Cover photo for Debra Gail Courtney's Obituary
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1949 Debra 2023

Debra Gail Courtney

September 26, 1949 — June 12, 2023

Debra Gail Courtney, 73, passed away on June 12, 2023 after a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer.

She was born in Lewiston, Idaho to William “Bill” Courtney and Stella Mae “Teri” Courtney. She lived in Clarkston, Washington until she was 11 years old and following her parent’s divorce moved to Sacramento, California with her mother. She would spend summers in Clarkston with her dad and stepmom Evelyn and stepbrother Chad and stepsister Stacy and Grandparents Mick and Ada Courtney. She was especially close to her grandma and would spend hours just sitting and talking while they did handwork together. 

Debra graduated from Rancho Cordova High School in 1967 and began the grand adventure of life. In her twenties she and her boyfriend got jobs at Denali NP in Alaska and drove up in an old truck and camper when the AlCan was all gravel. A major transition in her life occurred when she decided to go to herb school in Sebastopol, California. This shaped her connection to nature and the healing power of plants which would sustain her through the rest of her life. She moved to Vermont in her early 30’s following friends that had bought a farm and worked on an organic farm and at a ski resort but she realized that she missed family and the northwest. 

Debra moved to Sandpoint in 1982 working at Schweitzer Ski resort and Henry Villards on the bridge before landing a job as a paralegal for the Verby Law office. She worked for Steve Verby for 17 years becoming a valued worker and friend of the family. Besides the legal work she was the person who would support and comfort the clients while going through the stresses of the legal systems. She went back to school while working for Steve and with his support finished her BA in social work from Lewis and Clark State College.

Another major transition in her life came in 1997 when she married the love of her life, Jeff Pennick and became a stepmom to his three children, Chelsea, 18, Ryan, 12 and Kali, 11. She embraced her role as a “bonus mom” and always put her family first. With the stress and sometimes long hours of the law office and with a new family she needed to make a change. After a short stint with Idaho Department of Health and Welfare she got a job with Early Head Start as a home visitor. This was her final career and was by far the most fulfilling. She got to use her amazing gift of empathy to understand and listen without judgment and create a safe place for the families to grow and become strong. She made a lasting positive impact in many of these families’ lives.

Debra lived her life on a strong spiritual path always striving to be a more conscious and evolved human being. She worked with Flower Essences for many years as a practitioner to support her own path but also to help others.

Thoughts of Debra from a spiritual sister:

 “Debra lived as she died deeply connected to spirit, trusting in her soul’s journey, enjoying the gift of life and the beauty of the natural world around her, appreciating her wonderful husband, family and friends, deeply at peace.”

Survivors include her husband of 25 years, Jeff Pennick, Step children Chelsea Pennick, Ryan (Jessica) Pennick, Kali (Noah) Becher, and grandchildren Matthew, Sadie, Elise, Avery, and Lucy. She is survived by her stepmom Evelyn Courtney, step sister Stacy Courtney (JC Robaina), cousins Punk and Tad Candler and Pat Berry, her Aunt Doris Shirley and Cousins Leslie and Jamie along with numerous families in the Lewis and Clark valley. She is also survived by countless friends that were connected to her as family. She was preceded in death by her father Bill Courtney, mother Teri Sledzieski, and step brother Chad Courtney. 

A celebration of life will be held on September 14 at the pavilion at Samowen campground. In lieu of flowers a donation can be made to Bonner Homeless Transitions. 


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