Under the clear blue sky, friends, family and colleagues of DeSoto Mayor Curtistene McCowan filled the chairs spaced out in a parking lot of Disciple Central Community Church, as they remembered her legacy Sunday afternoon.
McCowan died Wednesday at the age of 72, just weeks after she announced in early October that she was diagnosed with lung cancer.
"I'm going to miss her, I'm going to truly miss her," said Kenzie Moore III, the mayor pro tem for DeSoto.
Because of McCowan's death, Moore is now the leader of the community and taking over the mayor's duties.
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"I just feel I need to keep doing what she would want me to do in this moment. I just need to think about the city, I need to think about my council members who are also struggling with this as well, and this moment it’s very challenging, extremely, challenging, because she was more than just the mayor for me," said Moore, who credited McCowan for getting him into public service.
McCowan was elected mayor of DeSoto in May 2016 and was re-elected to a second term in 2019.
Before she served as mayor, she was a city council member and held several positions on DeSoto's economic development board. McCowan founded Concerned DeSoto Citizens and was active in the organization for 31 years alongside her husband.
McCowan was active in education at the national, state and local levels. She was the first African-American elected to public office when she won a seat on the DeSoto Independent School District Board of Trustees in 1990.
She served as president for two of the six years on the board. In January 2007 a middle school was named for her.
"She had a way, even though she had a lot of power, a lot of influence to make you feel like you're the most important person in the room," said Marcus D. King, pastor of Disciple Central Community Church.
McCowan was a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. The group's main color is red, which was her favorite color as well.
The city has red ribbons draped around city hall in remembrance of McCowan. People can pick them up from the city building.
”And that's why we decided to do this, these ribbons represent her and so I'm trying to get them throughout the whole city, so that when people see red they’ll think of Curtistene McCowan," Moore said.
DeSoto will leave the city flag at half staff in honor of McCowan, who will be laid to rest later this week.
Her visitation is open to the public on Thursday, Nov. 5 at Kirkwood Temple CME Episcopal Church at 1440 Sunny Glen Drive in Dallas from 1-6 p.m. Social distancing and mask-wearing will be in place.
The family will hold a private funeral on Friday, Nov. 6 at 11 a.m. due to COVID-19 restrictions, but the service will be streamed online.
McCowan is survived by her husband of 54 years, Leon R. McCowan, two sons and three grandchildren.