Celia Kocurek Milner

Celia Kocurek Milner, 66, passed away surrounded by her loving family on May 17, 2024, at her residence in Pearland, Texas. She was born on February 18, 1958, and was the youngest of three girls born to Lawrence James Kocurek and Elizabeth “Kitty” Keyes Kocurek.  She grew up in southeast Houston and attended St. Christopher’s Catholic School, and then Milby High School, where she graduated in 1976.  She took real estate courses at the University of Houston and then earned her real estate license while working in the title industry.  During the next nine years, she sold real estate on a part-time basis while working full-time.  In 1985 she started a full-time career working for Gary Green Better Homes and Gardens, where she was a top producer.

Celia purchased her first project house at the age of 18.  She designed and built a multi-family residence in the Hobby Airport area when she was only 25 years old.  Later, she designed and built the residence in Pearland that she has called home for the past 31 years.  Celia had an amazing talent for taking a piece of property and making it incredibly special by making it a reflection of who she was, while always being respectful of the natural surroundings.

In 2007, after being diagnosed with life-threatening cancer and undergoing cancer treatment and abdominal surgery, she set out to build a grand home in the mountains of southwest Montana. Visitors often say it is the most spectacular home they have ever seen, and it was featured in several prominent publications.  For the past seven years, she has been working on transforming a forgotten Texas Hill Country property into a beautiful oasis of plants and wildlife, a sanctuary worthy of a state park.

Through the last 17 years, Celia’s continuous cancer battle with non-stop treatments and multiple grueling surgeries never stopped her from amazing accomplishments.  She never complained, and just shrugged it off when anyone tried to sympathize with her, saying “I don’t have time for this”.  She even managed to help others while fighting for her own life.  She has left her beautiful handprint on everything she ever touched.

In 1981, she married the love of her life, William Barry Milner, and the two of them have been soulmates for the past 43 years and friends for 51 years.  Both agree, despite many accomplishments together, that their greatest and most rewarding experience was raising four beautiful girls, Kaitlynn, Kyleigh, Kourtney and Kassidy.  Her impact on them will live on into the next generation, as her monumental struggles never slowed her down from being a great teacher, mother and role model of what a beautiful, elegant and strong woman should be.

Celia’s love of nature and all of God’s creatures and creations made her have a deep appreciation of her surroundings, no matter where she was, and she was always able to find God’s beauty in everything.  This was especially true of the spectacular mountains and streams in her second home, Montana, where she has visited consistently for the past 40 years.

For the past 25 years, the University of Houston has been the recipient of the couple’s philanthropy, which has been mostly directed to athletics and has played a role in returning the athletics program to national prominence.  Celia loved attending games at home and away to cheer for her Coogs.  She could be seen courtside at basketball games, often getting a big, sweaty hug from her favorite players, and even hugs from the head coach. During these years she made many long-lasting friendships, and she will be sorely missed by her entire UH family.

While in their fifties, Celia and Barry decided to take up horsemanship as a hobby, despite her ongoing cancer battle, and this opened an entire new world of friends and adventures that forever changed their lives for the better, as well as the lives of the new friends she met.  Barry will easily admit that she could outride him any day.  She has ridden hundreds of miles across many states in some of the most beautiful scenery our country has to offer.  Of course, when selecting a horse, Celia chose one that most people were too intimidated to ride, and the two of them developed a remarkable bond.  His name was Pusher, and he became a source of peace and consolation for her, her ‘best friend’.  She claims her ‘big fire breathing dragon’ helped heal her and kept her cancer away.  After his death, she replaced him with an exotic looking mare with a saucy attitude and named her Mariah, which means ‘the wind’ in Native American language.  Watching her gallop Mariah along the beach, into the wind with her hair and Mariah’s mane flying, was always such a thrill.

Celia loved nature, kept peanuts for the squirrels, seeds for the birds, carrots for the horses, planted catnip for her cats, and loved to feed the foxes.  She also loved all types of music, especially old western tunes, and could play the piano by ear.  She loved photography and spent hours taking photos of nature, and she was fascinated by sunsets.  Celia was a giving, sharing person and gracious hostess who made everyone feel like family. She is irreplaceable and will be missed by all who were fortunate enough to ever meet her.  Earth has lost an angel and Heaven has gained one. She was truly, one in a million.

