Willie I. Kocurek
1910 - 2009
Share Willie's life story with friends and family
Send an Email
Or Copy this URL to Share
Willie I. Kocurek Willie I. Kocurek, civic leader, beloved husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather died January 1, 2009 at the age of 98. Born in Dime Box, Texas on October 14, 1910 to Steve and Agnes Kocurek, Willie was the eighth of nine children. Raised on a farm, Willie learned at an early age the meaning of hard work. He attended Caldwell High School and was valedictorian of his senior class. His high school English and debate teacher encouraged him to go to the University of Texas and helped him get a job working at a filling station to pay his way. He later purchased that filling station. Willie earned his bachelor's in business administration in 1933 and soon after he met Maurine Gustafson at a dance he had been invited to by his filling station customers. Willie and Maurine dated for four years and were married in 1934. Together they ran the Willie Kocurek Co. and sold tires, televisions and appliances as well as gasoline. He served three years in the United States Navy and was discharged as a Lieutenant in 1946. Willie and Maurine enjoyed their years in business watching it grow. His mottos "Where there's a Willie there's a way" and "You don't need money, just a little bit a month" became familiar sayings around Austin. The store was originally located at 19th and San Jacinto and later moved to 41st and Guadalupe until 1977. In 1977, Willie decided to take "renewment" instead of retirement. He re-enrolled in law school, something he had intended to do in 1929. At the age of 69, he graduated from the University of Texas Law School. He was the oldest person to ever graduate from the UT Law School, a feat that got him an invitation to appear on "Good Morning America." He often remarked that he was the oldest member of Texas Young Lawyers Association. After law school, he practiced for 22 years. His practice focused primarily on wills, probate and estate planning. The Kocureks spent a lifetime in service to their community and have received recognition on numerous occasions. Willie was chosen as Austin's Most Outstanding Young Man in 1941, as Austin' Most Worthy Citizen in 1980 and in 1990 he and his son, Neal, were chosen as Austinites of the Year. His proudest day came in 1986 when an Austin elementary school was named after him. He was the first person to have an AISD School named after him while still living. Willie I. Kocurek Elementary School is located in southwest Austin. For forty years Willie donated much of his time to education in general and AISD specifically. When he ran for a position on the AISD School Board in 1946, Jake Pickle was his campaign manager and the campaign cost him $25. He served for almost ten years as a school board member, the last four years as president. Then he went on to serve 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 chairman of "Forming the Future" for AISD in 1982-1983. Willie was also named "Texas Hero for Children' in 1996. Willie was a tireless volunteer and never refused an invitation to serve. Willie was a member of the University United Methodist Church for 60 years and served in many lay leadership roles at the church. He was very involved in the Austin Founder Lions Club. He served as President, Director of the Lion's Eye Bank and on the Board of Directors for many years. He was a cofounder of Austin Groups for the Elderly. He also was a director of the Austin Chamber of Commerce for five years. He volunteered for Meals on Wheels, KLRU, Boy Scouts of America, Boys and Girls Clubs of Austin, Adult Services Council, Salvation Army, YWCA, Capitol Area Food Bank, Brackenridge Hospital Foundation, Easter Seals, and Austin Area Garden Council. He is survived by his wife of 74 years, Maurine Gustafson Kocurek, and his daughter, Kay Kocurek Bell. He was preceded in death by his son, W. Neal Kocurek. He is also survived by his daughter-in-law, Mary Kocurek McCarron; three grandchildren, Jeff Kocurek and his wife Dana; Kelly Kocurek and his wife Julie, all of Austin; and Suzanne Kocurek Rose and her husband Brian of Houston; and by eight great grandchildren, Cole Kocurek, Clayton Kocurek, Melanie Kocurek, Will Kocurek, and Mary Frances Kocurek of Austin and Zack Rose, Rebecca Rose and Hannah Rose of Houston. His body will lie in state on Friday, January 2, 2009 from 3:00 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. and on Saturday, January 3, 2009 from 9:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. A funeral service will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, January 4, 2009, at Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home, 3125 N. Lamar Blvd. Interment will follow at Austin Memorial Park on Hancock at Bull Creek. A reception will be held at Westminster Manor, 4100 Jackson Ave. after the interment. The pallbearers are Jeff Kocurek, Kelly Kocurek, Brian Rose, David Gustafson, Don Gustafson and Rudy Munguia. Honorary pallbearers are the members of the Austin Founder Lions Club. The family wishes to express sincere appreciation for the staff of Westminster's Health Care Center and the staff of Lighthouse Hospice. Memorial contributions may be made to AGE (Austin Groups for the Elderly), 3710 Cedar Street Box 2 Austin, Texas 78705 or the W. Neal Kocurek Scholarship through St. David's Community Health Foundation, 811 Barton Springs Road Austin, Texas 78704. Obituary and guestbook online at wcfish.com

