Beloved music minister touched many lives

Charles Allen Cusack III

Charles Allen Cusack III

Allen Cusack was a warrior against sickle cell

The DeLand area has lost a beloved music minister and community pillar who was a trailblazer for research and education about sickle cell anemia.

Charles “Allen” Cusack III departed this life Feb. 8, 2017. Services were scheduled today, Feb. 16, at 1 p.m. at The Sanctuary Church, 401 E. Taylor Road in DeLand.

Born in Daytona Beach, Mr. Cusack was the only son of James E. and Brenda B. Cusack of DeLand.

At the early age of 6 months, he was diagnosed with sickle cell anemia. Throughout his life, he was devoted to furthering research, treatments, information, methodology and family support for sickle cell sufferers.

His work extended to school-attendance policies, blood-transfusion methodology, genetic and pharmacologic research, improvements in pain-management research, and the support of sickle cell testing of newborns in Florida, regardless of race.

His legislative efforts were introduced and influenced by his aunt, former state legislator and current Volusia County Council Member Joyce Cusack, who is also a nurse.

By age 10, Mr. Cusack was the “Sickle Cell Poster Child” for Volusia County and the state of Florida, and he was a national ambassador for its awareness campaigns.

At the age of 11, he was made an honorary member of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America’s national board after introducing the presentation “I’m NOT Contagious: A Guide for Young Clients” at the organization’s national meeting in Dayton, Ohio.

At age 12, Mr. Cusack published that work as a guide to help combat social stigmas for children with blood-related illnesses through The Journal of Psycho-Social Awareness published by Duke University.

He also lectured at schools, colleges, career days, and family support and community events.

Mr. Cusack was baptized at Emanuel Baptist Church in Jacksonville by his maternal grandfather, the Rev. Dr. S.L. Badger Jr.

He served as the charter president of the West Volusia Youth Council Branch of the NAACP during high school.

As an adult, Mr. Cusack was a member of the NAACP, Progressive Pallbearers Lodge No. 119, and the national board of the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America, and was a charter member of the Springhill Kiwanis Club and served on the club’s board of directors.

Mr. Cusack was an honors graduate of DeLand High School, Cambridge University, the National Academy of Mortuary Science, and Minnesota Graduate School of Theology at Brooklyn Park.

He held degrees in business administration and funeral services, and a doctorate in ministry in Christian-music administration.

Unable to compete in sports and participate in outdoor activities, Mr. Cusack felt the call to develop his skills and interests in music. He was motivated by his maternal grandmother, Susan Moffitt-Badger, to play Sunday-school hymns, and he mimicked her keyboard skills.

Further influenced by his aunts Erma Mitchell and Willie Mae Johnson, along with both sets of godparents, Mr. Cusack became a fifth-generation church musician.

His first paraprofessional experience was as the musician for summer camp at Massey-James Youth Center in Lake Helen.

Next, he was a Sunday-school musician and the director of a critically acclaimed 60-voice youth choir at Greater Union First Baptist Church of DeLand, where he successfully taught three-part harmony, recorded a CD, and developed a well-rounded repertoire.

Not long after, Mr. Cusack served as the musician for the Mount Zion Northeast Coast District’s annual Youth Rally Choir.

As his talents and interest blossomed, he continued to develop and facilitate music and choir instructions and workshops for the Florida General Baptist Convention Women’s Auxiliary, the Mount Zion Northeast Coast District Association and Congress, and the Carrie B. Smokes Music Academy at St. Annis Primitive Baptist Church in DeLand.

Mr. Cusack was a music teacher for the African American Museum of the Arts in DeLand, and, later, was the gospel-choir director for Stetson University and the chorus programs at Blue Lake Elementary and Southwestern Middle schools in DeLand.

In addition to serving as the minister of music for St. Annis, he also served in the Volusia/Flagler Chapter of Gospel Music Workshop of America, as the director of music for the Mount Zion Northeast Coast District Association, and the Florida General Baptist Convention Women’s Auxiliary.

Professionally, Mr. Cusack was the general manager of J.E. Cusack Mortuary of DeLand and Rocker-Cusack Mortuary of Leesburg. He was also an author, lyricist, composer and director.

In 1995, Mr. Cusack began serving the St. Annis Church family as a musician, along with “Musical Godmother” Carrie B. Smokes.

He left St. Annis to further his education, and upon Mother Smokes’ request, returned to serve as the full-time minister of music in 2014.

Additionally, his godparents, James and Carol Dandridge, enhanced his skills to a level where he proficiently mastered the gift for multidenominational orders of worship through songs.

Mr. Cusack is the husband of Karen (“His Care Bear”) D. Cusack and the father of Ayja, Destiny, Devin and Taccara (Chanden); and grandfather of Taryn.

His brothers-in-law are Ronnie Moore (Helen), Michael Moore, Charles Humphrey and Ian Humphrey (Valerie); his aunts are Barbara Bing, Erma Mitchell, Melba J. Badger, Annie Westberry and Joyce Cusack; his great-aunts are Hazel Cusack and Willie Mae Johnson; and his uncle is Solomon Badger III (Julie).

He is also survived by “Cuzuncle” Cousin Uncle Charles Anthony Cusack; godparents the Rev. and Mrs. Willie Hagan; godchildren Maya Brown, Hamilton Tyler Thomas, Simeon Thomas and Juliana Hancock; and many godbrothers and godsisters, including Lewis Temple Jr., Mario Davis, Jack Starke, Robbye Gould, Jasmyne Mitchell, Lashonda Hill and many more.

He is also survived by musical mentors Carnetta Odom, Lorraine Byner, Dorothy Bender, Patricia James-Bennett and Stanley Whitted; nieces, nephews and a host of cousins; special “birthday buddies” Leigh Nesmith and the Rev. Joyce Wright; friends, musical peers, funeral-home staff and associates.

Memorial donations may be made to Mount Zion Northeast District Choir for the choir’s Centennial Project (checks payable to Mount Zion NE District Choir) or MZNEC Massey-James Improvements (checks payable to MZNEC Massey-James) at MZNEC, P.O. Box 717, Lake Helen, FL 32744.

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