There are occasions when the world is given the gift of a truly caring & giving soul. Such was the case when Les Acree was born. Beloved by all, he spent a lifetime mentoring and inspiring those around him. He worked his way up the ranks where he was positioned perfectly to help many whose paths he crossed. Becoming a prominent and well-known country music disc jockey and program director, he was considered a friend by all. He spent countless hours helping others. One of his prouder accomplishments was realized when he successfully developed a partnership between St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and country music. As program director of a Memphis, Tennessee radio station in the early ‘70’s, Les was fundamental in developing a fundraiser for St. Jude aptly called “Country Cares.” As a direct result of his early efforts, hundreds of millions of dollars have been raised to benefit not only the children and families battling cancer but the research needed to cure this devastating disease.
In February of 2007, Les had the distinct honor of being inducted into the Country Music Radio Hall of Fame. It was a proud moment for Les, his family and a multitude of friends. However, just 6 weeks later while staying with his sister Geri, he suffered a massive stroke. She awoke early in the morning to find him lying in the floor of the living room. They rushed him to the hospital where he survived, but not without cost. Previously a man in perpetual motion, Les was now paralyzed on the right side and unable to speak, with the exception of a few simple words. To further complicate things he also lost his ability to read and write. Thankfully though, the stroke did not affect his memory or recognition of others.
In one short moment Les’ life had changed forever. Always a vibrant, fun-loving man with a passion for life, he now found himself confined to a nursing home. For many, such a transition brings about a depression that is even harder to overcome than the effects of a stroke. In spite of the overwhelming obstacles ahead he didn’t let it get to him. He maintained a healthy attitude in spite of the situation. That was just the kind of man he was. He, along with his family was just grateful he was alive. They were not quite ready to lose someone who meant so much to them all. Geri spent as much time as possible with her brother. She would go several times a week to visit and brought him home with her each Sunday. Eventually Les’ son, Ryan, moved him to a nursing home in Nashville so his father would be closer to him.
In 2013, while living in Nashville, Les received yet another honor of being inducted into the Tennessee Radio Hall of Fame. Attending the event with his father, Ryan proudly wheeled him to the stage. Although he faced a multitude of challenges from his stroke, Les managed to get two words out, “Thank You.” It was an emotional moment for all.
As 2014 arrived, Les’ trips to the hospital increased tremendously. What started out as once or twice a year, multiplied to what seemed like every few weeks. His health continued to deteriorate. In August, Les managed to celebrate his 72nd birthday surrounded by family and close friends. Only 3 days later he suffered a minor stroke where it was determined he would undergo a procedure to place a stent in a carotid artery. After spending a week in the hospital recovering from the surgery he was able to return to the nursing home. In spite of the challenges, Les continued to bravely face each day. Sadly, six days later another stroke would prove to be too much for his body to overcome. The family was called upon to make a difficult decision and on August 26, 2014 they privately said their goodbyes and he was taken off life support.
Les had been such an important part of Geri’s life and she missed him terribly. Two weeks after the funeral as she still mourned her brother’s loss, she asked God to give her a sign that his spirit lived on. It wasn’t just any old sign either, she asked God to send her a “Tennessee” Orange Butterfly in honor of her brother’s love for the University of Tennessee.
A few days later Geri spent the morning getting ready for her appointment with the people at the cemetery. It was her responsibility to pick out the wording and emblems to be placed on her brother’s grave marker. She knew it would be a difficult and emotional day so she prepared herself for the sadness the day would bring. Geri grabbed the garbage so she could drop if off on her way out. As she opened the garage door a baby butterfly fluttered past, landing on the grass directly in front of her. As it spread its wings open she gasped. Directly in front of her was a beautiful little “Tennessee” Orange butterfly. It was the first time she had ever seen a butterfly that color and knew right away it was a sign just for her. Her heart swelled in reassurance that her brother was just fine. It turned out to be a pretty good day after all.
~ Submitted by Geri Maxwell