Donald Cushine had many nicknames, most knew him as “Cush.”
The “Connector” was another one for all the people he met and introduced to each other. But my favorite was “The Commissioner Of Fun”. Yes, he was the “Commissioner of Fun.” When he called you, it was always for FUN, didn’t always end up that way… He’d set up trips for Rugby to the Bahamas, RIO and New Orleans. Cush would call you to go to NY Giant, Chicago Bear & NY Yankee games. When feeling lucky he’d call to go to the track, preferable Saratoga but Delaware Park would do. Another call was for the annual fantasy football league draft (SCUFFLE), which for the last eleven years we had in Las Vegas. I can go on and on with things he called us for.
But last and not least, my favorite call was when he called to go up to Saranac Lake for the annual CanAm Rugby tournament. Cush was a fixture there. He went to the first one in 1974 with a team of friends from High School. Then he went to Brockport and got the Doggies to come to Saranac every year. He was at every tournament until last year. He had been fighting PBC “Primary Billary Cirrhosis.” It is a hereditary disease that affects your liver and is associated with immune system problems. This disease took Cush physically away from us this February. He was survived by his wonderful wife Evvie and two great kids Colin and Connor. But his spirit will be in all of us and at Saranac forever.
Cush would talk about Saranac all the time and to everyone. John Prince and myself (Alan Rosey Rosenthal) would hear from Cush in May, “the hotel rooms are set.” John and I would head up the beginning of August from Long Island stop in Troy to pick up Cush. The stop in Troy was never short since we had to say hello to his wonderful family his Mom, Aunt, sisters and cousins. Then we would finally get back on the road to Saranac. We would roll into Saranac and he would start running into all the people he knew and we watched in awe, how does he remember all their names. The games and parties were always great, he set up the Doggies annual Friday night soiree at the Saranac Hotel, which was moved a couple of years ago to Lake Placid like most of the Rugby games.
We had many rituals that we did every year. My favorite tradition was when we would stop, usually on our way home, at this one roadside mountain lake on route 73. Here was our Trevi Fountain but instead of throwing 3 coins, we were broke by then especially the early years, we used rocks. All the OLD Doggies know, you don’t leave the pitch until you get your rocks offs. We would have a beer, put on the 8-track “Desert Skies” by Marshall Tucker and each of us would throw in three rocks and wish to return next year. In the early years we would try and throw it across the lake we probably didn’t get past 25% of it. In the later years we were happy just to hit the lake. When I stop this year I will throw in six, three for Cush.
On the way back on Monday we would end up at Saratoga Race Track where Cush’s family from Troy would meet us and spend a day at the greatest Track in the US. If we were not broke before we threw the stones we were after Saratoga.
This year in Saranac we will try and do our best to honor one of our greatest members of the Doggies. To make it even more special a group of rugby players from Lincoln Park Chicago entered a team called the Commissioner of Fun. When Cush lived in Chicago he would always try to get his Lincoln Park Team to come to Saranac and now they will finally be there this Summer. This speaks volumes of the person Don Cushine was.
Don you will always be missed but not forgotten & Saranac will miss you too.