Democrat File Photo
Helen Kutsher with her son Mark, in 2005.
Recalling a lady who never forgot
By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO March 22, 2013 Helen Kutsher was unforgettable in every sense of the word.
“She kept a book with everybody’s birthdays, anniversaries,” son Mark recalled.
“There was always a card going out.”
And the memories of her kindness, her hospitality, her eye to detail won’t soon be forgotten either by her family or the thousands of people who visited, performed and worked at Kutsher’s Country Club near Monticello.
“She was the grand dame,” affirmed Neil Gilberg, who spent four decades working for and with her.
Mrs. Kutsher, as she was known to almost all, passed away on Tuesday at the age of 89, shortly after being hospitalized in Philadelphia with an infection.
It was perhaps the only challenge she couldn’t overcome.
“She was a really hard worker,” said Mark, who learned the resort business under her and dad Milton’s tutelage. “She had a day-to-day job that was really difficult.”
In charge of reservations and the front office (where she frequently answered the phones), Helen also ceaselessly plied the halls and sidewalks of the sprawling resort, ensuring guests were served with all the warmth and hospitality that had made the Catskills famous.
“She was just terrific with it,” Mark said. “The guests loved her, the staff loved her.”
“She was the face of the hotel. She gave 100 percent every day and every night of her life,” added Gilberg, who first met her while lifeguarding at the pool, ultimately becoming Kutsher’s general manager. “She was always walking around the hotel, making sure things were proper.
“She felt that the hotel was her home, and she was welcoming you into her home,” he added.
Lifelong Monticello resident George Cooke used to play with friends at the resort as a child.
“She was always a lady,” he remembered fondly. “A lot of people said she was the brains behind the operation, but she always gave credit to her husband.”
The two were married for more than half a century before Milton’s death in 1998. Their children also became integral to Kutsher’s success. “A family business is kind of a unique thing,” Mark acknowledged. “My mother was great extremely supportive of my father, of me.”
Through good times and bad, Helen was steadfast.
“She always had a positive attitude,” said Mark. “She really did enjoy being with people.”
“Helen was in a class by her own,” agreed one who knows the business well Elaine Grossinger Etess, co-owner and executive vice president of Grossinger’s in Liberty.
The two were friends, not competitors.
“I knew her most of my life, and I will miss her very, very much,” said Elaine, who compared Helen to her own mother and another “grand dame,” Jennie Grossinger.
“I would liken the relationship Helen had with her staff to how my mother was with her staff,” Elaine explained. “She was a consummate hotel person. She loved her guests.”
Helen encouraged Elaine not to shy away from becoming a leader in a male-dominated industry.
“It was quite a feat to come into this old boys club,” Elaine acknowledged, speaking of her own service in a state resort trade association. “She told me, ‘Just do what you have to do. There’s a place for women in this industry.’”
Helen Kutsher’s place in the hospitality industry, in Catskills history, in the minds and hearts of her family and guests is assured.
“In celebration or sadness, she was always there to be a part of it,” said Gilberg. “They can’t teach someone to be what she was.”
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Helen Kutsher’s funeral was held yesterday at Landfield Avenue Synagogue in Monticello. A full obituary appears in today’s edition.