Giving Back: A Curtiss-Lusher Family Tradition   

Sitting in the JCC Lobby on a stunning spring afternoon, the Curtiss-Lusher family look – and feel – right at home. Understandably so, considering the decades-long history they have within the community.  

Barry and Gay Curtiss-Lusher moved to Denver in 1977, with virtually no connections but that good-humored optimism you would expect from recent college graduates. Their first entry to the JCC community was by way of the Fitness and Aquatics center, and Gay, being a dedicated swimmer, loved being able to still get her laps in on Christmas Day.  

Years later, after welcoming several kids into the family, they began exploring other areas of the JCC through the ELS and summer camps. Now grown adults, their children still see these experiences as having been pivotal aspects of their upbringing.  

“Some of my first memories are of the JCC,” states Ben Lusher, soon-to-be Board Chair of JEWISHcolorado and the eldest of the three Curtiss-Lusher “progeny.”  

Ben continued, “I have vivid memories of playing on the playground, pick-up games in the basketball court, and then when I was older, I even worked at the J. So many pivotal moments of my young years were spent here.” Ben even has the unique experience of having his bar mitzvah in the JCC Lobby – sports themed, of course.  

Meanwhile Joey, the family comedian, made his stage debut as Uncle Henry in a WTA production of The Wizard of Oz, and rumor has it few young actors have since played the role to such success.  

Serving a collective ~20 years on the Board, Barry and Gay spent countless hours nurturing the JCC and its many facets. Gay had a particular privilege, as she put it, of becoming involved in helping serve the senior lunches.  

“In 2006, when my ‘babies’ went off to college, I discovered that serving lunch to the seniors was my passion. I came every day until the pandemic, and it really was a gift for me.” For 14 years Gay spent her days serving meals to seniors in the Phillips Social Hall, and several times, even making trips to the store to pick up ingredients requested by individuals (a detail shared proudly by Barry and substantiated by a chagrined Gay).  

MicrosoftTeams-image (182)For the Curtiss-Lusher family, the JCC is truly an intergenerational journey. Having raised their three children here, Barry and Gay now watch as their grandchildren are beginning their own J journey. Nicole, wife to Ben Lusher and mother of their three daughters, is grateful her children have a place like the JCC to teach them the importance of friendship and community.  

“My first experience at the J was as a counselor at Camp Shai,” Nicole recounts with a broad smile. “I met one of my very best friends here, attended my first shabbat, and I knew that, once we’d had kids, this would be a wonderful place to bring them so they could learn about Jewish life.”  

“That’s one of my favorite things about the J,” Barry mused, “getting to be here with my family. Being here with Gay, watching my grandkids at Shabbat Sing, coming to see them in plays, or spending time at the pool as a family.” 

Not only does the family experience the JCC intergenerationally, but they give back to the J in the same fashion. “Our first major contribution was made twenty-some years ago,” Barry noted, referencing their first major financial gift to the J, which helped in accomplishing much-needed renovations. “For the most recent transaction, Ben was really the one who said we should do something. So, the three kids got together and made their own significant contribution.” This act was both a beginning, and a continuation; supporting the JCC is as much a Curtiss-Lusher family tradition as it is attending summer camp.  

As is with most families, the Curtiss-Lushers each have their own unique memories and particular affections for the J. For Joey, although his stage career didn’t go much further than Uncle Henry, still remembers his moments in the Elaine Wolf Theatre with fondness. He also appreciates being able to spend time in a Jewish space that isn’t necessarily religious in nature. “There aren’t many places that are Jewish oriented that aren’t religious spaces – this is a really great place to stay connected to the Jewish community without necessarily having to practice.”  

Banter and good-natured jokes are in good supply while in the company of the Curtiss-Lushers, as are the frequent (and almost accidental) profound reflections on life, family, and community.   

“The JCC is Cinderella,” Gay offered, when asked why she feels it important to continue providing financial support to the J. “Everybody expects everything from her. It is so important to have a healthy J.” Ben adds, “It’s not always easy to be Jewish. To have a place like this, where you can find what you’re looking for and also mingle with people across the Jewish spectrum, whether in the Lobby or at an event or fitness class, I think that’s invaluable.”  

This fun-loving and tight-knit family has been a fixture of the JCC community for decades, and their generosity is to be credited for so much of the JCC’s continued ability to provide services. Next time you’re approaching the front doors to the Lobby, look to your left and you might just see their impact in the gardens, as well. Wherever they go, this family leaves a beautiful, memorable mark.