Celia is preceded in death by her parents, Lawrence and Elizabeth Kocurek, nephew Christopher Simmons and brothers-in-law James Wilkinson, Don and Randy Milner

She is survived by her husband W. Barry Milner; daughters Kaitlynn Chamberlain and husband Chamber; Kyleigh Pratt and husband Cody; Kourtney Simmons, and Kassidy Simmons.  Celia is also survived by her grandchildren Noah, Lily and Theo Pratt, and Myles, Madalynn and Marshall Chamberlain; her sisters, Cindy Wilkinson, Cheryl Simmons and husband Douglas; nieces Amber Simmons, Laurie Simmons, Natalie Milner; nephews Clayton Wilkinson, Cory Wilkinson, Ryan Butler, Kyle Butler and Don Milner Jr.

There will be a visitation on Thursday, May 23rd from 5-7 p.m. at Crowder Funeral Home, 2422 E. Broadway St. Pearland, TX 77581.  The service will be at 11 a.m. on Friday, May 24th at The University of Houston, A.D. Bruce Religion Center, 3841 Cullen Blvd. Houston, TX 77204, with Chaplin Mikado Hinson officiating, followed by a reception at the Milner Lobby at TDECU Stadium, then a private burial at Forest Park Lawndale.

Pallbearers serving will be Chamber Chamberlain, Cody Pratt, Cory Wilkinson, Clayton Wilkinson, Isidro Martinez and Cody Turner.  Honorary pallbearers will be Randy Ofczarzak, Ryan Butler and Kyle Butler.





  1. OMG! This OBIT is as beautiful as Celia. I will forever cherish our times being with Celia & Pusher, and Barry and Custer, and Kathie B and of course War Eagle, whom we so loved in the rugged beauty of Montanas Jack Creek, where we rode and rode, and rode in Gods Country……..Now in Gods house, I suspect he has her on a rebuild and or remodel for someone needing Gods touch! Love,love this woman so much!!

    Miller B
    • To Celia’s family and friends,

      I am in total shock to hear about Celia. We went to school together. She was an amazing person. Kind soul and heart of gold. The obituary is beautiful. Such a life she lived and loved. She will be missed by everyone. Celia God needed an Angel and he took you because he only takes the best.
      I am sending my prayers to her family and friends. 💕🙏🙏💕
      Mary Price Ness
      Class of 1976
      Live in Utah now.

      Mary Price Ness
  2. I am going to miss my dear, beautiful, brave, adventurous, loving and kind friend!

    Kathie Bassler
  3. I will forever be grateful that I had the chance to meet this beautiful soul. I was blessed to get to ride into the sunset on the beach with Celia and Barry the first time we met. She was supposed to be at home preparing for a very serious surgery the next morning, but against her Doctors wishes rode on into the night. I remember being so impressed by this amazing couple and Celia’s strong will. I also remember wondering if I would ever get a chance to ride with her again.
    I did. Many, many times. Not near as many as I’d have wished, but I carry some wonderful memories of many races on the beach which Celia always won.
    What a brave soul. She touched my life, and made me a better person just seeing how she dealt with her fight.
    My heart is broken for her family and close friends, as I know she will be terribly missed here on this earth.
    I am however thankful for the faith that Celia is in the arms of our Father.

    Becky Pinion
  4. Mi mas sentido pésame para esposo y familia y a ella que Dios la tenga en el cielo 🙏

    Ponce arnulfo
  5. As Whitney and I are in the midst of raising 4 beautiful daughters…. What an honor it is to point to a woman of faithfulness and truth, like our sister in Christ, Celia. With eternal love, The Kolb Family

    Kolb Family
  6. Dear Barry, Remembering you and Celia in Cat Anatomy class sitting right behind me at Milby! You two were always giggling with your Masked Cat😺 I have often thought that Maybe that is where your love for each other began🥰🥰
    My deepest condolences to you, Barry. Deirdre Rhoad, (MD)💕

    • Dear Deirdre: you might very well be right about that anatomy class back at Milby. Whether it started there or not, who can say, but I know I was the beneficiary of having a relationship with the most beautiful and unique person I’ve ever met. She was indeed extremely special. And thank you Deirdre for taking time to post. It’s been a long time since we have seen you. I hope you’re doing fabulous.

