Acton Black Family Food Program raises funds to feed hospice families
By Julie Raefield
“Everyone loved our father, but first and foremost he was a family man,” said Acton’s son Bill Black. “He was always supportive, but he also had us sit and think and be ready for what would happen if our plans didn’t work out. He had integrity and we always knew we were loved.”
“Dad would push us to take a risk, to be the best that we could be,” added daughter Lynn Black. “But, he was so kind and had a smile for everyone. No matter what, Dad would learn everyone’s names – whether in the hospital, at hospice or in his community. He felt it was so important to make people feel recognized.”
Acton Black’s commitment to giving respect to others and building community will live on in a special way at Celia’s House. The Black Family has started a program to ensure any family member visiting their loved one in hospice care will be able to receive free meals. The family has opened the Acton Black Family Food Program to maintain this gift to other families for years to come; to feel nurtured and taken care of, in the way their family felt at Celia’s House.
“Our (hospice) story starts like a lot of others,” said daughter Lori Black. “We had been through so many hospitals, doctor’s appointments…taking care of so many things. When we finally found Celia’s House, we had been doing everything. When we walked through the door on the first day, exhausted, we were greeted so warmly. Volunteer John offered us all a bowl of Karen’s delicious homemade chicken soup. It felt so wonderful – like no other place we had been with Dad.”
“Celia’s House staff made the whole experience so much easier to deal with,” said son Charles Black. “The whole place made me feel good about my dad being there. The smell of good cooking, the piano being played, the walks in the garden. I was so glad that he was there – I could go home for the night and feel okay.” “The great care here really blew us away,” added Bill. “The staff was like family – going through this journey together with us.”
“Because of COVID-19, we haven’t been able to hold a celebration of life for our dad,” said Lori. Starting this program to cover the costs of other families’ meals is our way of honoring our dad. This is our celebration of his life. It is our goal to make it easy for all families, including those with fewer resources, to be able to count on meals when visiting Celia’s House.”
“Being at Celia’s gave us an opportunity to be a family again, to share meals again with our father and to not have to take care of everything. We want everyone to have that opportunity,” added Lynn and Bill.
In honor of Acton’s life his family has also shared his passing with others. “I posted the news of my dad’s passing on a telephone company page,” said Lori. “One person shared a piece of advice that my dad had given them and I think it really shows my dad’s nature: ‘Listen to what you are being told to do, and then do what’s right.’ One of the best ones simply said, ‘Your dad was truly one of the good guys.’ “
Acton Black began his life-long career at the phone company as a lineman’s assistant – a hard labor job that sharpened his commitment to respecting every fellow worker’s contribution while on his rise to leadership. With over 68 years in the telecommunications industry, even after his passing, Acton is recognized by his phone company co-workers and nearly 700 supervisees as a man deeply respected and beloved.
An athlete who played semi-pro basketball, a Korean War veteran, a fisherman, an avid U. of O. Ducks fan, an outdoorsman and a man who spent many a night just off-stage managing the Academy Awards broadcasts, Acton Black continued his cherished work in telecommunications right up through 2019 – his 88th year. While he never actually retired, Acton enjoyed his retirement years living on the Winchuck River in Brookings, a family home owned by his parents and uncle since the late 1960s. The home brought him great joy, offering him inspiration to write poetry about how fortunate he was to live there.
Acton’s wife Angelina and his four children had travelled alongside Acton throughout his illness, assisting in every way they could. Lynn was able to step away from her job to provide round-the-clock care for many months, assisted by her mother and siblings. However, his illness rapidly progressed over the summer of 2019. By Thanksgiving, Acton began a series of difficult hospitalizations.
Acton finally arrived at Celia’s House on January 2 of this year. The family was able to stay nearby through Acton’s remaining days. And, like so many families helping their loved one in a terminal condition, care-taking up until their arrival had become a full-time responsibility. “It was so very tough to decide to let others step in,” said Lynn. But once at Celia’s, the choice felt right to the family. “Susan Hearn spent so much time with us, making sure my dad would be set-up with good care appropriate for his needs. She was kind and loving and we are very grateful.”
“My dad took advantage of everything that was offered at Celia’s House – enjoying the choir who would sing by his bedside, the young man who played piano downstairs, the pastoral care visits,” said Lori and Lynn. “At the end, we had so many of the Celia’s House staff and volunteers at his bedside. It was very special.”
Acton Black’s warmth, love, hard-work ethic and his advice to “do what’s right” will live on through his family’s actions. The Acton Black Family Food Program at Celia’s House will help many family members attending their loved ones to receive nourishing, comforting food without worry about cost.
For anyone wishing to contribute to the Acton Black Family Food Program, the online donation form may be found here: https://sofriendsofhospice.org/ways-to-give/donation-of-money/. Please select the “Black Family Food Program” under the APPEAL section.