Joy’s life of vision and hard work
One dark and stormy Halloween, Joy Lusher entertained 120 dinner guests in her Point Shares, Pembroke home while a coffin floated in her swimming pool.
The coffin was all part of a plot to raise money for the Hamilton Rotary Club, which Ms Lusher has been a member of for more than two decades.
Ms Lusher loves to entertain and she loves to wow people with unique party decorations like the coffin.
“I had another member of the Rotary Club bang the coffin together out of plywood,” the 90 year old said. “I put a skull on top and lit it with candles, and there was also a candelabra.”
That party was so successful she raised $10,000 for the club. It was just one of many parties and events she has held to help fund Rotary Club projects.
“My first venture with the Rotary Club was arranging a banquet at the Southampton Princess Hotel to honour and thank Walter Maddocks,” Ms Lusher said. “He was a Bermuda lawyer who had taken off two years to raise money to help eradicate polio in India. He was successful in raising $250 million dollars for this cause.”
Last month, she received the Woman of Vision Award at the Rotary Interact Club’s Empowerment Girls Conference held at the Royal Hamilton Amateur Dinghy Club in Paget. Rotary Interact is the youth arm of the club and has chapters in several schools on the island.
“That was a real honour,” she said. “It was very kind of them. I suppose they knew that the way I had raised money over the years was all a vision.”
Ms Lusher always had a talent for raising money.
As a child growing up in Sidcup, Kent during the war years, she piled all of her books into her doll’s pram, and walked around the neighbourhood, charging people three pence per week to borrow from her library.
“I sent the money to Winston Churchill’s wife and she sent me a very appreciative letter of thanks,” she said.
When she got older, she went to secretarial school in England. When her studies ended she boarded the Queen Mary headed for Canada to work.
“I met some Bermudians on the ship, and they told me all about Bermuda and said I should come there to work,” she said.
She spent just a month in Canada working as a secretary, just long enough to earn enough money to buy a one-way ticket to Bermuda.
“I arrived in Bermuda in 1953 with just £60 and a suitcase,” she said. “It was a different world for me. I arrived at night and there were all the night noises. There were crickets and frogs. I thought oh my God, I don’t think I will ever sleep with all this noise.”
Sixty-nine years later, she thought it was a little sad that a lot of those old noises have now been lost.
“You don’t hear them so much any more,” she said.
After a few years in Bermuda she married and had three children, but later divorced.
She worked in real estate for someone else, for a time, then formed Joy Lusher Real Estate in 1966.
“Sometimes if I am out driving with my daughter, we will pass a house, and I will say, you know that house, I sold that one house three times,” she said.
When she started there were only four or five other female real estate agents in Bermuda.
But Ms Lusher does not remember experiencing any sexism or discrimination in the industry.
“If you were willing to work hard, I am telling you, the business was there,” she said. “I was very busy the whole time. Even having three children, I never stopped. As a result, I got a good reputation by hard work. I was honest, which is terribly important. I would go out of my way to really figure out what the client was looking for. I was not the type of person to show them everything that was out there.”
She made a point of being helpful to other agents.
“A lot of the agents would call me and say, Joy, do you have such and such?” she said. “I would make a little note. If something came in I would call that agent and say oh, are you still looking for so and so, this has just come in. They would say thank you. As a result I got on very well with everyone. We should all work together."
One of her most memorable clients was American music entrepreneur and producer Robert Stigwood. Mr Stigwood moved to Bermuda in 1976.
“When he first came to Bermuda there was nothing available that would suit him and his lifestyle,” she said. “So I suggested he rent.”
Ms Lusher remembers driving Mr Stigwood from one end of Bermuda to the other to find the perfect house for him to buy.
“I even took him out to Casemates,” she laughed. “We could not find anything then, but we had fun.”
They became great friends.
Once Mr Stigwood invited her over to his house and cooked her dinner.
“He was very nice and very down to earth,” she said. “We just sat in his kitchen. When Wreck Hill in Sandys came on the market, I went to him and said I think I found it! Let us go and have a look. Wreck House was formerly owned by Americans.”
After Mr Stigwood moved in, Ms Lusher was often invited to parties at his house.
Through Mr Stigwood, she met one of the Bee Gees, Andy Gibb.
“I had him over for supper,” she said. “Robert Stigwood owned the Bee Gees. This was back in the 1970s.”
The 26-acre Wreck House was the largest property she ever sold.
“Everyone wants to know how much I sold it for,” she said. “But I can’t give that information away. But you know 26-acres would be worth a lot of money today.”
When she retired from real estate in 1996, she joined the Lifelong Learning Centre at the Bermuda College, an educational programme for people over 55.
“There I raised funds by taking the ladies on cruises for some years, and on one occasion, I chartered a plane, through an agent, and took 100 people to Cuba,” she said. “That was quite an experience.”
She said the hotels in Cuba were beautiful.
“It was very musical,” she said. “On the corner of nearly every street there would be trios playing.”
She booked trips for the Lifelong Learning Centre through a travel agent who paid her a percentage of the bookings. She donated that money to the Bermuda College.
She said it was disappointing when the agency was sold and the trips ended.
Her daughter, Sue Lusher, and granddaughter, Christie Carter, are now running Joy Lusher Real Estate.
“It is really lovely to have family in the business,” Ms Lusher said.
She is excited that Ms Carter is now expecting a baby.
“Who knows, maybe we will have a fourth generation in the business one day,” she said.
She also has a son Nick and a daughter Liz, and three grandchildren.
Lifestyle profiles the island’s senior citizens every Wednesday. Contact Jessie Moniz Hardy on 278-0150 or email@example.com with the full name and contact details and the reason you are suggesting them