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in Austin American-Statesman from Jan. 3 to Jan. 4, 2009.
No memorial events are currently scheduled. To offer your sympathy during this difficult time, you can now have memorial trees planted in a National Forest in memory of your loved one.
Not sure what to say?
View Printed Guest Book
50 entries
January 26, 2017
I was a student of Kocurek Elementary back in the early 2000s. I remember going to a School Christmas Event and seeing Mr.Kocurek, I remember thinking how awesome it was to see a famous person in real life! My favorite memory of Mr.Kocurek will always be his wonderful bow tie. Sending pracers to the family and appreciation for sharing him with us for so many enjoyable years. Thank you!
Jennifer Draper
January 16, 2015
Will Kocurek
October 23, 2014
Jon c.
August 9, 2013
I went to Kocurek Elementary and I remember him so well. He was such a lovely man. My condolences to his family.
Kristan Cobb
January 11, 2009
I remeber going to Kocrek elementary school for the from kindergarden to the second grade. I remember bieng at an assembly and getting to sing "willie i. kocurek and his red bow tie", while wearing one made out of paper. Though i know the song is by Glenn Miller and is called "In the Modd" it will always be willie i kocurek and his red bowtie to me. My grannie told me that some of his ancestors are burried in the same cemetary as my own grandfather and his family. I will always remember shaking his hand and will always remember the school named after him.
Edwin J. Knesek IV
January 11, 2009
Willie Kocurek was such a cheery person. My dad, Edward Swerk, introduced me to him when Central Distributing was in business in Austin. His gifts to the world were enormous.
Carolyn Cobb
January 8, 2009
The citizens of Austin were blessed by Willie being such a vital and robust part of life here. He never met a stranger and made each and every person he encountered feel special. He will be missed, but I do believe his legacy lives on. Thanks to his child bride, Maurine, for sharing him with the world.
Brenda Saxon
January 8, 2009
I wish to express my sympathies to Willie's family. I knew him back when he had his service station. I served with him on committees. Due to him, I spent several years with the South Austin Civic Club. I believe many of us aspired to be the type of true professional and citizen that Willie represented in his daily life. My wife and I have enjoyed knowing Willie and his wife and appreciate all they have represented as a couple as well. Were there only more like him.....
E. G. (Glen) Vorwerk
January 7, 2009
Mr remeberance of Willie Kocurek. Back many years ago when I was a freshman at UT, I felt older and differant than most as I had a toddler, and had started school four years after most freshmans. I felt immediately better when I saw Mr. Kocurek sitting in the classroom as obviously he too was not the "normal" student. I asked him, "Just curious, why are you going back to school" He actually said to me, "I sold my appliance store, retired and have the financial means to follow my dreams. I am 70 years old now and I will be 75 in five years whether I become a lawyer or not. This made sense to me and that has been one of my most significant life encounter. I have since have adapted that philosphy and do not allow age to prevent me from continuing to follow my dreams.

