James Erskine Cusack
JAMES ERSKINE CUSACK, born in the “delightful little city” of Deland, FL. at the Deland Navy Base Hospital, April 12, 1949. The youngest son of the late Ruth and Charles Cusack, Sr.; and a very welcomed “baby brother” of Charles “Chuck” Cusack, Jr. (deceased). James attended Euclid and Starke Elementary School (1st class) during some very transitional times in our social history. An Honor (Salutatorian) graduate of Southwestern Jr.-Sr. High, class of ’67; where he was elected Student Government President, “Most Likely to Succeed”, Vice President of his class and was cited for leadership in the Future Farmers of America; specializing in competitions in Oratory and Parliamentary Procedures. He further distinguished himself as a member of the Honor Society, delegate to Boy’s State, served as a Senate Page and performed in the Southwestern High band; where he excelled on woodwind instruments, receiving Superior ratings at State festivals and competitions. He accompanied friends and family (Johnson Bro’s) in local bands, until engagements began to conflict with his work and Church commitments.
FAITHFULLY committed to the Greater Union Baptist Church, an avid Sunday School scholar, he often represented the Youth Department at Conventions and Competitions at local, District and State levels. As a young boy, he assisted his parents, who were both employed at the Arthur J. Mack Funeral Home, and faithful leaders/ volunteer workers at GREATER UNION. From his mother he learned office skills and bookkeeping; and from his father he learned driving, automotive, cemetery and building maintenance.
Under the guiding hands of the late George Williams, Allen Johnson and Dr. L. C. Starke, he was awarded the Bausch & Laumb Science Scholarship to the University of Miami, majoring in Biology/Pre-Medicine until drafted into the U S Army (no college deferment during Vietnam war). In 1969 he was honorably discharged from active service. With scholarships relinquished, he resumed studies in Biology at Stetson University, until admitted into Miami-Dade’s William Philbrick, Sr.-School of Mortuary Science. To finance his education he worked as a laborer, lab assistant (at both schools), and commuted back to DeLand on weekends to work as a Funeral Assistant and Driver.
With a special gift in Chemistry and “Restorative Arts”, he completed his internships in Embalming and Funeral Directing, simultaneously. He immediately passed the State Boards and was among the first graduates, and first Blacks, to pass the National Boards, giving him license to practice in his profession in 44 of the 50 states.
Despite many opportunities and lucrative offers made, he has chosen to remain in his beloved hometown of DeLand. Believing that he could be of greater service to the people he knew best. His focus and watchword is “to provide courteous, professional, sympathetic service”…and “serving God through his service to others”.
He further served Greater Union First Baptist Church as Chairman of Deacons. He was also Ordained for Service as a Deacon of Emanuel Missionary Baptist Church, Jacksonville, under the guiding hand of his father-in-law and Mentor, Dr. Solomon L. Badger, Jr. Past: Trustee/Board of Directors/ Advisory Ministry-Chairman, and Advisor to Ushers. At the time of his death he was the Senior Deacon at Greater Union First Baptist Church (45 Years). In the community he was: “Weed & Seed” Chairman, Career/Occupational Counselor-Campus Advisor- DeLand High School, Commissioner-DeLand Housing Authority, Board Chairman: African American Museum of the Arts, Citizens’ Advisory Task Force and Chairman of the 4th Regional District- Florida Morticians. Other Memberships include: School Advisory Council, College Arms Towers Board, Sickle Cell Association, Independent Funeral Directors, Life member NAACP and Mu Sigma Tau Honorary Mortuary Fraternity, DeLand and Lake Helen Chamber(s) of Commerce; Progressive Pallbearers Lodge #119 and Senator Coleman Lodge I.B.P.OE. OF W. #1175. In 1997, they purchased the former Arthur J. Mack Funeral Home, and established J. E. Cusack Mortuaries, LLC. In 2010 he branched into partnership with the Rocker Family (Lake County) to establish Rocker-Cusack Mortuary of Leesburg.
He is known for his benevolence and sponsorships of Youth, education, athletic, fraternal, church and community activities and Volunteerism, Mentorships and Career Days and School Advisory Council.
Among his most distinguished honors: Greater Union “Talented Tenth” Award, Leadership-Trustees; 2002-“Mortician-of-the Year”, Delta Sigma Theta, Greater Union Summer Enrichment Program, “Sons of DeLand”- Community Service, Electralyte Charity Club Humanitarian Award and Class of ’67 Leadership and career day facilitator.
He has been married, 45 years, to Brenda (Badger), formerly of Jacksonville, whom he affectionately refers to as his “Wifee.” He was also the proud father of one son, Charles “Allen” Cusack, III, deceased (Karen); grandfather of four; Ayja Siouxzahn, Destiny Phay, Devin Devonte and Taccara Monique (Chandin); and great-grandfather of three. Taryn & Channing Marzette and Khaleel Humphrey. Other Survivors: (Aunts) Willie Mae Johnson, Thelma Badger, and Etta Wiggins; Sisters-in-law; Joyce Cusack, Barbara Bing, Erma Mitchell, Melba-Joyce Badger, Ann Badger, Brother-in-law; Solomon(Chuck) Badger, III, (Julie); “in law-in law” Joan Lane; god brother, Michael Cohen; god sister, Marilyn Jordon; a number of nieces and nephews including Jan Johnson, Julie Gordan & Danisha Chisolm (Ben), and Je’nah Bing-Wilson (Robert) who assisted with his care. A host of cousins, grand nieces, and nephews.
He often says they are also “on their 3rd generation of beloved godchildren, ‘god-students’ and loyal employees”.
Mantra: “It is better to wear-out than to rust-out.”
In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting donations be made to the Massey James Youth Center (Lake Helen) Memo Line- Renovations/projects.
Arrangements entrusted to the care of Cusack Mortuary, Deland and Flagg Serenity Memorial Chapel, Palatka.