Curtis “Doc” Bourgeois and his family moved to Rocheport, bought 15 acres of bluff property overlooking the Missouri River and built their home in 1974. Here, Bourgeois’ winemaking hobby and way to beautify the property eventually turned into a vibrant business and popular mid-Missouri tourist destination: Les Bourgeois Vineyards.
Bourgeois, the “country doctor” of mid-Missouri and founder of Les Bourgeois Vineyards, died Thursday, Sept. 19, at 84, surrounded by his family.
A father of four and grandfather of five, Bourgeois was called “Doc” by many. His eldest son, Curtis Malcolm Bourgeois, said the nickname was started by kids in town who knew him and those he helped.
“He was very helpful as kind of the ‘country doctor’ for any neighbor, any kid or anybody who had some medical question, whether it was a tick, scratch, bump or rash,” Curtis Malcolm Bourgeois said. “He had an affinity for kids, so it was sweet.”
Bourgeois and his wife, Martha Jane Stephenson, married in 1956 and moved their family to mid-Missouri in 1971 after his retirement from the U.S. Army. Bourgeois retired as a colonel, and the family moved often throughout his service, living in cities across the U.S. as well as in Bangkok, Thailand, his son said.
“That was the way we got to see the world, because every two years we’d move from base to base,” he said.
Curtis Malcolm Bourgeois took over the family winery in 1987 until the business was sold in April 2019 to Jacob and Rachel Holman. Jacob Holman started working in 1999 and has been head winemaker since 2006. Rachel Holman has been CEO of the winery since 2013.
“I’m grateful that we found the right owners to carry the tradition that my dad started,” Curtis Malcolm Bourgeois said.
Each year, Les Bourgeois Vineyards hosts its annual Crush Festival to kick off harvest season. This year is the 25th anniversary of the festival, and it will be held in honor of Bourgeois. The event is free and open to the public from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5, and Sunday, Oct. 6.
“In a way, what we do every day honors him,” Rachel Holman said. “It is still very much a family business.”
Bourgeois is also known for his doctoral work at Boyce & Bynum Pathology Laboratories in Columbia. Bourgeois is a 1961 graduate of Louisiana State University School of Medicine and practiced at Boyce & Bynum for 26 years until his retirement in 2001.
Curtis Malcolm Bourgeois said his father was also Boone County’s coroner in the early 1970s before it was a paid position. Other than the winery and his work in the U.S. Army and as a doctor, Bourgeois enjoyed writing and photography.
“He was very creative,” his son said. “He thought he was a poet.”
Curtis Malcolm Bourgeois said his father had some of his essays published in local papers, some works that “got him into some trouble.”
“He definitely enjoyed provoking people,” Curtis Malcolm Bourgeois joked. “He got pleasure out of being ornery.”
What people appreciate most was his easygoing and accessible personality, Curtis Malcolm Bourgeois said.
“He’s definitely a self-made man,” his son said.
Bourgeois’ service will be held at 2 p.m. Oct. 5 at Rocheport Methodist Church. Bourgeois is survived by his wife, Roslyn Bourgeois, whom he married in 2005; four children, Marcia Bourgeois, Curtis Bourgeois, Karen Bourgeois and Stephen Bourgeois; and five granddaughters.