By Martie Thompson
Harriet Courtney was born in Memphis, but as a young girl, moved with her parents to a small house in Atlantic Beach. She attended Southside Junior High and Englewood and began working right out of high school. She married and had three children, two girls and a boy. After the dissolution of her first marriage, her son was playing baseball at San Souci and she had the opportunity to meet a coach from another team, Walt Courtney. She said they kept bumping into each other via work and youth sports until they finally married 37 years ago and merged her family of three children with his family of four. They moved to Mandarin and have lived in this area that Harriet calls “just the neatest place” for 30 years.
After marrying Walt, Harriet decided to go back to school and earned her degree in secondary education from the University of North Florida. She worked for Florida Community College at Jacksonville in the Women’s Center for 22 years before retiring six years ago. She enjoyed her position running the displaced homemakers’ program, which helped women reenter the workforce. With their blended family, Harriet and Walt now have a total of 19 grandchildren and they share their Mandarin home with rescue dog, Rocky. She is the publicity director for the River City Women’s Club.
Q: How did you get involved with the River City Women’s Club?
A: I actually saw the calendar entry in “Mandarin NewsLine” for the Tuesday shuffleboard at Mandarin Park and showed it to my husband, who loves shuffleboard. He attended for about two years while I was still working and then I went with him last year. We met Hilda Bryson and she told me all about the River City Women’s Club and invited me to a meeting. I’ve been a member now for about a year.
Q: What do you like best about the River City Women’s Club?
A: I enjoy a lot of the club’s activities and I like that the purpose of most activities is to raise funds for charities. So you can have fun and raise money for good causes at the same time. I also like the variety of speakers we have at meetings. The members are very friendly and welcoming and just what I needed. I found that when I retired, I needed to make new friends besides people I used to work with and the club has been great.
Q: I understand you have a somewhat famous grandson?
A: Yes! This picture was taken of my grandson at the beach (with a handful of sand) by his mother when he was 10 months old. She shared it with a few friends and then started seeing it everywhere. It is now a popular meme. She had to hire an attorney and a manager to handle everything once it went viral. The photo has been used by Virgin Airways and Coca Cola in a Super Bowl commercial. My grandson is now 13 years old.
Q: What hobbies do you enjoy?
A: I like quilting, crocheting and gardening. I also play shuffleboard and am in the Book Club of the River City Women’s Club. We just read “A Death in Live Oak” and the next one will be “Big Little Lies.” We read a variety of genres and it’s fun because we talk about the book for about 20 minutes and then spend the rest of the time just socializing.
Q: If you were stranded on a deserted island and could only take three items with you, what would you take?
A: I would take a sewing machine, a camera and a good book!
Photo courtesy Harriet Courtney