Mary Jo Cournia – Obit

Mary Jo Cournia, 65, of Crookston, MN, passed away early Thursday morning, February 18, 2021, at Altru Hospital in Grand Forks, ND, with her loving mother, Nancy, and other family by her side.

Mary Jo was born on February 2, 1956, in Crookston to Louis Oliver “Sonny” and Nancy Lou (Hovland) Cournia Jr. She was baptized and confirmed at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and grew up in Crookston and on the family farm. While attending Mount St. Benedict High School she played volleyball for the Blue Wave and participated in track. After her graduation in 1975, Mary Jo enrolled at Mayville (ND) State Teachers College where she played women’s softball while earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education. She then attended the University of Minnesota Technical College in Crookston attaining an Associate Degree in Equine Management. Mary Jo loved to travel and later moved to Peyton, CO where she was employed as a trainer on a local horse farm. She enjoyed telling everyone that she trained horses belonging to actor, John Wayne. After returning to Crookston Mary Jo managed the Crookston Municipal Pool and as a certified Water Safety Instructor taught swimming and diving lessons, while also coaching the local swim team. Next came employment with the Radiology Department of the Brainerd (MN) Hospital.

Being around horses remained a mainstay in Mary Jo’s life and as a member of the Agassiz Riding Club, she was always ready to saddle up, put on her boots and cowgirl hat, and head off on an adventure. A favorite memory she kept in her heart was chaperoning a group of children with disabilities on a riding and camping trip to Colorado. After suffering a serious injury in a diving accident at the Crookston pool Mary Jo experienced a long road to partial recovery. During this time she trained her pet toy poodle, Chico, to become her personal service dog. Chico held the title of smallest service dog in Minnesota. Fifteen years ago Mary Jo suffered severe injuries in a traffic accident near the Twin Cities. Following this accident, Mary Jo became a resident of the Villa St. Vincent. She soon became a favorite of fellow residents and staff alike as she delivered mail, assisted those needing a little extra help, and spread joy as she went around greeting everyone by name and wishing them all a good day. Mary Jo was a faithful member of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and for many years taught Catholic Religious Education. She will long be remembered for always seeing the best in everyone around her, her caring and compassion, and her adventurous spirit.

Surviving Mary Jo is her beloved mother, Nancy Lou Cournia of Crookston, MN; 7 siblings and spouses: Deb Hanson of Crookston, Louis “Skip” and JoLynn Cournia of Murfreesboro, TN, Jean and Richard Rock of Erskine, MN, and Sue and Lester Wilkens of Crookston, Tom and Violet Cournia of Moorhead, MN, Nancy Kay Kujawa of Rochester, MN, and Pat Cournia of Virginia Beach, VA; twenty-five nieces and nephews; forty-five great-nieces and great-nephews; an uncle and aunt, Tom and Darlene Hovland of Cass Lake, MN; several cousins and extended family; best friends, Sharon Lanctot of Crookston and Judy Qualley of Pinewood, MN; her Villa family; and friends in the Crookston area community.

Preceding her in death, Mary Jo has been reunited with her loving father, Louis (Sonny); brother, Dan; brother-in-law, Lynn Hanson; nephew and niece, Matthew and Sarah Hanson; great-nephew, Riley Knuckles; grandparents: Louis and Ann Cournia, Arnold and Ivadelle Hovland, and step-grandmother, Jenny Sullivan; as well as several aunts and uncles.

Mass of Christian Burial for Mary Jo Cournia will be celebrated at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Crookston at 1:00 pm, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. Visitation will be at the Cathedral on Monday from 5-7:00 pm, with a 7:00 pm prayer service, and will continue for one hour prior to the funeral. Both the Prayer Service and Mass will be live-streamed by logging on to and clicking on funerals/burials to view. Interment will take place in the Calvary Cemetery, Crookston. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be given in Mary Jo’s name to the Benedictine Living Community.