In Memory

Nicole Kushner

The information was sent to the site from our classmate Kristin Olsen Kiser

Deceased Classmate: Jon Kushner (aka Nicole Kushner)
Date Of Birth: 12-11-1955
Date Deceased: 11-05-2016
Age at Death: 60
Cause of Death: Heart failure.
Classmate City: Ft. Collins
Classmate State: CO
Classmate Country: USA

Survived By: Sister: Susie Kushner Benson Note - that Nikki (Jon) is listed with the class of 1975 because she graduated in Dec 1974. Nikki signed up for both the 1974 and 1975 class websites

It is with deep sadness in my heart, to let our greater CHHS community know of the sudden passing of Nikki Kushner on Nov. 5th from heart failure. Growing up in University Heights, Ohio, many of us remember Nikki as Jon at Cleveland Heights High School. In those days she achieved Eagle Scout rank and was a part-time drummer with the local band, The Generators. Nikki was a beloved staff member of the Polaris Expeditionary Learning School in Ft. Collins, Colorado, where she was the school’s health technician, looking after the wellbeing of over 400 students, plus staff. The school, with its experiential curriculum, was a perfect fit for Nikki, who had been an outdoor adventurer, instructor, and mountaineer, with decades of experience in a variety of emergency rescue positions, including work as a: fire fighter, paramedic, physician assistant, and dive rescue expert. She excelled in these challenging endeavors, demonstrating that having type 1 diabetes since age 5 and a learning disability, would not prevent her from pursuing big dreams. With an abundant sense of humor, Nikki was a giving and patient teacher to anyone interested in learning about what it meant to be a transgender woman. As she did for many people, Nikki inspired me to achieve greater heights than I thought possible, to pursue outdoor adventures, to meet large challenges with dignity and perseverance, and to love deeply. The hole her passing has created in the hearts of the quality people who surrounded Nikki, will take a long time to patch. Nikki is survived by her dear sister, Susie Kushner Benson, of Akron Ohio, her beloved cats, Annie and Tiger, too many friends to mention, and a grieving school community. Know that we all loved you Nikki. Kristin Olsen Kiser (Class of 1975)

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11/15/16 07:49 PM #1    

Larry Bernbaum

I went to Canterbury, Willey and Heights with Nikki, then known as Jon.  I will refer to her as Nikki, because she clearly came to prfer that, although her identitiy change occurred decades later.  She was a year ahead of me, but I got to know Nikki really well as a boy scout.  We shared many a tent, cabin, hike, camping trip and laugh together in BSA Troop 117.  We sang the Philmont Hymn and John Denver songs at the top of our lungs in drama class every Friday.  Nikki did not graduate in June of '74.  She needed one more semester to finish.  I am going to offer a correction to the historical record: I am pretty certain that our semester then, just like semesters at the school where I work now, actually ended in January, not December, technically making Nikki a member of the class of '75, not '74.  We lost touch with each other after graduation.  I doubt our world --or even I -- would have accepted Nikki well in the 1960's or '70's if she had come out then, but I was fortunate enough, thanks to this website, to reconnect with her decades later -- last spring, actually.  We had a great conversation, in which she unflinchingly taught me a lot.  I called her a few more times after that, but never heard back.  Perhaps she had grown too ill.

An interesting thing about her was that she built her whole career around things she first learned as a boy scout.  She took a job at Adler's, selling camping equipment while still in high school.  Then, she and a co-worker became wilderness guides.  Next, she became a paramedic, expanding on the first aid she had learned as a scout.  Her adventurous life only expanded from there, as a mountain climber, an underwater rescue expert, and more.

Farewell, old friend.  May you be better understood on the other side than you were here.

Does anyone have contact information for her sister, Susie Kushner Benson, of Akron?

11/17/16 01:03 PM #2    

Victor Rosenberg

Answer to Larry Bernbaum: Susan Kushner Benson is an Associate Professor at the University of Akron.

Her e-mail is listed as

and office phone: 330-972-8577.


11/18/16 10:22 PM #3    

Larry Bernbaum



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