BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Dr. Charles Allen Cusack, a funeral home director, musician and music teacher was remembered this month as a man who persevered and excelled despite a lifelong battle with sickle cell anemia.
Cusack died on Feb. 8. On Feb. 16, family and friends said their goodbyes at a service at The Sanctuary Church in DeLand.
He was the general manager of family businesses – J.E. Cusack Mortuary in DeLand and Rocker Cusack Mortuary of Leesburg. Cusack also excelled as an author, and lyricist, composer and director.
“He was pretty special. His family will miss him. His laughter will be missed. He was a meticulous person and just a perfectionist,” remarked his aunt, Volusia County Commissioner Joyce Cusack.
‘A love for music’
Unable to play sports, Cusack developed his skills in music. As a pianist, he played and led choirs at several churches. He also directed choirs at schools.
“He excelled at music. He was in and out of the hospital all his life. He couldn’t play sports or do P.E., but he developed a love for music. He learned to play piano. He was an active musician at churches. He came from a musical family,” Joyce Cusack noted.
He served as Sunday School musician and director of the critically acclaimed 60-voice youth choir at Greater Union First Baptist Church of DeLand. There, he also recorded a CD.
In addition, he served as a musician for the Mount Zion Northeast Coast District’s annual Youth Rally Choir.
He taught choir and music workshops for several churches and church organizations.
Cusack taught music at the African American Museum of the Arts, was director of the Stetson University Gospel Choir, and taught chorus at Blue Lake Elementary and Southwestern Middle schools in DeLand.
His accomplishments including serving as director of music for the Mount Zion Northeast Coast District Association and Florida General Baptist Convention Women’s Auxiliary.
Charles Allen Cusack was born on Dec. 9, 1978 in Daytona Beach to James E. and Brenda B. Cusack of DeLand. He was the couple’s only son.
At just 6 months old, he was diagnosed with sickle cell anemia.
“He was such a fighter. He never complained about pain or his condition. There were many times that he couldn’t walk or raise his arms, but he just continued on,” Joyce Cusack stated.
By age 10, her nephew was the Sickle Cell Poster Child for Volusia County and served as a national ambassador for awareness campaigns.
He was made an honorary member of a national board after introducing the presentation: “I’m NOT Contagious: A Guide for Young Clients” at a meeting in Dayton, Ohio at age 11.
At age 12, he 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 in addition to lecturing at schools, colleges, career days and family support and community events.
‘Wealth of knowledge’
Cusack graduated from DeLand High School with honors and earned a bachelor’s degree from Cambridge University. He had a degree in business administration.
He also was a graduate of the National Academy of Mortuary Science and Minnesota Graduate School of Theology at Brooklyn Park, where he earned his doctorate in ministry in Christian-music administration.
“He was a very bright man who had a wealth of knowledge that he was willing to share. He was a historian that would tell you things too,” added Joyce Cusack.
He is survived by his wife, Karen D. Cusack, and their children, Ayja, Destiny, Devin and Taccara (Chanden) and grandchild Taryn.
Memorial donations in his honor may be made to Mount Zion North East District Choir for a Centennial Project. Make checks payable to Mount Zion NE District Choir or MZNEC Massey James Improvements. The address is MZNEC, P.O. Box 717, Lake Helen, FL 32744.