Archive for Thursday, March 18, 2004

Family remembers man who died with ‘no worries, no regrets’

March 18, 2004

The greatest gift a person can give is their time, talent and kindness. James "Bud" Freeman Acock spent his life giving these things freely to anyone who was lucky enough to cross his path. He inspired everyone he came into contact with during his 87 years on Earth, leaving a legacy that will not soon be forgotten in Bonner Springs and beyond.

Mr. Acock died early in the morning Friday, March 12, in his home, 110 Clark Street, with his wife of 68 years -- the love of his life -- by his side. "His last words were 'I love you,'" said Anna Acock, who believes that she would have been lucky to even know her husband, let alone be his wife.

The two met 70 years ago at Bonner Springs High School. Anna lived in Independence, Mo., at the time, but her older sister got a job as a nanny in Bonner Springs, so she was attending high school there. Anna decided to visit her sister and tag along at school, and ended up in a biology class that her sister attended with Bud.

"He had on a blue sweater that just turned his eyes sky blue," she recalled fondly. "He decided he wanted to know me and he took something of my sister's and wouldn't give it back until she introduced us."

They connected immediately.

Four days later, Anna's father was walking home from work in Independence when he was hit by a car and killed. Bud wrote her a letter telling her that he was so sorry about her father's death and that he would take care of her now.

"He said that I needed a daddy, and that he would take care of me," Anna remembers with a smile. "So I let him, and he took care of me ever since."

Bud lost his father when he was only 12 years old, so the two shared a special connection, and he knew how important it was to have someone in a time of need. The two fell in love almost immediately and were married in 1936.

"He loved me unconditionally, and I loved him and we agreed before we were married that we would only add to each other's happiness and never take away from it," says Anna.

In 1940, they bought their lifelong home on Clark Street in Bonner Springs for $700. The house needed a lot of work, and Bud took to the task. He worked on the house his entire life -- even digging the basement by hand -- illustrating his unrelenting patience.

"I went down there and was swinging a pick ax at the ground," recalls Anna, "and with each swing he would only get a tea cup full of rock and dirt. I couldn't even watch, because I could hardly stand how hard he was working. But it didn't bother him. He knew that he just needed to keep at it and someday it would be done. He was the most patient person that you could ever imagine living with, even up until the last day."

The couple had four children during the next 17 years. Bud was a loving, patient father and grandfather who spent time fishing, hunting, playing and laughing with the children. Humor was also an important part of who he was and how he connected with the people in his life. Bud was known and loved for his dry wit (he could not pass a garage sale without stopping and making an offer on the garage, for example). In addition to teaching his children and grandchildren the joy of laughter, he also took the time to teach most of them -- including the girls -- his beloved trade.

Bud was a carpenter his entire life and built hundreds of homes throughout Johnson County and beyond and dozens more in Bonner Springs. Some people estimate that he built and worked on nearly 1,000 homes in his lifetime. A few days before his death he told family members that he wished he had a photograph of every house he built.

Bud also built the Community of Christ Church (formerly RLDS) in Bonner Springs (where his services are to be held) and the church's retreat compound "Camp Chihowa" near Perry. Bud did this work as a service to his church and his community and refused payment.

His kindness spilled over into his daily work as a carpenter and builder. He felt that carpentry was something he could do that was meaningful, that he could make a difference and help people through his trade.

"He had a special compassion for widows, because his mother was left a widow," Anna said. "So anything that a widow needed, he would get it for them or build it for them. I was so proud of him because that was such a wonderful trait, I was never upset that he was off doing things for others. They would call and need screens fixed or need a new door lock, general repair on their homes, in many cases he did not charge -- only if they offered to pay, he never asked."

Making money was not important to him, just as long as he had enough to take care of his family. Many of the carpenters that he trained in his lifetime went on to be major builders and very successful financially, but Bud was content with his life and what he had and did not have the same ambitions.

"The only person he ever cheated was himself," Anna said, referring to the low bids and bills her husband gave his clients. "I remember one man that he did work for said 'I really want Bud to do all my work, but I hate to hire him because I know he doesn't charge enough' . . . but that was just his way."

Anna says that what people will remember most about him is what everyone has been telling her during the last 68 years: that he was such a good friend and that he never took advantage of anyone.

When he was younger, Bud would visit all of the elderly people in his neighborhood on a regular basis to make sure that they were OK and had food to eat. This is because his time on Earth was not his own, says his grandson, Andy Brazee, of Lawrence, who followed in his grandfather's footsteps and became a carpenter.

"He spent his life doing good for others and was an example of how you should treat people" Brazee said.

While many people fear being alone when they are elderly, it never crossed Bud's mind. Until the last days of his life he was surrounded by family and he had visitors several times a week. When asked why, Anna answered, "Respect."

Instead of growing a lifetime of monetary assets, Bud grew wealth of a different sort with the friendships and relationships he had in his community. And in this regard, most would agree that he was the richest man in town.

While saddened by his death, Bud's family finds comfort in the fact that they know he truly was happy and content until the last day of his life.

"He died happy, he really did." Andy Brazee said. "He had no worries and no regrets. He was perfectly happy and content until the day he died because his was a life well lived."

Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. today at the Community of Christ Church, 130 Metropolitan, Bonner Springs. Burial will follow in the Bonner Springs Cemetery.

Contributing writer Hannah Brazee Gregory is the granddaughter of James "Bud" Freeman Acock. She is a writer/editor and founder of Shoestring Creative Group, located in Portland, Maine, where she lives with her husband and two young boys.

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