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Published: Sunday, 4/20/2008

Activist's struggles helped him help others

Elder Mansour S. Bey, 67, a community activist since the 1970s and a retired associate pastor of First Church of God who helped the homeless and addicted for more than 15 years, died Friday in St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center.

He had liver disease, his wife, Nazaarah, said. Because of his illness, he retired last year from First Church of God.

"He was a real disciple," said the Rev. Robert Culp, the church's pastor. "Whatever he did, he would pour himself into it. He was not merely a person for the down and out, but became effective in reaching up and out."

From the early 1990s to 2001, Mr. Bey was director of men's ministries at the Cherry Street Mission, which helps the homeless. He once was a hairsbreadth from the street himself. His wife gave him a week to find a new place to live in 1989 because of his drug problem, Mr. Bey told The Blade in 2000.

"I was suffering for 2 1/2 years from a crack cocaine addiction," Mr. Bey said then. "I got involved in a Christian recovery program at First Church of God. That's where I was saved. It was a revolutionary transformation."

His wife said yesterday: "He found Jesus."

His addiction and recovery - and his faith - informed his work.

"He had such a heart for it, having been through it himself," his wife said. "Because our God is a God of second chances, he always saw hope in people and a future."

He did missionary work in Haiti for a year and was in ministry at King of Kings Church in Toledo. He grew up in Toledo and left Scott High School for the Army. He was stationed in Europe and remained afterward as a political activist, until West Germany sent him home, his wife said.

Back in Toledo, he became a member of the Nation of Islam and changed his name from Lawrence Sparks to Lawrence X and later to Mansour Bey. He ran unsuccessfully for City Council as an independent in 1981 and backed council representation by district. In 2002 he lost as a candidate in District 4.

Mr. Bey received an associate's degree in business from the University of Toledo, his wife said. He had been president of the Black Student Union there and, in the mid-1980s, led protests against UT's investments in firms that did business with South Africa's apartheid government.

He was a former chairman of Toledo's Board of Community Relations and organized a Father's Day march. In October, 2005, he joined then-Mayor Jack Ford and then-fire Chief Michael Bell as they tried to calm a crowd of about 600 after the aborted neo-Nazi rally in North Toledo.

"This is his hometown, and he believed in making where you are a better place," his wife said.

Surviving are his wife, Nazaarah, whom he wed May 14, 1973; sons, Lawrence Barnes, Jr., Christopher Shoecraft, Taleb Bey, Joshua Bey, David Mezzavilla, and Marvin Mezzavilla; brother, Earl Duane Ellis; sister, Diane Mueller, and six grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 3 to 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Dale-Riggs Funeral Home, where wake services will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday. Family hour starts at 11 a.m. Thursday in First Church of God, where funeral services will be at noon.



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