By Jamie O’Brien
Even from the young age of two, Stephen Court had an inspiring effect on people.
The 58-year-old father of five, grandfather of one, accountant, active Applecross parishioner and Archdiocesan committee member passed away peacefully in Melbourne on 18 September 2015.
Wife, Carmen, and sister, Suzanne, shared with The Record Magazine some of their positive, faith-filled memories of Stephen.
The below article also contains excerpts of the eulogy by son, Ben, and daughter, Gemma.
Born on 4 November 1956 at the former St Anne’s Hospital, Mt Lawley (now St John of God Health Care) to John and Maureen Court, Stephen spent the first few years of his life living with his parents and grandparents in Forrestfield.
After moving to Mt Pleasant and then Alfred Cove – where he grew to adulthood – Stephen was joined by siblings Suzanne (Sue) and Andrew (Andy). It was at this young age that he met lifelong friend Neil Constantine who would come and visit Stephen regularly.
In 1962, Stephen began what would become a lifelong relationship with St Benedict’s Parish, Applecross, following his commencement as a student at the primary school. Stephen was to become very inspired by then Parish Priest, Fr Albert Lynch. It was Fr Lynch’s musical charisma and influence, along with learning to play the organ, that was to have a profound effect on Stephen.
Growing up, Stephen became known for his meticulous, precise and often painstakingly diligent and thorough manner, earning himself the title of perfectionist. Sue says she can recall catching him as a young teenager, Dyno taping sections of his wardrobe to stay organised.
Also known for his caring nature, Sue went on to recall that, when she bought her first car, he showed her how to change a tyre and lock the door (with the keys). “I just wanted to get in the car and go but he’s like ‘No, we have to make sure you are safe first’. Then he’d go back to step one and make me do it,” Sue said.
As a young man, Stephen’s mentor was one of the best salesmen that Perth had ever seen – his father. Capable of selling screen doors to a submarine skipper, it was John Court who taught his son how to close a deal. From the age of nine, Stephen would regularly summon siblings Sue and Andy to his room for a compulsory auction where he would sell off his used toys and almost flat batteries.
Despite a mischievous start, Stephen matured into a highly respected and capable businessman. His attention to detail, patience, diplomacy and fine-tuned negotiation skills were just a few of the qualities he demonstrated in the working world. He was a trusted advisor to many.
Obtaining a Bachelor of Business degree in 1978, Stephen went on to working full time as a junior auditor at Price Waterhouse Coopers in 1979, gaining his status as a Chartered Accountant.
A few years down the track, he commenced working with his father at EMECO (earthmoving business) as a partner and financial director, before eventually going into business for himself.
His work included partnerships with his father’s business, as well as a number of years consulting for Port Bouvard Limited. In addition to managing his own business, Stephen volunteered many hours of his time for causes that were close to his heart, including Aquinas College, the Archdiocese of Perth, LifeLink, St Mary’s Cathedral Building Committee and St Benedict’s Church. He was always willing to assist close friends and family with their own business or financial queries, too.
In early adulthood, Stephen’s incredible show of faith, natural leadership qualities and passion for music came together through his involvement in the St Benedict’s Music Ministry. In a leadership capacity, he was pivotal in maintaining a rich culture of music at the parish for some 40 years.
It was Stephen who was largely responsible for the organisation of a new organ – twice. Carmen recalls that, before Stephen passed away, he asked that the organ at the family home be donated to a parish in need. It was Stephen’s way, says Carmen, of giving back to the community. The organ was donated to St Jude’s Parish Lynwood/Langford.
In what he often recalled to family and friends as his greatest achievement, Stephen met Carmen in 1976 at St Benedict’s. Carmen was new to the parish at the time and, while she initially sat at the back of the church (away from the choir), it was after she joined that their relationship began to blossom.
Some four years later, the young couple married on 1 November 1980 and went on to have five children – Benjamin, Gemma, Adam, Joshua and Daniel.
In his eulogy at the Funeral Mass, Benjamin recalls the love his father showed for Carmen.
“You could tell every time that you saw him watching her. The love in his eyes was so deep and so sincere. He did everything in his power to make her happy, even if that meant always giving her the first cuddle of their beautiful grandson, Oliver.
“He was very proud of her and loved introducing his beautiful wife to new people. He continued to thank Carmen day after day during the final months of his battle. And, even in his most difficult days, he still put Carmen first.”
As a father, Stephen will be remembered by his children for his incredible patience and gentle nature. Ever the family man with nieces, nephews and the children of friends, he became well known for showing them what a light switch was, turning it gently on and off as they marvelled at his magic.
Even in his last moments, Stephen continued to fight, maintaining his sense of humour, like the time he had an oxygen mask on his face and, when son Josh walked into the room, exclaiming, “Josh, I am your father” (Star Wars reference).
The final words of Ben’s eulogy summarised the role that Stephen Court played in the lives of those he met.
“Let Dad’s life be a constant reminder to all of us, to be more patient with each other; to accept each other’s flaws; to be more devoted husbands who cherish their wives; to be more supportive and accepting brothers; to be more patient and committed fathers; to be more respectful sons, more involved uncles, more loyal friends; to be more ethical and careful businessmen; more generous and selfless in giving of our time to others; to be genuinely welcoming of strangers; to be gentle men and gentlemen; and to keep God at the centre of our lives.
“The world is a brighter place for having had you in it, Dad, and now your light shines down from heaven. Hopefully, it shows the way for a few more of us to get there, too.”
From page 6 and 7 from Issue 1: ‘The Year of Mercy: Seeking an Encounter with Christ’ of The Record Magazine