UPDATE: June 16, 2011

The memorial service for Lucy Acton, former editor of the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred, will be held on Monday, June 27, 2011, 11 a.m., at the Stony Run Friends Meeting House, 5116 North Charles Street in Baltimore

Memorial contributions in her name may be made to HopeWell Cancer Support, P.O. Box 755, Brooklandville, Md., 21022.

Original post: June 8, 2011

It is with heavy heart that The Equiery reports that our respected and beloved colleague, Lucy Acton, died yesterday, June 7, 2011, from complications related to cancer. Lucy Acton, editor of the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred (formerly the Maryland Horse) was as much a part of the fabric of the Maryland horse world as the Thoroughbred itself.

At this point, we turn over the keyboard to her former coworker and de facto adopted brother, Ross Peddicord.

We will update this post with information regarding arrangements.

A Tribute to Lucy Acton from Ross Peddicord
I was tipped off by Lucy Acton’s brothers, Bruce & George Carter, a few weeks ago at the 40th reunion of the McDonogh Cavalry that their older sister, Lucy Acton, was not doing well physically.

I knew Lucy had been battling cancer for some time, but never knew the details, and never asked.

She was a quiet fighter and wanted to keep her battle with the disease private. So it was with a great deal of shock that a lot of people, including some of the ones who had known her for a long time, had no idea she was even ill, much less near death.

Only after Lucy passed yesterday in hospice care in Baltimore, with her beloved daughter Katherine by her side, did I learn from Bruce that she had been battling a rare form of cancer of the appendix for seven years; had undergone four surgeries; and only about a month ago had the cancer returned in a more virulent form.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I wanted to pick up the phone and let her know how much I enjoyed her story in the latest issue of Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred about the Baltimore-born author Jaimy Gordon and the National Book Award winner “Lord of Misrule” that she wrote about the quixotic life of racetrackers. It was a difficult story to write, and Lucy wrote it brilliantly, perhaps the best story I think she had ever written. Ironically, it was about someone else’s literary achievement. But that was Lucy, modest, self-effacing, doing her best job in promoting the work of others. Of course, life got in the way, and I never made the call.

I have known Lucy and her brothers for about 40 years after I adopted their dad, the late Snowden Carter, as my surrogate father and mentor. I adopted Snowden. He certainly didn’t adopt me. I was a junior in the Cavalry at McDonogh School, eager to write, and Snowden let me cover the interschool horse shows, various hunter trials and events for the Maryland Horse magazine and was the first person ever to give me a shot at having anything I had ever written published. It certainly helped that the Carters were all McDonogh folks and lived practically adjacent to the school in a big, rambling Roland Park-type house. At the time, Lucy was a student at the old Hannah More Academy, a year or two ahead of my Hannah More pals—Kitsi Christmas, Mary Lee Howard (now Lee Vosters) and Debbie Goldstein. I looked up to her as a slightly older, disapproving sister.

Just a couple of months ago I saw Lucy and she told me her dad would come to the dinner table and tell the family, “Well, you’re not going to believe what Ross is up to this time.” I think Lucy always considered me with a sort of benign bemusement.

The real bond though that forged our friendship over the years was not only the love I had for her family—Snowden, her mother, Binna, and Bruce and George—but our shared love for the Maryland horse industry. We were both indoctrinated into this equine cult by her dad, who sentimentally, and just as much unsentimentally, wrote about, romanticized, criticized, and lionized every month on the pages of The Maryland Horse. Each issue, for me anyway and for Lucy, too, I’m sure, was like reading a horsey version of The New Yorker with a continuing cast of characters that somehow Snowden painted larger than life, covering the escapades and adventures of people like Hal Clagett, Alda Hopkins Clark, Billy Christmas, Nancy Swett-Escott, Major Goss Stryker, the intrepid riders of the Maryland Hunt Cup, Janon Fisher, Dr. John Gadd, Babe Saportas, the O’Farrell brothers, you name them, tales of their lives and their horses unfolded monthly like chapters in some great version of a 19th century English sporting novel.

So it is no wonder that Lucy, until the day she died, believed in the strength of the Maryland horse industry, revered its rituals and traditions, loved the people associated with the game and devoted her life to writing about the bright spots of the industry, even in its most trying times. She carried on Snowden’s legacy with flying colors, and along the way, earned the love and respect of the Maryland horse community.

Lucy served as either managing editor or editor of the by-now Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred for over twenty years, and probably for the last decade or so was also editor of the Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association monthly newsletter. Even when I no longer covered racing, and had long since sold my farm, I looked forward to reading the MTHA newsletter—it is so professionally and astutely written and laid out, covering the issues in a succinct, crisp, but thorough, style. I really don’t know how the MTHA is going to continue the quality of Lucy’s work without her.

So, here we are, losing another great link to the Maryland horse industry’s past, another void created in our state’s 300-year-old love affair with horse and hound and the great conquests and foibles of the people and horses associated with it. However, Lucy can rest assured that she did her part in maintaining the quality and class of the industry that she, like the rest of us, hold so dear. In her honor, and others like her, it is our duty to continue to strive and make sure, as best we can, that the Maryland horse industry, and its Thoroughbred racing and breeding counterparts, continue to flourish in the years ahead.

Ross Peddicord, who is the executive director of the Maryland Horse Industry Board, began his career as a free-lance writer for the Maryland Horse before enjoying an 18-year career as an award-winning writer for the Baltimore Sun, covering racing. After the Baltimore Sun, Ross served as Director of Major Gifts and Planned Giving for Mount Saint Mary’s, leaving there to found Maryland Life magazine. Over the last 20 years, Ross has also generously contributed articles and features to The Equiery.

LActon-WEBA Tribute to Lucy Acton from former Maryland Horse/Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred publisher Timothy Capps
Today is a sad day for Lucy’s family, the Maryland Horse Breeders Association, and the entire horse community in the state and region.

Ross did a wonderful job of capturing her spirit and achievements. She was quiet, dignified, and passionate about the horse world and about journalism, a stickler for accuracy and good prose, and always appreciative of a well-turned phrase. More than anything, she loved writing about horse people and their horses, and had a true enthusiast’s feel for the richness and depth of Maryland’s horse heritage.

Lucy carried the title of managing editor during my time at MHBA and was named editor of the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred subsequently, but always played an integral (indispensable) role as a planner, coordinator, and executor of all MHBA publications, especially the magazine, not to mention her on-going work as its lead writer. The magazine, whether the Maryland Horse or Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred, was the passion of her professional life, and she lived that passion with style, grace, and the joy of someone making a living doing something that was part of her lifestyle.

The Maryland horse community, and the world in general, awakes this morning with one less good human being in its midst.

Timothy Capps is the former executive director of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association and a former executive vice president of the Maryland Jockey Club. During his tenure in Maryland, he lobbied actively for the establishment of slots at the tracks. Now, Tim Capps is the Executive-in-Resident in the COllege of Business, Equine Program at the University of Louisville.

For more information about Lucy Acton’s life and career in the Maryland equestrian community, please see the obituary in the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred.