Courtney Ellis

Born: Washington DC on 09 November 1961

Passed away: Atlanta on 11 August 2020

Aged: 58 years

Service Details

A memorial service is planned for the Spring of 2021.

Courtney was a storyteller. If you have any stories to share through photos, videos or writings, please feel free to do so below.

Please also consider a donation in Courtney’s name to one of his favorite charities: DeKalb School of the Arts, Boy Scouts of America, and Decatur First United Methodist Church. Copy & paste the links provided below to make a donation.

DeKalb School of the Arts
https://ptsa4dsa.new.memberhub.store/store/items/125974

Boy Scouts of America
https://donations.scouting.org/#/council/092/appeal/696

Decatur First UMC
https://decaturfirst.org/give-online


The Story

Beloved father, brother and husband, Courtney O. Ellis passed away at Piedmont Hospital on Tuesday, August 11th. He passed peacefully, accompanied by his wife, Amina, and is succeeded by his three children, Nathaniel, Colin, and Sabra Ellis, and his brothers and sisters-in-law: Casey and Donna Ellis, William and Betsy Ellis, and Anita and Reena Bhatia.

Courtney was born in Washington, D.C. on November 9th, 1961 to John and Amanda Ellis and grew up in Arlington, Virginia where he attended Yorktown High School. He was the 3rd of 4 brothers, Casey, William, and Fred. He graduated from Beloit College with a Bachelors of Arts. After college, he moved to Seattle and worked with his lifelong friend and mentor, Virgil Counter, at Counter Research Corporation, where he became company president.

Our father lived in many places throughout his life always making sure his children knew the beauty of the world, its people, and of life itself. From working in Seattle, to following our mother to New Mexico, Australia, and Kansas City, to settling down in the home he built near Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, he found the best in every place and lived life to the fullest.

He was an Eagle Scout, philanthropist, and active member of the Decatur First United Methodist Church. Prior to his illness, he was an active outdoorsman, skier, mountain biker, sailor, lacrosse player, and runner. He enjoyed travels around the world to such places as Thailand, Hong Kong, India, Australia, Peru, Mexico, United Kingdom, France, and Italy.

Our father always loved the people around him and made innumerable connections with family, friends, neighbors, and his community. Even in failing health, he always noticed when someone needed help and gave them all he could offer.

Our father joins his mother, father, and brother, Fred, in heaven.

~Nathaniel, Colin, and Sabra Ellis
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It was May, 1992. I had just finished medical school, and Courtney and I had known each other almost 6 months. Courtney had business with CRC in Paris, and he invited me to join him after his meetings. Courtney, of course, bought me the ticket and planned the entire trip. Courtney’s vast knowledge of the history, geography, and sites as well as a superior grasp of the airline and hotel industries led to always amazing trips on a budget, and this first big trip that we took together was no different. He had chosen a boutique hotel (the Phenix hotel – he of course kept a card from the place) just 1 block from the Arc de Triomphe. We then headed by train to the Loire Valley to Blois (I recall the best fondue ever there), where we rented bicycles. We rode from castle to castle – Chambord, Cheverny, and more – stopping by the side of the road to eat fresh baked baguettes with cheese and pate (and occasionally a little red wine). I can still picture the art class of school children with their palettes and easels in the courtyard of Cheverny. We then headed to Arcachon, a beach town on the Atlantic coast, where we played on large sand dunes (Great Dune of Pyla). I trying jumping off one, only to do a head plant in the sand. Courtney suffered with the sand that fell from my hair and ears for several days after that but never complained. Courtney, of course, sniffed out the WWII bunkers on the edges of the beach. Next, we took the train to a stop seemingly in the middle of nowhere. I was worried that we had taken a wrong turn somewhere. Courtney reassured me that we needed to walk a half-mile and the town would be there. As we trekked along the country road, a hill rose up in front of us, and the medieval town of St. Ẻmilion (where we are in the photo above) emerged. We stayed in a quaint room overlooking the lit courtyard and the church. The restaurant in the inn was fabulous. They kept bringing out cheese, which I gobbled down with gluttonous pleasure. Courtney had such a smile on his face when he finally let me know that they were going to just keep bringing me cheese until I said stop. He got such a kick out of my innocent uncouth behavior and never made me feel uncomfortable. We then toured the wineries. Courtney communicated so well in French, but he stumped them when trying to ask why the wine had a certain “chalky” flavor (which, once one winery understood what he was saying, he learned quickly never to say that again). We made our way to Bordeaux with plans for a train ride in the morning to catch our early afternoon flight back to Washington, D.C. Carefree and back in Paris, we decided to stop at some fromageries for gifts on the way to the airport. Of course, when we arrived to the airport, we were much too late to catch an international flight. To me, this was the moment that solidified our compatibility - missing an international flight would be the end of many a new relationship. But for us - we shrugged our shoulders and celebrated that we would have yet another day in Paris. Courtney, of course, was able to re-book a flight for the next day at a nominal fee. We returned to the Phenix hotel, bought several liquor-filled chocolates, and wandered along the Seine, enjoying our bonus night in the City of Love. The next day, we returned to the US where Courtney’s folks were picking us up at the airport. Courtney, of course, whisked through security. I, on the other hand, fumbled through explaining how he lived in Seattle, I lived in NY, he arrived in Paris several days before me, and so on. Subsequently, my bags were searched, uncovering all my undeclared cheeses that we had purchased that day before. Courtney’s folks were so confused why I was not coming out of security, but I finally emerged, and we all had a good laugh. Fortunately, immigration let me keep the cheese.

Amina Bhatia shared a photo.

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For those that knew Courtney this picture captures his "Look" which is one where he is getting ready to tell a story or explain something of interest to his nephews. One unique story comes to mind of Courtney with his 2 nephews... Donna was busy with graduate school and i had an evening appointment so Courtney came up to take them to dinner at Chucky Cheese... now i really miss Courtney because i can not so justice to the way he would tell this but i will try... The ordered their pizza's Mike got plain cheese and AJ would have the pepperoni sausage and played a few games... then it was time to sit and wait for the pizzas to come to the booth. Well they pizza was delivered and no sooner did the waiter walk away Mike began to wail in shear terror while sitting across from Courtney AJ just dug in and began to eat his like this was normal behavior. Courtney is trying to calm Mike and figure what in the world is going on... finally he asks AJ because nothing is working and AJ looks up and says" Its ok Uncle Court he's just scared of the giant rat "The chucky cheese mascot" and puts his head down and starts to eat.... That night i got home and Court says " hey Case next time warn me about the Rat and Mike" and proceeded to tell the story- I sure do miss him❤

Casey Ellis shared a photo.

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Courtney was such a vibrant, loving soul, even during his time of illness, that it is really hard to imagine him no longer with us. We met Courtney at the Rocking Horse Inn in Taos New Mexico, in 1992. He and Amina were there on a ski trip. We arranged to meet while on a Southwest trip Carl and I took with Ethan during the year I took off for medical school after Ethan was born. . Others in our medical school class had already met Courtney, and we had heard how smitten they were with each other. We had the same experience as others, seeing instantly how they were perfect for each other and how, right away, Courtney felt like a lifelong friend. They both were lovers of the outdoors, adventure, and travel. Amina’s training and this love of travel eventually took them to Australia, where, of course, very romantically, they got engaged at the stroke of midnight of the new millennium. We had the good fortune to attend their wedding in Seattle in 2001. Ethan, then 10, hesitated not one second in getting right into Courtney’s car to be wisked away the fun kid things happening while adults attended a pre-wedding festivities. We were then blessed that Amina chose Emory for her fellowship, putting us in close enough proximity for them to come to us for a mountain retreat, and us to visit them for a city fix. Our friendship to continued to grow . It was Courtney who showed me the Kingfishers that live on our river, and I think of him every time I see one while kayaking. It was during one of his visits with the kids, that we discovered that Ethan had gone out on a very unauthorized spin in the family car at age 14. Courtney was an anchor for us as we dealt with this, never seeming judgmental, just supportive. This photo is from our trip with Amina and Courtney to Key West January 2019. There, Courtney, though weakened by his condition, was an inspiration. He and Amina dealt with it all and accepted it as he tried to live life to the fullest within the level of his abilities. If that meant sitting on the porch and enjoying the incredible view and entertaining us with lively conversation, he seemed to appreciate every minute. We enjoyed being to toured on foot and by car through a city he knew well from years of family vacations. We got to see him one last time just over a year ago when they stopped on the way to their yearly trip to a family camping retreat in Vermont, still with much joy, enthusiasm, and love for his family. When Covid hit, it dawned on me what life would be like for him, not getting to be around people, so I called him and enjoyed the stories of his family he loved so much and all that they were up to, which we all know was his unwavering top priority. What we have now are amazing memories of a great friend, a wonderful husband, the most enthusiastic devoted dad we can imagine. We will all miss him greatly.

