Scientific research shows that reading and hearing about success stories can
| Del & Nancy Ackerman
reduce stress, increase feelings of happiness, and is good for your mind-body-spirit health.
Of course, famous people have success stories, especially if they have had to overcome much adversity. Stories in the media of such stars and their families captivate many of us, but the chance of running into these celebrities in Toledo today is scant, unless Toledo born actress Katie Holmes happens to visit, or M*A*S*H star Jamie Farr, or famous feminist/ political activist Gloria Steinem. However, this weekend you’re more likely to run into Del Ackerman visiting his hometown to connect with his roots during the huge Ackerman-Hecklinger-Cook family annual reunion. Del’s wife, Nancy, also born and raised here in Toledo, will stay behind in Naples, Florida to run the family business.
Del and Nancy Ackerman’s life, say many, is a resounding, inspirational success story. And, if the Guinness World Records has any say (which it does, because the family’s business made it into the book), well, these Toledo natives are pretty famous, and they sure have had great adversity to overcome. Following are five proven effective tips to overcome obstacles like they did, and help you succeed in any goal in life. First, a little about our Toledo born celebrities:
Their daughter, Tanya Ackerman, would have turned 50 earlier this month. Her parents, both now in their 70s, didn’t see their only kid blow out any candles because she died suddenly three years ago, after a life serving the people of Naples, Florida through her dedication at the family business, “Del’s 24 hour Food Store.” She loved working at Del’s even in the face of her long battle with physical and emotional complications. Tanya was born in the Toledo Hospital in 1960, and at three months was diagnosed with hydrocephalus (water on the brain) and given little chance of survival, and if she did live, would be blind, may not ever walk, talk or otherwise be “normal”. Doctors suggested a “special home.” The insurance company refused to cover the bills, so in 1960, Nancy and Del each worked three jobs to pay out of pocket for her surgeries and medical bills of almost $100,000. They succeeded.
The family of three then moved to Naples, Florida, first in 1964, where Del had big business dreams, but those dreams had to be aborted because they had to pack up and head back to Toledo for medical care for Tanya. While living back in Toledo, in 1969, Del, a former Bluffton University football player, met with a tragic auto accident, and as a result got fired from his job as vice president of sales for dairy and frozen foods at Seaway Food Town. That left Nancy, an accomplished musician and organist, with a special needs daughter and a disabled husband who would go on to endure over 15 back and neck surgeries. For Nancy, the challenges seemed too big, but she never gave up and says she relied on her faith in God to pull her through.
Financially broke, at the end of 1969, the family moved back to Naples again, this time even more passionate and determined to overcome all the odds.
Del began his tenure as a Naples entrepreneur, and in between his surgeries and visits back to Toledo, and Tanya’s hospitalizations, they opened several businesses in Naples. The Ackerman family worked doggedly for 47 years to serve the customer’s of the “Del’s 24 Hour Food Store.” The Ackerman’s have never closed the store’s doors in those 47 years, a tribute to the perseverance of this strong and giving family. Well, almost never. For Tanya’s funeral in 2007, for about four hours, the Collier County Sherriff’s Department guarded the store, which has no locks on the front door.
Only nine days after their daughter’s death, Nancy and Del received their first great-grandson, and soon thereafter they hosted a wedding for his mother, their only grandchild, Tanya’s daughter Elizabeth. Following this, Nancy had two strokes and Del became ill and he too had to be hospitalized at the same time. It all seemed too much, but they refused to allow their burdens to stop them, and are still going strong, working hard at the multi-million sales volume at Del’s , and always giving back to the people of Naples. Like the $3,000 they put up to help find missing local boy, Adji Desir. Another tribute to turning adversity into triumph is the inspirational book with a spiritual slant they are writing, with a commitment to give a portion of the proceeds to charity. Here are some tips that Nancy and Del practice to overcome adversity and succeed.
•Have a clear vision, a direction, and never give up. No matter what. Just become more determined when faced with challenges. If you don’t quit, you will succeed;
•Don’t look at endings like bad events. Every ending is also a brand new beginning;
•Figure out your natural abilities, what you are good at, and put lots of energy toward that; make that your vocation or avocation in life;
•Make a great first impression. Bad ones last long and can take a lifetime to overcome;
•Always give back and be grateful to the people that put you where you are. “Without our customers, and other people in our lives, we would not have succeeded”, says Del Ackerman.
Nori St. Paul is a freelance writer and consultant specializing in interpersonal relationships, stress management and contemplative science. Send comments to