COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (June 11, 2021) – USA Volleyball sends its deepest condolences to the family, friends and fans of longtime volleyball player and coach Bertha Lucas, who died this week at age 102. She was a resident of Pacific Palisades, Calif.
Bertha can rightfully be called a USA Volleyball legend. Her roles in the sport, besides player and coach, included grassroots organizer, promoter, clinician, USA Volleyball board member, U.S. Olympic Committee board member, surrogate mother to countless players and biological mother to USAV All-American player Nancy Lucas Evans and two-time Olympian Patti Lucas Bright, who died in 2004.
She attended 65 straight USA Volleyball Open National Championships from 1953 to 2018. She competed at the Opens until 2003 when, at age 85, she could no longer serve overhand. She enjoyed going to Opens as a coach, sponsor and even as a spectator.
“I just like to see the kids play, watch the games,” she told USA Volleyball in a 2018 article. “That is the main thing. To see everybody again from over the years. It is just great to see everybody. That is the main thing.”
Bertha grew up in Chicago and later moved to California. She helped start the Great Lakes Region and served on its board of directors. She was later an important part of the Southern California Volleyball Association.
Bertha has received almost every possible honor USA Volleyball bestows. In 1966 she received a USAV Leader in Volleyball Award.
She was the inaugural recipient of the Harry E. Wilson Award for community service in 1980. In 1981, she was recognized with the Dr. Harold T. Friermood “Frier” Award, the highest honor USAV gives out on an annual basis.
In 1995, Bertha was presented with the All-Time Great Coach Award and the award for coaches in the Pioneer Division is now named after her.
In 2018, Bertha was awarded the Mintonette Medallion of Merit at the International Volleyball Hall of Fame in Holyoke, Mass. Her granddaughter, Bonnie Bright, accepted on her behalf.
“She has inspired so many players to perform at their best,” Bonnie said of Bertha. “I am so proud to say that our family is four generations of USA Volleyball players deep. My grandmother coached my mom, Olympian Patti Bright, and my aunt, All-American Nancy Lucas Evans. My mom then coached me, and I coached my daughter.”