Liz Peverall shared a photo.

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This captured a moment in 1985 that really reflects the face of laughter and humor that Courtney spirit would bring to any time you spent with him. Reflects his sparkle and impish humor he could bring to any moment and gathering.

Casey Ellis shared a photo.

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This picture was taken in Thailand a few months before I met Courtney, but Courtney spoke of this trip so vividly that I feel I can do the tale justice. The expedition to Thailand was Courtney’s first big trip outside North America and certainly opened his eyes to global travel. He and his friend, Dan McBride, acted as couriers for packages to Asia in exchange for $100 business class tickets to Thailand. With all his travel belongings in a small backpack, he and Dan journeyed around Thailand, meeting travelers from all over the world. This photo was taken in Phuket. Dan and Courtney had met some European travelers, and the four of them rented small motorcycles to ride along the seaside roads. I believe some sort of animal jumped out and Courtney swerved, resulting in a ride down an embankment that wrecked the motorcycle and caused a large gash to his left thigh. The photo shows the mangled front wheel as well as the large bandage on the sutured laceration. You can see by the smile on Courtney’s face that it was all worth it! When I met Courtney on New Year’s Eve 1991-2, Courtney had brought his photos to Dan and Maya’s house, and we stayed up late looking at the pictures as he told me the stories of his amazing trip. Later, when I had visited Courtney’s folk’s home in Arlington, I noticed a handwritten note by Courtney posted on the refrigerator. “Mom was right about motorcycles – Courtney.”

Amina Bhatia shared a photo.

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Rattan & Doris Bhatia

Doris and I had only a few, and far between, occasions to meet with Courtney.The times we remember the most include his wedding, Amina’s Fellowship graduation at Emory hospital in Atlanta, and the Ellis family’s annual ‘stop over’ visits with us during their Christmas holidays in Vermont. Each time during these visits we discovered a new specific aspect of his personality that revealed him as an all-round family loving and friendly individual, as well as an efficient manager and organiser.
Our first ‘official’ encounter with Courtney was at the wedding ceremony when I had the honour and pleasure of walking my niece, Amina, down the Isle towards the impatiently waiting young and handsome ‘boy’. Both looked happy and loving at the prospect of tying the knot.
Amina and Courtney came from different social backgrounds- Amina a daughter of an Indian immigrant father and American mother, and a medical degree, while Courtney a100 percent American and, at that time, a successful professional in the private sector. This divergence must have required substantial adjustment on the part of both in settling as a married couple. As their life history shows, they fully well made that adjustment. I believe that during his bachelor days Courtney must have come across the economic concepts of ‘comparative advantage’ and ‘division of labour’ that say that interacting entities (countries, companies, partnerships etc.) will mutually gain the most if each party concentrated on pursuits where it has comparative advantage in relation to its partner. The truth of this axiom is evident in the case of the Ellis family. While Amina concentrated on being a pediatric surgeon, Courtney chose to stay at home to raise the new-borns through to their teens. Result: Amina has the reputation of being an excellent surgeon and Courtney could take pride in the way he raised and guided the three infants to grow to become ‘model’ children whose love and admiration for him are always on display. Additionally, Courtney used his managerial and organisational capacities to actively help Amina in her quest to seek and achieve her ambitions as a surgeon. He was often the spokesperson for Amina, and he performed that role meticulously well.
Personally, I was touched by his two observations he made to me- one at the very early time after their marriage when Amina and he used to come to Arlington often to meet his parents, and another only last month when I called their Atlanta home to congratulate Nathaniel on his graduation. On the first occasion he remarked that when he thought of Amina’s family, he felt that Doris and I were the ones that came to his mind the most. On the second occasion, he told me that their children had appreciated reading the little notes that, in response to Amina’s request, I had prepared for “My Story” site and wondered why we had not been an active part of their social life. Courtney added that he shared the same sentiments but blamed it on the distances that separated us.

