NEW YORK (JTA) — Helen Kutsher, the face of her family-owned resort in the Catskill Mountains for decades, has died.
Kutsher, who came to be known as the matriach of what was called the Borscht Belt, died Saturday in Philadelphia. She was 89 and spent much of her life in Monticello, N.Y., in a house on the grounds of Kutsher’s Country Club, according to The New York Times.
Her family owned Kutsher’s for more than 100 years, maintaining the resort while others in the area such as Grossinger’s, Brown’s and the Concord closed down. The family still owns the resort, though it was leased three years ago to another operator, the Times reported.
At the height of its popularity, the group of summer resorts known as the Borscht Belt served as the summer getaway for many East Coast Jews.
Kutsher and her husband, Milton, who died in 1998, ran the resort together. Milton handled the business side, while Helen focused on the upkeep of the place and was its gracious hostess.
Milton hired an athletic director, a young Red Auerbach, who went on to fame as the championship coach of the Boston Celtics. Milton also hired a young Walt Chamberlain as a bellhop, and the couple stayed friends with the Hall of Fame basketballer until his death in 1999.
The resort featured performers such as Milton Berle, Mel Brooks, Joan Rivers, Jackie Mason, Jerry Seinfeld, Harry Belafonte, Billy Crystal and Tony Bennett — celebrities that Kutsher came to know well and could call on to entertain if an act fell through.