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January 14, 2009

In Memoriam: Willie Kocurek, 1910–2009

Willie Kocurek, ’80, died January 1, 2009, in Austin, at the age of ninety-eight. Kocurek was the owner of a popular Austin service station and appliance store, the Willie Kocurek Co., a member and president of the Austin School Board, a lawyer, and well-known community volunteer and speaker.

Kocurek came to the Law School at the age of sixty-seven after retiring from work at his store. He earned his J.D. in 1980. Upon graduation, he started a law practice in Austin, specializing in wills and probate.

Previously, he earned his BBA from the University of Texas at Austin in 1933 and began courses at the Law School in 1943, but his plans for a law degree were interrupted by work and by service in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

“Willie came back to finish what he started,” said UT School of Law Associate Dean Alexandra Albright, ’80, a member of Kocurek’s graduating class. “He and his wife, Maurine, were both very engaged in the life and community of the Law School, as well as in the larger Austin community. After he graduated, he did a lot to help senior citizens in Central Texas. He was a great character and a great friend.”

As might be guessed of a man who finished a law degree he had begun over thirty years earlier, Kocurek demonstrated a life-long commitment to education. He served as a member of the Austin Independent School Board from 1946 to 1949 and as president of the board from 1950 to 1954. He also served as president of the Texas Association of School Boards, director of the National Association of School Boards, and on the board of directors of the Region XIII Education Service Center, and was chairman of the “Forming the Future” committee for the school board in 1982 and 1983. Kocurek Elementary School, in Southwest Austin, was named after Kocurek and his wife, Maurine, in 1986.

Kocurek and his son Neal were named Austinites of the Year in 1989.

A memorial service was held January 4, 2009 in Austin.