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Beacon associates share stories, perspectives, about their heroes during Black History Month

When we asked Venita Massey to tell us about her hero for Black History Month, the long-time registered nurse at Three Rivers Health did not turn to history books. She only had to look inside her heart. “My hero is unknown to everyone except those who loved her – my mother.”

Her mom and dad were married for 59 years and raised seven children on one salary. “Raised during the Great Depression, frugality was the order of the day,” Venita recalls. “My mom froze, canned and preserved fruits, vegetables and meats, made jellies and jams and prepared every meal from scratch. She sewed many of our clothes. She even washed and rinsed Ziploc bags, which I would throw away when she wasn’t looking!”

Thelma June Smith Marshall never sat idle and didn’t allow her children to be bored. “I was bored only once. After spending the entire afternoon cleaning my closet and the kitchen cupboards, I thoroughly learned my lesson,” she fondly remembers. “Most of all, my mom taught me how to love, honor and respect God. Her lessons are the driving force for my life and I have her to thank.”

Venita Massey
RN Care Coordination/Care Management
Three Rivers Health



“One of my African American heroes is George Washington Carver. I admired him because he lost both of his parents due to slavery and was able to pursue higher education although being fragile and sickly.

“He made a name for himself by helping other farmers crops grow more efficient and experimented with fungicides and soil conditioners. Now known as the ‘plant doctor,’ George Washington Carver continued studying at the Iowa State University where he became the first African American to earn a Bachelor of Science degree. He continued to invent over 600 products with the surplus of crops that were grown including peanuts and sweet potatoes. He eventually became a professor at the Tuskegee Institute where he implemented agricultural classes. His brilliant inventions and products are still being used to this day.”

Brian J. Hall, II
Executive chef
Elkhart General Hospital


“My African-American hero is General Colin Powell. He was our nation’s first and youngest African American Chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which is the highest ranking member of all military services in the United States. He was also our countries’ first African American National Security Advisor while he was still in the military and served under President Reagan. He was also was our nations’ first African American Secretary of State under President Bush. Lastly, after leaving the military he founded America’s Promise a large non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of young people and more specifically at risk youth in America.

“I regard General Powell as an amazing example to all Americans but especially African Americans of what one can accomplish. Although he started out from humble beginnings, and he was an average student in school.  He found his niche in life, which began as a military career, which he became passionate about. Similarly, his other pursuits in the political arena as Secretary of State, and leading America’s Promise were vivid examples of how far an individual can rise when they do their best.  e had great integrity in all that he accomplished. He’s an example of a man who achieved much but also gave back to the community as well. I cannot think of a greater hero for me that exemplifies so many good qualities and gave his best in all of his pursuits.  I believe that the civil rights contributions that Dr. Martin Luther King and so many others in the past made were instrumental in the opportunities that were presented to General Powell. General Powell and so many other African American heroes inspire me to be my best version of me that I can be.”

Ron Bass
Senior Information Systems Analyst
Beacon Health System