Lusters leave behind legacy of caring, compassion

Published 2:24 pm Tuesday, November 26, 2019

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Central Kentucky Community Foundation Press release

ELIZABETHTOWN — Feeding America, Kentucky’s Heartland (FAKH) will be reaping the benefits of George and Hazel Luster’s kindness and generosity for many years to come.

In a first-of-its-kind gift to the nonprofit organization, the Lusters donated nearly $70,000 through their estate. The organization’s board voted to place the money in its endowed fund at Central Kentucky Community Foundation, said Jamie Sizemore, FAKH executive director.

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Hazel Luster is a native of Lincoln County and George Luster is originally from Casey County.

“We are so honored Mrs. Luster included Feeding America, Kentucky’s Heartland in her estate planning,” Sizemore said. “She was a regular donor to our organization, so our board made the decision to honor the legacy and generosity of the Lusters by placing the gift in an endowment fund managed by CKCF. This forever home will have a lasting impact on those who are in need of food assistance.”

Although the FAKH endowment fund at CKCF was established in 2016, the Lusters’ contribution is the first estate gift made to the fund, said Davette Swiney, president and CEO of CKCF.

“The Luster’s gift will have forever benefits for FAKH,” Swiney said. “It speaks volumes to who the Lusters were and how deeply they cared for the well-being of others. Thanks to their generosity and the forward-thinking of the FAKH board to establish its endowment fund, this gift will continue to impact FAKH’s mission forever.”

Becky Loyall, a FAKH board member from LaRue County, and her husband, Randall, had a decades-long friendship with the Lusters. She said the couple valued education and community.

“They were very gracious people and so kind to everyone,” Loyall said. “They were generous with their time, their money, and their energy.”

The Lusters moved to Elizabethtown in the ’70s, and quickly embraced their new community and made it home, Loyall said. George, who originally was from Casey County, was the academic dean at then Elizabethtown Community College under President James Owen, and remained in the position until his retirement in 1986. The couple became involved in several community organizations and served in various roles in their church, Immanuel Baptist Church.

George died in 1997 and Hazel remained in Elizabethtown, a town that held a special place in her heart, longtime neighbor and financial advisor Kevin Ryan said. 

“E’town, Hardin County, this area was her family and she wanted to take care of them the best way she could. I think she felt like the community deserved their inheritance.”

Ryan described Hazel as fiercely independent, very classy, and kind. 

“One lesson I remember hearing her say many times is, ‘I just don’t understand why people just can’t be nice,’” he said. “She was the kind of person you could have a conversation with. It didn’t matter what your background was. I was always impressed with her outlook on life. You learn a lot from people like that.”

Ryan also said not only was Hazel generous, she also was humble, and wouldn’t want much attention to be given to her or her husband for their legacy gift.

“She’d be OK with it if she thought it might encourage someone else to do the same. They were an excellent example for all of us. I just think the community, the world, everyone would be much better off if they were more like them. I think they set the example.”

The gift announcement came during Community Foundation Week, Nov. 11-15, and highlighted CKCF’s partnership with non-profit organizations, like FAKH, to provide resources for them to grow their missions.

“The Lusters are setting the example for what our Give 5 initiative is all about,” Swiney said. “By dedicating at least 5 percent of their estate to organizations which mattered to them, they are creating lasting change for our community, especially to those who are food insecure. Friday is National Philanthropy Day and it is appropriate to mark the occasion by celebrating their philanthropic example.”