BERKLEY, MI – Zenovia Pukay Courtney, born March 13, 1925, died June 3, 2020. Raised in a musical family of Ukrainian heritage in Yorkville, Ohio, Zenovia “Zee” became an accomplished pianist at a young age and her childhood experiences laid the foundation for a lifelong passion for music. Zenovia was born in Jeannette, PA, daughter of Anna (Kostyzak) and John Pukay, and sister to Dr. Boris Pukay (also an Ohio University graduate).
In 1943, Zenovia graduated from Yorkville H.S. and delivered the commencement salutation titled “Peace through Music.” Attending Ohio University, Zenovia was in band, orchestra, choir, and supported herself as a piano accompanist for churches, concerts and recitals. She envisioned her career as a concert pianist, but she fell in love with Charles Harvey Courtney (CHC) “Harve” and being with Courtney family gatherings. In 1946, Zee graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts and taught music in Pennsville, Ohio. In 1948, she married CHC (also an OU grad) and they built a home in Chauncey. She taught music in Chesterhill, Rayland, and Tiltonsville, Ohio and developed a Girls Glee Club that won regional and state competitions.
In 1955 after four children were born, Zenovia and CH moved to Michigan. Over 10 years, she birthed four more children and juggled family, part-time teaching and private piano students. When her youngest child entered kindergarten, Zee returned to full-time teaching in Clawson Public Schools. Zee continued her music education in workshops and graduate classes at Oakland University and University of Michigan. In 1970, Zenovia was thrilled to attend her first International Society of Music Educator (ISME) conference in Russia and met up with family in Ukraine! She attended conferences in Tunisia, Australia, Switzerland, Canada and Poland. She loved presenting about her travels and international music. In 1984, Zenovia initiated collaboration with a national schools concert, in which children from around the world sang together in televised performances.
Zee served in the Disciples of Christ church in Chauncey, and later Royal Oak First United Methodist Church in Michigan. She was a member of OU Alumni Association, the National Association for Music Education and other professional associations. She was a lifelong member of the music fraternity, Delta Omicron. She danced with the Detroit Folk Dance Society. She collected instruments from around the world and gave many to students or her children as well as music boxes, records, CDs, and books to excite families to music. Zee and Harve wrote and published a song titled “Let Me Write You a Song. She received awards for innovations and musicianship.
After retirement in 1990, Zee and Harve traveled the USA, visited family and friends, attended class and OU reunions, sport events. They enjoyed gardening, canning, community events. Zee embroidered, collected cookbooks and entered recipe contests.
Zee and Harve were married 61 years, when he passed on Nov. 11, 2009. The family gathered at the Athens cemetery. Zee continued to enjoy retired teacher events, Senior Center activities, travel with her children, PBS, music TV shows and learned how to use an IPad! Zee’s 90th Birthday was rejoiced with loved ones from five states, a newspaper spotlight on her life and over 200 messages from faculty or former students!
For the last five years, Zee was able to live at her home because her son, Bob and his wife, Sophia provided devoted care. The family is profoundly grateful to them sustaining connection with family, faith, friends and music. Zee also received professional care from Residential Hospice staff that assisted her final passing at home.
Zenovia is survived by eight children and spouses, 19 grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren, nephews, nieces, cousins and her brother-in-law, Gilbert Courtney.
Due to COVID-19, a celebration of her life will be held at a future date. Messages may be emailed to email@example.com. Facebook page: “Loving Memories of Zenovia (Pukay) Courtney.” Donations: The Ohio University Foundation, add note: “Memorial -Zenovia Pukay Courtney — School of Music General Scholarship Endowment, POBox 869, Athens, OH 45701, online www.ohio.edu/give. Gifts to this endowment are matched $.50 on the dollar; or Disciples of Christ Church, Hocking Valley Parish, PO Box 245, Chauncey Ohio 45719.