Thank you Mr. Kocurek and may you rest in piece. S. Silver
S Silver
January 6, 2009
Willie when I was in Kindergarten at Kocurek I remember taking a picture with you. I loved your red bow ties. I will miss you.
Laela Barron (4th grade)
January 5, 2009
Willie and I were classmates at UT School of Law, and later shared a storefront office where we served any client who walked in the door.
Bruce Young was the third member of this terrible triumvirate. We were older, but full of love for the law, and we tried to make every client feel cherished. Willie was the driving force behind this, because of his deep respect for every human being. A latin term used by older lawyers is "sui generis" or
"One of a kind". I will miss you
deeply, my friend, for you were truly "one of a kind".

Jerry Eichhorn, Colonel, USAF, Retired, UT Class of 1980
Jerome Eichhorn
January 5, 2009
Please email me more info immediately! a36osmkellos@hotmail.com, kellahan@telus.net, martin.kellahan@mac.com to do so. Thanks! :)
martin kellahan
January 5, 2009
Maurine, We will miss Willie so much and everything good that he stood for. My parents, John and Vera Crawford loved you too dearly. Willie left a memory in this area that we could all learn to live by and strive for. God Bless all of you , he will be missed by so many.
jean crawford
January 5, 2009
Willie will always live in our hearts and his good deeds will continue for generations. Our sympathy to all the family.
Ed & Pat Kocurek
January 5, 2009
My thoughts and prayers are with your family, Willie did so much in his life, and my kids attend Kocurek and were very happy to be a part of the Willie Day celebration of his birthday! He will be missed and was a huge part in everyones lives!

The Berron Family
Lori Berron
January 4, 2009
My thoughts and wishes to Willie's wonderful family. He was such an awesome person and inspiration. He will live on the hearts and minds of those who loved and knew him. Rest in Peace, Willie.
Dorothy Callahan
January 4, 2009
Willie I Kocurek was a hero!You will be dearly missed by all of the kids that attened Kocurek,which I was one of them and so was my brother.I still have all of the sweet and amazing memories!Never will be forgotten Willie
victoria skiff
January 4, 2009
What a wonderful person! I always enjoyed seeing and talking to him. What an inspiration he was. I plan to think of him as often as I can so that day will be the best it can be. Loved his bow ties.
Jeff H
January 4, 2009
Dear Maurine, You and Willie are two of the marvelous group of people, including my parents, Sim and Gladys Gideon, and my stepmother, Olga Bredt Gideon, who created the Austin in which I and so many fortunate young people grew up. Austin's reputation as the place "everyone" wanted to live was built by the dedication and hard work of this wonderful generation of parents and public servants, with Willie often leading the way. Thank you for all the ways you made the foundations of my life so sturdy and uplifting and for your long and dear friendship with my family. With grateful love, Patty Gideon Sloan, Bellaire, TX
Patty Gideon Sloan
January 4, 2009
You will be missed dearly.
Kocurek Alumni 1989-1993
Robin Covey Pharm.D.
January 4, 2009
Willie often said to those he encountered, “You’re one of the great ones!” In these moments, the sincerity and enthusiasm of the sage almost always prompted a quick personal moral inventory to find some piece of greatness within so that one could aid Willie with his cause of the moment. It’s now our turn to bring out the greatness in others in order to ensure a better community for all.

Robin Loving Rowland
San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico 37710
925-418-8003 – US
Robin Loving Rowland
January 4, 2009
Maurine, I was saddened to hear of your loss of Willie.He was a wonderful, inspirational man who was an icon in Austin. We are in Hawaii and will not be able to attend his funeral but our thoughts and prayers will be with you.
Charles and Janis Penick
January 4, 2009
I was so sorry to hear of your loss. The thoughts of many are with you at this time of sorrow.
Harry Meyers
January 4, 2009
Everyone who ever met Mr. K loved him.
He was a true gentleman and an icon of Old Austin.
His advertising slogan "Where there's a Willie, there's a way" never failed to bring a smile to my family when we saw his ads on TV.

And who could forget his trademark bow tie?

