Cover photo for Wesley F. DeCoursey's Obituary
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Wesley F. DeCoursey

October 9, 1918 — November 22, 2015

Wesley F. DeCoursey

Wesley F. DeCoursey, 97, of McPherson, passed away November 22, 2015, at McPherson Hospital. He was born October 9, 1918, in Nampa, Idaho, the son of Frank J. and Ottie (Rhodes) DeCoursey. Wes met Verda I. Grove at McPherson College, where both graduated in 1940. On February 14, 1942, they married in South English, Iowa.

During World War II Wes served as a conscientious objector in Civilian Public Service from 1944 to 1946 in Waldport, Oregon, and in College Park, Maryland. After Wes completed his PhD degree at Iowa State, they moved to McPherson in 1952 to teach at McPherson College. He was professor of chemistry there for 34 years, also teaching geology and astronomy.

Wes lived a full and satisfying life and inspired many with his love of science and nature. Students appreciated his teaching excellence, illustrated with chemistry magic and punctuated with humor. Nieces and nephews recall how he entertained them with rock specimens, cattails, pine cones, wildflowers, juggling tricks, and pointing out planets, stars and constellations. He enjoyed outdoor activities, especially camping and hiking with his family. A natural sportsman, Wes played tennis competitively into his eighth decade.

Wes had a joke or personal greeting for everyone he met in the course of the day, sharing his generous, helpful, tireless, energetic, and sunny nature.

Wes and Verda enjoyed their involvement in the Church of the Brethren, McPherson College, and the Cedars community. They were active in County Democrats and Kiwanis, as well as being founding members of the McPherson Gem and Mineral Club. Wes was an avid reader of nonfiction, and always enjoyed an exchange of views on religion.

Extensive travels included four summers working as a ranger naturalist at Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota or Kings Canyon National Park in California, driving to family gatherings at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and frequent treks to the Netherlands to visit grandchildren. The family circumnavigated the globe during a year-long Fulbright lectureship in Karachi, Pakistan, and Tehran, Iran (1965-66). Starting in 1959, they attended triennial family reunions with Verda’s side of the family, usually in a mountain setting. Wes attended the 2015 reunion on the Oregon coast, during which he spread some of Verda's ashes in a spot where they had enjoyed living on the beach during his Civilian Public Service.

For over thirty years, Wes and Verda spent their summers in a cabin extensively redesigned and built by them on Lake Superior in upper peninsula Michigan, where they enjoyed woodworking, hiking, collecting rocks and driftwood on the beach, picking chanterelle mushrooms and blueberries, watching for deer, birds, beaver, and bears, having picnics at the lake with Ikenberrys and Burkholders, and felling trees.

After 72 years of marriage, his wife Verda preceded him in death on May 18, 2014. Survivors include three children, Rita DeCoursey of Leiden, the Netherlands, Thomas DeCoursey of Oak Park, Illinois, and Dora DeCoursey of Portland, Oregon; four grandchildren, Karin, Audrey, Eric, and Jill; and three great-grandchildren, Ryan, Julian and Maya.

The memorial service will be at 10:30 AM, Thursday, December 17, 2015, at McPherson Church of the Brethren. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be given to the McPherson Church of the Brethren or the Wesley & Verda DeCoursey Scholarship in Chemistry at McPherson College, c/o Stockham Family Funeral Home, 205 North Chestnut, McPherson, KS 67460. To send flowers or a memorial gift to the family of Wesley F. DeCoursey please visit our Sympathy Store.

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