Elijah “Eli” Canty, longtime Val Verde community leader and co-founder of the Samuel Dixon Family Health Centers, died Monday evening. He had celebrated his 100th birthday in February.
“Eli was a beloved figure in the Santa Clarita Valley community and a guiding visionary on the SDFHC Board of Directors,” Executive Director Cheryl Laymon said. “He never lost interest in Samuel Dixon Family Health Centers and he will be greatly missed.”
Canty arrived in Val Verde in 1948 with his wife, Miriam. At the time, Val Verde was a retreat where African Americans were able to escape the discrimination they experienced in other cities, including Los Angeles, where Canty was employed in the restaurant industry after World War II.
Canty tells his life story in a 2003 episode of the SCVTV program, “Legacy: Santa Clarita’s Living History,” which can be viewed online at http://www.scvtv.com/html/legacyelijahcanty.html.
Together with his wife, Canty convinced then-County Supervisor Baxter Ward that Val Verde needed health service. As members of the 13-person Val Verde Advisory Council, the couple worked to secure funding for a health care facility.
In 1980, the Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Health Foundation contributed $70,000 to convert the annex of Rev. Sam Dixon’s church into a clinic. The citizens committee secured an annual $60,000 federal grant, Kiwanis and Rotary clubs led a drive for labor and materials, and they were off and running.
Initially operated by Henry Mayo and Santa Monica Hospitals, today the Samuel Dixon Family Health Centers are operated by an independent nonprofit corporation.
The Cantys remained involved with the organization for years. Miriam died in February 2001.
Funeral services for Elijah Canty will be held Tuesday, Sept. 20, at 12:30 p.m. at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills. A visitation and viewing will be held Monday, Sept. 19, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.