We join the many people in Austin who have fond memories of Mr. Kocurek.
The Smith Family
January 3, 2009
I have 3 girls that have attended and 2 of which are still attending kocurek elementary adn they as well asmyself were greatly saddened when they heard teh bad news. every year my girls looked forward to willies birthday, they enjoyed every moment they got to visit with him and our hearst go out to his wonderful family and we prayr for them every day
katherine garcia
January 3, 2009
January 3, 2009
Jeff, my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family at this time of mourning for your sweet grandfather..please give my love to your dear grandmother..love, Joanna Purkeypile
Joanna Purkeypile
January 3, 2009
Willie left a legacy that very few people leave in a large city in modern times. With Czech values from Lee County, his reach and families reach into civic, religious, business, political and education efforts for Austin and Travis County are very hard to match. The Kocurek name is on buildings and schools, but like Willie and his family, it was deeply embedded in the hearts and minds of so many Austinites he touched over his 75 years of activity for a better hometown. What a role model for all who live in this great city, a city with 'where there was a Willie, there was a way". God Bless Maurine, Kay and family, Kelly and Julie and all the grandkids and great grand children in this time to celebrate 98 years of Willie.
Heather & Lee Cooke
January 2, 2009
It seems so seldom today that you meet a person who truly touches your heart and soul as Mr. Willie Kocurek did so many. He had a way of leaving an indelible mark on your life, a truly positive one. I was blessed and honored to know him and his family over the years and am so thankful for that. He was a HUGE factor in my life and I will (as many will) miss him very much. Often it seems too that when a person asks how you are, they are doing it more out of "Habit" and may not really want to know, or take the time to find out. With Willie, you knew, deep down inside that he truly cared. "They don't make them like that anymore" God broke the mold when he created "Mr. K"

He had a way of making everyone he met feel important and special. I remember calling him one day and as soon as he heard my voice he said "Oh, I'm so glad you called, hearing from you is like receiving money from home!", like I said he had a way of making you feel "Special". He lived the saying, "A stranger is just a friend you have not met yet!"

My thoughts and prayers are with "Mrs. K" and the entire Kocurek family.... Austin and the world has lost a true gentlman and civic icon.... You can bet he is sitting with the good Lord now with that infectious smile and feeling like the Willie I. Kocurek we all remember!
Paul S.
January 2, 2009
I always enjoyed visiting with Willie at Westminster Manor when my mother was living there. He always had a warm greeting for everyone entering the dining room and he was very sweet to my granddaughter. As an employee of the Texas School for the Blind, I appreciate very much his work with the Lions Club. Willie did so much for Austin and helped make it the special place it is. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family.
Karen O'Quin
January 2, 2009
I grew up hearing Mr. Kocurek saying .You dont need money just a little bit a month.I used that saying in my business every day.Thank you Mr Kocureck. God Bless
Don Rau
January 2, 2009
I have taught at Kocurek Elementary for 20 years and was just as excited as the kids when Willie and Maurine would visit the school. He had a way of making everyone feel like they were the most important person in the room. I will never forget when my grandfather "Hawk" attended Willie Day. I introduced him to my students and one said, with great awe, "Your grandfather's Mr. Kocurek?!?" Many of us felt the same awe at such a wonderful and inspiring man, and family. I'm sure St. Peter was wearing a red bow tie when Willie arrived, and when he said "Good to see you, Willie", well, Willie answered back "It's good to be seen!" We will miss you, Willie.
Leslie Hawkins
January 2, 2009
My years as a teacher at Kocurek Elementary will never be forgotten. Each year for Willie Kocurek Day the faculty would do a different song and dance routine about Willie and his life. He particularly loved the year when we adapted the words from "One Singular Sensation" from "Chorus Line". The faculty dressed with red ties, top hats, canes.and vests. Banners throughout the school said, " WILLIE IS OUR ONE SINGULAR SENSATION" He joked with us and offered to take us on the road with our "Chorus Line"

Mr. Kocurek would visit every so often and the school lit up with joy. He had a way of spreading happiness to all with his ebullient personality.

