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The Baltimore Sun

Lucy C. Acton, editor of horse racing magazine, dies

Baltimore Sun reporter

Lucy C. Acton, a former Evening Sun feature writer who later was editor of Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred, formerly Maryland Horse Magazine, died June 7 of cancer of the appendix at Gilchrist Hospice Care.

The Timonium resident was 63.

"She was a deliberate person and real dedicated to the Maryland horse racing industry. She really cared and that was her life," said Joseph B. Kelly, retired Washington Star racing editor and turf historian.

"It is a very complicated business, and she wrote about and participated in every phase of it," said Mr. Kelly, who had worked with Ms. Acton's father, Wilton Snowden Carter, in the late 1940s when both were young reporters covering racing for The Baltimore Sun and the old Evening Sun.

"Lucy was a very quiet person but a real hard worker and a little giant," he said.

Lucy Carter was born in Baltimore and raised on her parents' horse farm on Reisterstown Road, adjacent to Hannah More School, and later at a farm in Upperco, where they moved in 1959.

Ms. Acton was a 1965 graduate of Hannah More and earned a bachelor's degree in English in 1969 from Duke University.

After graduating from Duke, she went to work for The Evening Sun as an editorial assistant and was promoted to reporter that year. She was assigned to what were then called the "women's pages," where she wrote feature stories and compiled "Weekly Calendar: Fun For Children."

Her 1974 story about a hoax at Southwestern High School made the national newswires.

Several students, with the help of faculty members, had dreamed up Marvin Stickman, an outstanding Southwestern High graduate whose grade average in the high 90s earned him acceptance to both Harvard and Oxford.

It turned out that Marvin Stickman was not a real person but rather a purple and gold penguin doll.

Ms. Acton quoted Dennis Arenson, a biology teacher who helped his homeroom students who had found the doll in the trash mastermind the hoax.

"They salvaged it and brought it in as a mascot and gradually the idea came of infusing it with life," Mr. Arenson told Ms. Acton.

The hoax blew up when "Marvin Stickman" was summoned to be fitted with a cap and gown for graduation.

"With a little more finagling we could have had him graduate," the biology teacher told Ms. Acton. "The kids went overboard with Harvard and Oxford, and the counselor, Mrs. Gertrude Harris, was alarmed that someone so brilliant had escaped her notice for three years."

School officials would not allow him to "graduate," she reported.

Ms. Acton also wrote articles for the old Sunday Sun Magazine. In 1975, she profiled trainer Katy Merryman Voss, scion of a legendary Maryland horse family, who graduated in 1971 from Goucher College with a degree in math.

"Tall (about 5 feet 7) and an athletically trim 115 pounds, Katy Voss, Garrison Forest '66, looks and speaks more like the private girls' school's riding instructor than a tough competitor in a man's world," she wrote.

"Wearing dilapidated blue jeans over good leather boots and thin gold bracelets on her arm, she propped her feet up on a feed bag and told how everything she's doing now goes back to her family upbringing," she wrote.

Ms. Acton left the newspaper in 1975 to have her first child.

In 1985, she returned to journalism when she applied for a job as a reporter and copy editor at Maryland Horse, where her father, who had left The Evening Sun in 1961, was editor.

Daughter and father worked side by side at the magazine, which assumed its present name some years ago.

In 2002, she was named editor of Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred, a position she held until retiring for health reasons earlier this month.

At the time of her June 1 retirement, "The Weekly Bulletin," published by the Maryland Horse Breeders Association, said in an article that her stepping down as editor marked the "end of an era."

"Thorough and precise, knowledgeable and straight-forward, Acton directed the transition from a Maryland magazine to a regional collective with resounding success," said the article.

The article stated that during Ms. Acton's tenure, the magazine had won an Eclipse Award for writing, another for photography and many honorable mentions.

"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," said former Sun racing writer Ross Peddicord, who is now executive director of the Maryland Horse Industry Board.

"She carried on the legacy of her father, Snowden Carter, with flying colors, and along the way earned the love and respect of the Maryland horse community," said Mr. Peddicord, a longtime friend who described her reporting and writing of issues affecting horsemen as "succinct, crisp and thorough."

In 2006, the Maryland Jockey Club presented its Old Hilltop Award to Ms. Acton for "many years of distinguished coverage of racing."

Ms. Acton, who lived in Timonium for many years, enjoyed reading and gardening.

"Lucy Acton was a dedicated journalist who worked right to the end, and, more important, a lovely, gentle soul," recalled Ernest F. Imhoff, retired Evening Sun editor and Sun reporter.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. June 27 at the Stony Run Friends Meeting House, 5116 N. Charles St.

Surviving are a son, Jonathan W. Acton III of Riderwood; a daughter, Katherine A. Acton of Duluth, Minn.; and two brothers, Bruce R. Carter of Reisterstown and George R. Carter of Mullica Hill, N.J. Her marriage to Jonathan W. Acton II ended in divorce.

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