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Kathy Mae Courtois, age 50, of St. James, Missouri, passed away of complications from metastatic breast cancer on Thursday, October 15, 2020, at home surrounded by her family.

She was born February 5, 1970, at St. Joseph Hospital in Keokuk, Iowa, the daughter of Guy Earl and Doris Annetta (Dunning) Spence.

She was united in marriage to Mark Patrick Courtois on October 4, 1997, at St. Michael Catholic Church in Kahoka, Missouri. St. Michael is the church where she was baptized and celebrated her First Communion and Confirmation.

Survivors include her husband, Mark; children: Seth (Chloe Tortonesi) and Alexis, all of St. James; father Guy Spence of Kahoka; siblings: Kevin Spence and fiancée Daniella Jones of Hamilton, Illinois, Karma Hillyer and husband Brian of Kahoka, Kris Spence and wife Karn Erlandson of Portage, Michigan; Kay Sprague and husband Brad of Kahoka; and Kraig Spence and wife Marie of Lake Saint Louis, Missouri; mother-in-law Carolyn Courtois of St. James; brothers-in-laws Matt Courtois and Chris Courtois and wife Sheli of St. James; nieces and nephews: Tiffany Finch, husband Trevor, and children Madilyn, Cayden, & Connor of LaHarpe, Illinois; Bailee Kiger, husband Cory, and children Isaiah, Camden, & Knox of Kahoka; Shannon Hillyer of Kahoka; Helen Spence of Portage, Michigan; Addison Sprague and Brynn Sprague of Kahoka; Ryan Courtois of St. James, Logan Courtois of Springfield, Missouri, and Dryden Courtois of St. James; aunt Darlene Ryals and husband Roger of Unionville, Missouri. Additional survivors include cousins, dear friends, and her school family.

Kathy was preceded in death by her mother Doris on November 17, 2014, and father-in-law Richard “Ric” Courtois on November 28, 2014.

Kathy was raised in Kahoka, Missouri, and graduated from Clark County R-1 High School in 1988.

Kathy received her associate’s degree from Southeastern Community College in Keokuk, Iowa, in 1990.

She then continued her education at Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg, Missouri, receiving her Bachelor of Science in Education degree in 1993.

In 2002, she received her Master of Science in Education degree from Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Missouri.

Kathy’s first teaching position was during 1994-95 at Meadville R-IV in Meadville, Missouri.

From 1995-2003, she taught at Dent-Phelps R-III in Salem, Missouri.

In the fall of 2003, she began teaching at Lucy Wortham James Elementary in St. James, Missouri, and was a preschool teacher at Tiger Cubs Early Childhood Center until her death.

Kathy was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2014.

After enduring chemotherapy and surgery, she was just beginning radiation treatments when her mother – a two-time breast cancer survivor and inspiration – lost her fight with leukemia.

Kathy stayed strong.

By Mother’s Day 2015, Kathy was in remission.

However, by the end of the year, the cancer had returned.

This time it was metastatic breast cancer, and there was no cure.

During the next five years, Kathy was always in treatment of some kind to keep the cancer at bay.

Most did not realize this, and that is how Kathy wanted it.

Kathy was strong.

When school was in session, she was adamant that appointments be in the afternoon, so that her students would miss as little “Mrs. Kathy” academic time as possible.

Kathy powered through so many days while battling side effects but, again, very few knew.

Kathy hated it when a treatment would cause her to lose her hair.

People noticed hair loss. During these times, Kathy’s coworkers rallied around her and wore hats in support. Her students, sweet & resilient, accepted the hats without question. That kept Kathy strong.

In true Kathy fashion, do not remember what took her…remember the strength that kept her here to give so much.

Kathy loved the family she formed – her husband Mark and children Seth & Alexis.

She was their biggest supporter and cheerleader.

She was their glue. Kathy also loved her first family – parents, siblings, nieces & nephews.

Spending time with them was important, and she rarely missed family gatherings.

Kathy loved her students and school family.

She worked tirelessly to create wonderful lessons and pushed both her students & coworkers to do their best.

Her greatest wish was to see her students succeed and be prepared for the next level.

Kathy loved catfish and watermelon and strawberries.

She loved watching Dateline and Hallmark Christmas movies.

Kathy loved rabbits.

Kathy loved deeply and put her trust in God until the end.

Kathy was a member and supporter of PTO, Missouri State Teachers Association, and Immaculate Conception Catholic Church.

A private Mass of Christian Burial was held at 1 p.m. on Monday, October 19, 2020, at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in St. James with a graveside service following at 2 p.m. at the Immaculate Conception Cemetery in St. James with Father Brendan Griffey officiating. Pallbearers were Brad Sprague, Brian Hillyer, Matt Courtois, Ryan Courtois, Logan Courtois, and Dryden Courtois.

Friends called from 2 – 5 p.m. at the St. James Chapel of the James & Gahr Mortuary in St. James on Sunday,October18,2020,withaRosaryserviceat5p.m.

Memorials are suggested to Tiger Cubs Memorial or a college fund for Alexis. An account for Alexis has been established at Maries County Bank in St. James.