Everyone at Kocurek loved him!
Judith O'Neil
January 2, 2009
I remember all the times that Mr. Kocurek came to Kocurek elementary and my girls were always so excited for that day. I will cherish, even more now, the picture I had made of my daughter with Mr. & Mrs Kocurek. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family. He is an icon in Austin that will be deeply missed by many.
Deanna Adams
January 2, 2009
I will miss you Willie. I am happy I was able to participate in the last Willie Day of my 5th grade year at Kocurek. The highlight of my Christmas was being able to sing directly to you during our visit with the Kocurek Choir. I will always think of you and love you.

Emily Acosta
2008-09 Kocurek Choir
2008-09 Kocurek Honor Choir
Emily Acosta
January 2, 2009
The Kocurek family has given so much to Central Texas. My thoughts and prayers are with each of you.
Terri Buchanan
January 2, 2009
Willie and Maureen lived near my parents. We bought plants from them once in a yard sale. They all went to the same church where Willie and Maureen attended the Sunday school class my mom taught. What a charmer, and a he did it a sense of humor, an inbred decency, an interest in others, and a love of all things Austin. Thank you, Willie, for sharing yourself with the rest of us.
Mickie McElroy
January 2, 2009
In a time when so many seem to delight only in the critical, the negative, the derogatory, there has always been Willie Kocurek to treasure as the exact opposite. Just knowing he was out there was worth a smile. I'll mss that. Loving thoughts to the family ~ Jackie
Jackie Goodman
January 2, 2009
May God bless you and your family in this time of sorrow.
Amy Rodriguez
January 2, 2009
I interviewed Willie in 1995 at his home when he was 85 years old. He had the energy and physicality of a 30-year-old, literally springing up off the couch to make a point. I went to his bedside a few weeks ago, for another story, and by then he was of course much diminished. But he was still a such a charmer that every nurse on the ward that I encountered absolutely loved him. Such an optimistic, good man. When I was in eighth grade, in the mid-1960s, I actually did an impression of Willie's commercials for a speech class project, never dreaming that he'd still be with us when I was in my mid-50s. I'm grateful that even in such brief doses that I got to know him.
Ben Wear
January 2, 2009
Willie was an Austin original. I first met him in 1981 when I was a rookie television reporter. What a gift he was to this community. His zest for life and learning were amazing. He will be missed by the countless people whose lives he enriched.
Judy Maggio
January 2, 2009
I grew up going to Willie's store with my mom and dad and as an adult I had the great pleasure of working with him at Team Bank-Westlake. He always had a smile and a friendly word for everyone he met. Austin has lost a true legend.
Nancy Colwell
January 2, 2009
Among Willie's many gifts to the Austin community, the most valued was his time. His volunteer efforts at Zilker Botanical Garden helped develop the beautiful garden we all enjoy today. He was a true Austin hero!
Margie Malone
January 2, 2009
I had the honor of working with Willie in the mid-90s. He was helping raise funds for an Austin charity and volunteered to contact some of the area’s most distinguished leaders. Imagine my surprise when he wrote the notes in crayon! What’s more, every one of these very busy people responded immediately and offered their support.

God’s speed Mr. K. We’ll miss you.
Michael Grant
January 2, 2009
January 2, 2009
Another truly amazing Austin original has sadly left us.
God bless you,Mr. Will.
You will be the only angel in Heaven with a bow tie.
S Garza
January 2, 2009
Another one of Austin's true bigger than live personallities has passed.Loved your commercials as a chld never met you, but felt like I had known you all my life. You were such a sweet and gentle soul.
john hughes
January 2, 2009
Willie & Maureen sat on the pew behind me at church for many years. They were both always so friendly & warm & funny. Willie definitely made the world a better place.
Becky Helton
January 2, 2009
I recently moved to Austin and everytime I meet someone, they ask me if I am related to "The Willie Kocurek". He has clearly been a positive and powerful influence in the city of Austin over the decades. I remember meeting him as a child and regret not making that contact as an adult. May Austin remember Willie and his lessons for generations to come!
Kristie Kocurek
January 2, 2009
My heart goes out to the family.
Austin lost someone special.
I remember his commercials 30 plus tears ago,went to school with Helen.
"You dont need money just a little bit a month"
Connie Rinehart-Lyckman
Share to let others add their own memories and condolences