1918 - 2021: Bertha Lucas (2018 IVHF Mintonette Medallion of Merit Award Winner) passed away on June 11th. Bertha's built-in historical knowledge base of USA Volleyball through her long-time service to the organization and sustained membership was matched by very few. She was involved in the sport for nearly 90 years.
Lucas, who turned 100 in November of 2018, attended her 65th consecutive USA Volleyball Open National Championships that same May, a record all to her own. And she played competitively in the Opens until 2003 at the age of 85. Lucas only stopped playing competitively at the Opens because she couldn’t serve overhand any longer.
Lucas continued to make the annual trek to the Open National Championships even after she stopped competing because the sport had become like a second family to her.
Berthas’ family had become a major part of the sport as well with about 15 extended family members who became involved. Her family includes daughter Nancy Evans a AA player, and daughter Patti Lucas Bright. Patti (a 1996 IVHF Inductee) and her husband, Mike Bright (1993 IVHF Inductee), both played in the 1964 and 1968 Olympic Games.
Berthas’ volleyball relationships ran the gamut of player, teacher, coach, manager, international chaperone, national player representative, National Governing Body member, USA Volleyball Board of Directors member, tournament director, clinician, innovator, promoter, surrogate mother to volleyball hopefuls, real mother to two USA Volleyball All-Americans and Nationals most valuable players and the list could go on and on. Lucas also coached several women who went on to play in the Olympics or international competition, beyond just her daughter Patti.
In 1962 Bertha was elected national player representative to the USA Volleyball Board of Governing Members. Her contributions to volleyball were recognized in 1966 with selection as a Leader in Volleyball recipient. Also in 1966, Lucas was elected to the USAV Board of Directors’ executive committee and served two consecutive terms until 1979.
Bertha won almost every major award in USVBA/USA Volleyball. She was on the board of directors for both the U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Volleyball. She traveled as team manager with the U.S. Women in Tokyo in 1964. Lucas was one of the visionaries who helped form the Great Lakes Region and was on its board of directors for years.
Bertha was the inaugural recipient of the Harry E. Wilson Award for Community Service in 1980. One year later in 1981, she was recognized with the Dr. Harold T. Friermood “Frier” Award, the highest honor that USA Volleyball bestows on an annual basis. Later, she was presented with the inaugural All-Time Great Coach Award in 1995 and the award for the pioneer division is now named in her honor.
Bertha is survived by her daughter Nancy Lucas Evans, nine grandchildren, 19 great grandchildren, and 7 great great grands, with one on the way. She is preceded in death by her husband Johnny and her daughter Patti.
Bertha Lucas was a mother, an inspiration, a mentor, a friend, and a legend. She will be remembered fondly.
The IVHF exists to preserve the history of volleyball in its birthplace of Holyoke, Massachusetts USA by honoring, promoting and sharing its story with the world.