  7. Barry,
    This photo and obituary of Celia is Beautiful! She was absolutely stunning in this picture!
    The obituary portrays the amazing and fulfilling life that you and Celia lived as a caring, sharing, and giving couple. Marian and I feel truly blessed to be a part of the Life and Family that the of two of you created.
    I feel humbled and privileged to be a honorary pallbearer for my little Sister.
    Our prayers continue to be with you and the family as you walk through this difficult but joyous celebration of Celia’s life.
    Randy and Marian

    Randy Ofczarzak
  8. I had the honor of calling her my boss and friend,she will truly be missed by all that knew her. My prayers and condolences go out to her family l.
    Love from Port Mansfield
    Captain Eric

    Eric Sauls
  9. 😭💔💔What a magnificent tribute to a magnificent soul. Many prayers and condolences for all of her family and her many friends. I was fortunate and blessed to meet her in the forest on a horse camping trip over a decade ago. She was a very kind and humble person and a great rider. She was also very supportive of me when I battled colon cancer. She was always uplifting to me and inspiring me, even while she was fighting her own battles. She was a true warrior and will be missed. Heaven has a gained a very special soul. God bless and comfort prayers for the family.

    Cheri Wantland
  10. The obituary was beautifully written. Jennifer and I are very saddened by her passing. She was a fantastic neighbor. Jennifer and I send our condolences to Barry. God bless.

    Matthew W Pershall
  11. Everything written about Celia here is so touching, true and absolutely correct. She was “one in a million” and is truly “irreplaceable”. We were so blessed to know her and to work with her for many years. Celia’s love of her family, animals and nature were qualities to be admired. We felt inspired by witnessing her always positive nature while never letting her treatments and illness slow her down, or keep her from doing the things she loved, especially horseback riding.

    I’ve said many times that she and Barry are the rare, true soulmate couple who always displayed such dedication, love, respect and companionship. They shared a beautiful love story and created an amazing life together. We trust she will live on in Barry’s heart and memories, and that her spirit will see him through each day. We will always remember and miss Celia – and the positive light she brought to those around her. Sending our deepest condolences to all the family. May God bless you all with peace and comfort knowing your beloved Celia is rejoicing above with all her previously lost loved ones and animals!

    Karen and Dino Iconos
  12. So Sorry to hear this news! what a Warrior Celica was. I have been praying for Celia every morning for many years! Condolences to Barry and the family. Celia was a beautiful person inside and outside. Love and Prayers to the family. Milby Love, Coach Honea.

    Boyce Honea
  13. Barry, I am so very sorry to hear about Celia she is and always will be a beautiful woman. I will Pray you and your family. I remember in school how nice she was to everyone.
    Celia is kindhearted and Beautiful inside out. God is so fortunate to have a new Angel named Celia.

    Lori Blount Knight
  14. Celia was a beautiful person and friend. Sincere condolences to her family. Prayers for strength.
    Buffalo Sister, Kathleen Campbell Sanderbeck

  15. Reading about Celia – we are reminded of her Grace – Beauty amd Kindness — few souls have lasting impressions- Celia was that Soul of Strength n Love – we miss our Great Friends from Cougar Land — all our Hope
    and Love to Barry n Family – God is Real
    !! – coaxh n jan

    Art Briles
  16. Sweet friend, your friendship was such a blessing to me. I treasure the wonderful memories of our times together. Sending my prayers for your loving family.

    Sherry "Jake" Tashjian
  17. Barry, so sorry for your loss. I fondly remember Celia’s love for animals even the bears, Thinking of you

    Marc Glines
  18. Celia will always be remembered as pure perseverance and toughness. The kindest and most sincere of friends We in Montana were Blessed with being her team and following her lead for creating the most talked about , recognized and beautiful Home crafted in the Big Sky Mts. A Truly one of a kind.Her creativeness never ceased but rolled into Cow Camp. Barry God now has her in his arms.