Rattan Bhatia

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This photo was taken in Brian Head, Utah, on our journey from Albuquerque to San Francisco. Our work visas for Australia were in limbo, so we made our way to our port of departure by way of a stunning drive from Albuquerque to Las Cruces (to visit our dear friend, Reuben), Silver City, the Petrified Forest, (AZ), North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Brian Head, Tahoe, and finally San Francisco. Poor as church mice, we filled our trunk with a Costco shop and camped at National Forests along the way. At each stop, we mountain biked gorgeous single track trails, swam in canyons, and enjoyed wild flowers in the desert that were blooming after a long hiatus at the end of a La Nina year. We had arrived at the Brian Head camp late at night. Readying ourselves for sleep, we noted how difficult it was to blow up the over sized air mattress we had brought. In the morning, we woke to see we had snow outside our tent (it was July) and realized we were at 9800 feet altitude or so, explaining our difficulties with the mattress the night before. The mountain biking ended in Nevada after a tumble left me with a concussion and dislocated clavicle. However, our work visas came through, we flew to Sydney, and our next adventure began. But, the journey to get there was as beautiful a story for us as the amazing stories that followed.

Amina Bhatia shared a photo.

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My two favorite memories of Court are from the same day. The look of frustration he got from some one of Fred's antics/shenanigans (sadly I can't remember what the shenanigan was) and the look of joy he had later in the afternoon because Fred was pissed off at us for being out on the laser all day. I am very sad about this. However, I will think of Fred hopping around on the rocks and that will make me feel better.

James Skelton

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I first remember hearing about Courtney from Amina during my last year of medical school. It was clear to me that she had found someone very special who shared her zest for outdoor activities and adventures. And eventually I met this wonderful man who loved to hike, mountain bike and boat, when my husband and I visited them in New Mexico. It seemed that Courtney and Amina were inseparable, moving from one adventure to the next. We kept in touch over the years, meeting them at medical school reunions and when they stopped by on their trips to Eagle Camp during the summer. It was clear that Amina and Courtney were a team and that they loved each other very deeply. Last summer, they travelled up to Vermont again and we had the pleasure of going out to lunch with them at the North Hero House. Courtney’s health had declined significantly but his spirit was just as strong and positive as always. He had such a wide range of interests and he spoke about traveling, nature and activities, but most notably about his family and children. It was clear that despite his illness, he still embraced life passionately, and that his family was the center of his life. We will always remember Courtney’s strength, generosity and goodness. And we will always remember how much he loved his family and how proud he was of his wife and children.

Susan Dunning shared a photo.

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Mary Oliver wrote, "instructions for living a life: pay attention, be astounded, tell about it." I can think of no better description of my friend Courtney, who welcomed my family into his heart and his home when we moved next door. He took in everything and everyone; he viewed the world with wonder and a smile; and he told you the stories--of what moved him, what inspired him; of his life; of his family's lives, and their achievements and goals and loves. I will always hold dear his smile and his openness and his stories. Deepest condolences to his incredible family, whom he cherished and whom we hold close.

Kevin Burdette

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