As his illness had progressed, he’d grieved his inability to continue in the sport of fencing, which since college had been his means for seeking the dignity, grace, and self-possession he’d never achieved during an adolescence dominated by violent and systematic school bullying.
Rather than grow up to be an abuser himself, he infused his adult life with matter-of-fact kindness toward the awkward and victimized youth who seemed to gravitate toward him.
He founded or helped found all-age fencing clubs in Portland, Oregon, and in Cheney, Washington, where he reveled in being a mid-level competitor who could introduce swordplay to bullying victims and then, in time, teach them to beat him in competition.
More than once, he was approached by the parents of some bullied boy who had no self-worth, and he always agreed to offer mentorship and training, regardless of the family’s ability to pay.
This, his life’s work, was a money-losing venture, so he found other employment wherever he could, earning just enough to live and to help others to live better.
When, soon after age 40, he was denied a heart transplant, it was precisely because of this job history; to the psychiatrist on the evaluation board, Ian’s “spotty” record of employer-sponsored health insurance suggested a patient who might not be trustworthy, might not care properly for the heart of an organ donor who’d had to die to give it to him.
An organ donor himself, after death Ian supplied corneas to an 86-year-old woman and to a 22-year-old man.
Ian Kusz is survived by sisters Natalie, Leslie, and Bethel Kusz; a niece, Charity Kusz; and two great-nephews, Corbin and Julius Kusz.
He is also mourned by friends from the Society for Creative Anachronism, with whom he enjoyed reenacting chivalric and culinary traditions from the Middle Ages.
Services will be held April 3 at Kehilat Hamaschiach Messianic Synagogue in Spokane Valley.
His family will gather this summer to bury his remains with those of his parents in Delta Jct., Alaska.
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