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The Lockwood Folly community said goodbye to its property owners association president by naming a community park after him.
Gordon Ackley Park was dedicated Dec. 1.
“He was extremely involved in the community. He knew every blade of grass; he knew the history, he knew all the people,” said Joe Geise, president of the Lockwood Folly POA who served as vice president under Ackley.
Geise said Ackley’s goal was to make Lockwood Folly’s POA the model of how a POA should operate in North Carolina.
“He was not a golfer; he was not into the clubs. The POA was his life—he loved it,” Geise said.
Gordon Ackley and his wife, Sharlene, retired to Lockwood Folly 12 years ago.
Gordon Ackley was a quality control supervisor with Eastman Kodak in New York.
“He was like a sounding board for my ideas, questions and problems,” Sharlene Ackley said. “He had a good mind for solving problems, moving people forward with good ideas and reining them in if they were too ambitious.”
The family vacationed in the area for several years before the couple chose to retire to Lockwood Folly.
They have four daughters, Rhonda, Christine, Leisa and Ellen, and one adopted daughter, Suzanne, from Kuala Lampur, who worked with Gordon at Eastman Kodak.
Gordon Ackley got involved in improving the community immediately after moving in, Sharlene Ackley said.
He was elected POA president in 2005.
Sandra Farrell first met Gordon Ackley after moving to Lockwood Folly that same year.
“At that first meeting, I liked him very much—he was very warm, very friendly,” she said.
Farrell needed variances approved for her home, but what struck her about Ackley was as friendly as he was, he didn’t promise her anything.
“He told me the board would do what’s best for the community,” Farrell said. “He was always fair, always thinking ‘what’s the right thing to do?’ He had enormous credibility.”
Gordon Ackley was also a member the Alliance of Brunswick County Property Owners Associations and a coordinator of the Meet the Candidates nights at Brunswick Community College.
Farrell soon became friends with Sharlene Ackley, who also focused on community improvement by maintaining flowers in the neighborhood.
“As a couple, they were totally into their community and making it the best,” Farrell said.
Geise said Ackley was being treated for bladder cancer and in September received word his most recent screening was cancer free. But three weeks later he was still in pain and went for another screening at Duke University Hospital in Durham.
“The cancer was very aggressive and had returned and he was told it was terminal,” Geise said.
Geise, who moved to Lockwood Folly in 2007, served as POA vice president but had no intention of replacing Ackley as president.
“I told Gordon, you will have to live forever because I’m not taking the job,” Geise said. “He called me on the Saturday before he came home. He said, ‘I’ve got really bad news for you—you’re going to be the president of the POA.’”
Geise said Ackley’s joke about his terminal diagnosis was just part of the positive face he put on his condition.
“All through (his ordeal) he was the most positive guy. He had a great attitude that tomorrow would be better than today,” Geise said.
“Even when he was sick he was still out meeting people,” Farrell added.
Gordon Ackley came home from the hospital on Oct. 2.
“He was told he had two months,” Geise said.
The POA wanted to act quickly to recognize Ackley while there was time.
“We wanted to do something meaningful before he passed away,” Geise said.
The POA had just installed a new tennis court and updated the area with a gazebo, bocce and shuffleboard court. They chose to designate the area as Gordon Ackley Park.
They ordered a sign to have ready for the dedication, but Ackley wouldn’t survive long enough to see it.
“He passed so quickly,” Geise said.
Gordon Ackley died Oct. 11.
But Geise told him of the community’s intention to dedicate the park to him.
“They told him they were going to dedicate the park in his memory. He was proud of everything he did here,” Sharlene Ackley said. “He smiled and gave a thumbs up. He thought it was great.”
On Saturday, Dec. 1, the sun came out and so did a large number of community members to pay their respects.
“We invited the community and (anyone) who knew Gordon,” Geise said.
Geise gave a brief eulogy, and about a dozen others also spoke.
“There were probably 200 people there,” Geise said.
“I was blown away by how many people came,” Sharlene Ackley added.
“He did tremendous things for the community, but what he will be remembered for is the little things (he did),” Farrell said. “If somebody needed something, he went to bat for them.”
Brian Slattery is a staff writer for The Brunswick Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or firstname.lastname@example.org.