice.

Several hours later, Courtney showed up at the bridge. Courtney went to Martinsburg, W.Va., rented a car for Shirley, put the vehicle on roll-back wrecker, and hauled the car to the bridge, Shirley said.

Courtney drove the car off the truck, handed the keys to Shirley, and took Shirley's car back home to be repaired.

"That's the kind of friend he was. You don't forget things like that," Shirley said.

"He had a heart big as gold," Hardy added.

Raymond Biller said he had known Courtney since 1960 when he started handling Courtney's business books for him.

Courtney was a lifetime member of the Friendship Fire Co. in Harpers Ferry, W.Va., and Biller said he remembered one time when a church caught on fire there in the 1950s.

Biller said he responded to the scene to help and Courtney later showed up in a fire truck.

The problem was, Courtney could not get the truck's water pump started, Biller said.

"I always kidded him about that," said Biller, of Harpers Ferry.

Controversy sometimes swirled around Courtney while he was mayor.

Courtney once raised eyebrows when he stated "a woman's place is in the kitchen" during a public meeting. The person in question was seeking employment with the town. Courtney acknowledged making the comment, but said it was only a joke.

In December 1991, Bolivar's prosecutor, William H. Martin, quit after Courtney dismissed a traffic ticket against a friend's stepson.

In addition to his 24 years as mayor, Courtney was a town council member for 17 years.

"That's a long time," Courtney said in announcing his decision to step down in 2001.

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