Almost two months after Capt. Jeff Kuss’ death while practicing maneuvers with the famed Blue Angels, his life continues to be honored.
The Durango-born Marine pilot died June 2 near an airport outside Nashville, Tennessee. Thousands of Southwest Colorado residents turned out to line the motorcade route when his family – wife, Christina Ferrarese Kuss; children, Calvin and Sloan; parents, Michael and Janet Kuss; and brother, Eric Kuss – brought his remains home to Durango for burial.
The Kuss family founded the Jeff Kuss Memorial Scholarship at his alma mater, Fort Lewis College, shortly after their son’s death. On Aug. 3, former Blue Angel John Foley will speak at the college to raise funds for the scholarship, which will benefit veterans returning to school to transition into civilian life.
“In one of the last interviews Jeff gave before he died,” Foley said, “he spoke about the sense of gratitude that is core to all Blue Angels. That’s one of the things I’ll talk about, how profoundly grateful we all are to have the opportunity to have an impact on people and have a purpose, a purpose larger than self.”
Foley, a motivational speaker and business leadership trainer, said his talk will include behind-the-scenes footage of the Blue Angels, a look at a day in the life of a Blue Angel and lots of videos and storytelling.
“Being grateful every single moment, the precision and teamwork, being an ambassador of goodwill and having a purpose in life are all things that can transfer from the Blue Angels into everybody’s lives,” Foley said.
FLC is joining with the Durango and Farmington chambers of commerce, La Plata Economic Development Alliance and Four Corners Economic Development to bring Foley to Durango, so all of the ticket proceeds will go to the scholarship.
Remembering KussBecause most of the college’s students were not in session when Kuss died, the Alumni Office decided to create a display to share Kuss’ life with students who return at the end of August. On the wall in Berndt Hall, designer JC Peteet included front pages from The Durango Herald and memorabilia from Kuss’ time at the Fort.
And not one, but two congressmen have read tributes to Kuss into the Congressional Record.
The first reading came one week after the crash and was submitted by Rep. John Katko, R-New York, who represents the congressional district near Syracuse, where the Blue Angels were expected to close the Syracuse Hancock International Airport Airshow that week.
“While the Syracuse Air Show will go on without the Blue Angels this weekend, our community is deeply saddened by the loss of this fallen pilot,” Katko said, “and the show will celebrate and pay tribute to his life. As Capt. Kuss’ family and the Blue Angels team grieve this tremendous loss, this weekend, central New York will remember and honor his life and service to our great nation.”
Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, who represents Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, made his tribute June 15.
“The entire Durango community is incredibly proud of Capt. Kuss for his service to our nation and what he was able to achieve,” Tipton said. “When he was brought home to rest in Durango, citizens lined the streets to pay their respects to this fallen hero, a testament to Capt. Kuss’ service, deep ties to the community and a life well-lived.”