There is a park at 85th Avenue and E Street in East Oakland that has a story behind how it came to be.
The story, about the birth of Tassaforonga Park, is like so many others in this community in one respect: Costell Akrie was at the center of it.
Akrie, 87, died from COVID-19 on April 4 at a Hayward skilled nursing facility.
Scott Akrie, Costell's son, remembers the reason his father got involved in the founding of the park. "We had no place to play," Scott said. "We were playing in the street."
So, Costell petitioned, organized, and worked hard to get something he thought was just. It's something, Scott said, his dad did time and time again for his family, for fellow veterans, and for anyone needing a helping hand.
"Every story comes back to justice," Scott said. "Every story comes back to justice. That's who my dad was."
Costell was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1931, the youngest of seven children. By the age of nine, though, he was an orphan living in an orphanage until he was 16. "Those were very formative years for him," Scott said.
In 1955 he married his wife, Dianne, and was welcomed into her large family. "He was a special man," said Sharon Cravanas, Costell's sister-in-law.
Sharon says Costell grew to be the gravitational center of the family. He cared for his mother-in-law, secured jobs for relatives, and was sought after by all for his wisdom. Costell never missed an opportunity, Sharon said, to share his vast knowledge of African American history to younger generations.
Costell's accomplishments were many and varied.
He earned five degrees including a Master's degree. He rose to a high-level management position with United Airlines. He was an accomplished jazz bassist and composer. Costell evern built his and Dianne's own retirement home himeself.
Costell's family feels that not only they, but the broader community, has last someone special.
"He understood the importance of community more than any man I've ever met," said Scott.