My phone rang. On the other end was a voice, “Hey dude, are you busy? Can you come to Courtney’s house today to shoot photos?” The static on my phone was terrible, but the number on the screen registered as Jeff from Devious Customs and I made out the basics: Come to Courtney’s house and shoot photos. Even though I didn’t know the whole scope of the situation, the answer was yes. A million times, yes. I loaded my camera gear in the work van without a second thought and headed to Courtney’s house.
Exactly a week had passed since I had received the call from Brett that Courtney had passed. Courtney had some dizzy spells and went to the doctor’s office. He was told to go home and rest, and the next day when he laid down for a nap, he shut his eyes for the final time.
I pulled up to Court’s house, which by most standards was a great big garage and living quarters that sat a few yards across from it. Courtney didn’t buy a house with a garage, he bought a garage with a house nearby because, exactly like you would expect from a car guy, he needed space for the important parts of his life—cylinders and wheels.
Inside Courtney’s garage were several truck projects, his motorcycle, and a few friends. We thumbed through a stack of photos that he appeared in and shared stories, laughs, and memories. There was Jeff, Brett, myself, and a woman who I had never met before. Her smile was contagious, her laugh was genuine, and during our conversations her eyes shifted between a forced emotional strength and cheeks streamed with tears. Courtney’s mother, Maggie, has a magnetic personality and the ability to instantly make you feel like family. If you want to know a person, meet their parents. And if you want to know Courtney, meet his mother.
She handed me a picture of Courtney as a teenager from a stack she was thumbing through. In the picture he was sitting on a couch with his face lit up, a smile from ear to ear and holding a box on his lap. “That was when I bought Court his first camera,” she said. “Did you know that in high school he won a Photography Award for the whole school district and never even told us?” He had been humble—even as a boy.
A Collection of Courtney’s work.
I spent the afternoon shooting his garage, just the way he left it. The walls were covered with posters, signs, and memorabilia from a lifetime commitment to his hobby. Hand-drawn minitruck show flyers from the early ’90s, Negative Camber plates and stickers, motorcycle helmets, past projects, and future inspiration. Courtney loved the entire spectrum of custom, which should be apparent from his resume that consisted of editorial positions at Truckin’, Mini Truckin’, Street Trucks, Trucks, Street Chopper, Hot Bike, Baggers, World of Rods, Muscle Car Power, and Drive magazine.
Beyond his current Chevy project truck was a set of wooden double-door cabinets mounted on the wall. Behind these doors were three shelves, filled with 34 binders of Mini Truckin’ and Truckin’, along with countless other magazines, almost all of which were filled with Courtney’s words and images. It was an impressive sight and one that put a lump in my throat and a tear on my cheek. This was the life’s work of a journalist who was passionate about showing others what the custom scene was all about.
There has been an outpouring of love from all across the globe at the loss of Courtney Halowell. Whether it was from reading his words, hearing his laugh or having him pat you on the back, the connection that he made with every person he came in contact with was special. I hope all of us learn the lesson of his legacy; the time that we’re allowed to spend with each other is short, so let’s spend it making strangers friends and friends brothers, just like Courtney did.
Somewhere upstairs there is a halo waiting for you, Mr. Halowell. I can only hope the rest of us make it up there, just to see exactly what you’ve bolted that halo onto.