    Douglas K Bung
    • Doug, thank you so much for taking time to leave a message about Celia. I’ll never forget how your expert craftsman on that job went over and above to make every little detail Celia had in her mind come true. I meant what I said in her obituary about the home. i’ve never had a person step foot in it that was not blown away by the craftsmanship of that house. I believe it is a work of art that she achieved by working side-by-side with such a great builder and also kudos to the architect. Locati. The home is not only talked about their in Montana, but here in Houston as well thank you again Doug of Blue Ribbon Builders. Unmatched dedication to help Celia bring that dream to life.

      Barry Milner
  19. Celia was a true friend. So many fun memories, we had so much fun in the late seventies, we would go to all the Disco´s in the Houston area in her orange Datsun truck, she had that magical smile and laugh that got us into the clubs, she won many dance contest, she new many styles on dance. She also took us all over the hill country, one particular time we were camping at Pedernales State Park, with Kerry and her father Laurence, Laurence had made us supper over the campfire and then it was time to go to the Disco in San Marcus and I remember Celia had brought her curling iron and she plugged in into the the lighter socket in the orange truck. She was so resourceful. She had this nack for finding her way all over the hill country even in the dark. As time went on we both went our separate ways, but she always remembered my Birthday and would reach out to me, we would talk like we never parted. The last time I spoke to her was in February we were comparing notes on our grandchildren´s births. I will miss her but, I will never forget her!

    Diane L Hennan
  20. Dear Barry & family.
    What a beautiful tribute to an extraordinary, precious, vibrant, loving, kind, adventurous, faith filled, unique woman.
    My heart & prayers go out to you all.
    I know she will be dearly missed.
    Celia was always so kind and welcoming to me.
    Loved our “Cousins Christmases” together.
    Celia always had a smile on her face that put people at ease immediately.
    I’m honored to have known such an incredible, fascinating woman.

    Love to you all.

    Theresa Dedmon
  21. What a beautiful and perfectly written tribute to my cousin, Celia. All of these condolences share the same, beautiful message….
    CELIA: beautiful, funny, accomplished, warrior, kindhearted, teacher, role model, tough, sincere, gracious, irreplaceable, friend, unmatched, creative, dedicated, special, supportive, nature lover, animal lover, resourceful, and more, many more.
    I will just always remember her as Happy! Being eight years younger than she, as a young girl, I remember her bringing the fun and happiness to the Kocurek Christmas parties, sausage making days, trips to the little bay house, and more. Or, how amazed I was she could play the accordion! Even as an adult, I will always remember how much happiness she brought to all of us. She was just a ray of sunshine. I think we could add that and determined to her list. Determined to bring others happiness even in her hardest moments. I loved her and admired her in my youth and now as an adult. I will continue to aspire to be more like her.
    Sending love and prayers to Barry, her girls, and her family.

    Sharon Dedmon Woodruff
  22. I have fond memories of Celia beginning when we were very young, almost 60 years ago. My brother Doug and her sister Cheryl were dating and we would tag along and our friendship grew. I have so many great memories with Celia…catching crawfish in the ditch at Aunt Lilly’s, making rock candy, digging up earthworms in PawPaws compost and going fishing, making homemade sausage and hand made sequins Christmas ornaments, helping decorate the huge Kocurek Christmas tree, Avon facials, swimming in a small pool in the driveway, playing with her huge collection of Matchbox cars, riding bikes to the Park Place Library, watching Dark Shadows after school, listening to her huge collection of albums, crabbing and saning at the bay house, shrimping with PawPaw Lawrence, laying on the pier late at night singing Girl Scout songs, sneaking out late at night to meet boys, driving through the hill country and sleeping in the back of her truck next to the river and under the stars, partying at the Woerst Festival and drinking Shiner beer, stopping at every antique store we spotted, loading up a Werlitzer juke box into her truck that she had bought in New Braunfels, disco dancing at Uncle Sam’s, dance contests, spending time at the deer lease hunting arrow heads and swimming in the river, dancing the night away in Lukenbach, Texas. The list of memories from our youth goes on and on. As we got older and life got busy our friendship was more distant but Celia has always had a special place in my heart. Celia lived life to the fullest and I admire her for that. Because of Celia’s adventurous spirit I had a chance to see life through her eyes. Celia you were so special to anyone who was fortunate to have crossed your path of life. I’m so thankful to have called you my friend. Job well done. Love you,

    Paula Dixon

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