Priest, chaplain, city official Karl Lusk dies

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‘He was everybody’s pastor’

By Randy Patrick

Nelson Countians are mourning the passing of the Rev. Karl Lusk, an Episcopal priest and civic leader, on Tuesday. He was 73.


Lusk had cancer, but doctors aren’t sure about the cause of death.

Ron Griffith, a friend and senior warden of the Church of the Ascension, said Lusk died at Flaget Memorial Hospital, where he was a chaplain.

He had been ill for a while, but had kept quiet about it because he didn’t want people worrying about him, Griffith said.

Lusk had been the church’s rector for 10 years.

Several people have said Lusk led Ascension to become more outwardly focused than it had been.

He treated the whole community like it was his parish.

“He was everybody’s pastor,” Griffith said.

Lusk, originally from Paris, Ky., had come to Nelson County years ago as director of the Kentucky Railway Museum in New Haven, where he was also a city commissioner and firefighter.

Flags in New Haven flew at half staff Tuesday.

Griffith choked back emotion when he said he and his daughter had gone ahead with their plans for a museum train ride as a “memorial” to Lusk on the day he died.

“He was like a brother to me,” he said.

Jesse Wheat, another member of Ascension, had been friends with Lusk since he was a freshman at the University of Kentucky.

“He was a wonderful, good man,” Wheat said.

“The community has lost a model citizen,” said County Judge-Executive Dean Watts, who met Lusk in 1993, when he was running for office and Lusk was running the museum. They later served together on the Nelson County Community Clinic board of directors, which serves the medically uninsured.

Lusk had also helped establish Room in the Inn, a church-based program to provide overnight shelter to homeless people.

He was an emergency services chaplain as well as chaplain at the hospital, and he had been a volunteer firefighter since he was 16.

Nelson County EMS Director Joe Prewitt said Lusk was a committed participant in the emergency services community.

In the event of trauma, Prewitt said, Lusk “would always reach out to me to see if our guys needed any support from him or his group,” a reference to the chaplains team.

Lusk was married to Anne Lusk, a retired special education teacher, Lutheran church choir director and conductor of the Bardstown Community Orchestra. He was a father and grandfather.

Serving as a clergyman was something he came to late in life. He went to college to become a veterinarian, but came home to help his father run a funeral home in Paris. He had to give that up because he developed an allergy to an ingredient in embalming fluid.

Lusk had been fascinated by trains and was a railroad modeler, so he got a job at a transportation museum in North Carolina and later came to New Haven as director of the Kentucky Railway Museum.

He also was an auctioneer, journalist, farmer and college instructor.

But, as Lusk told The Kentucky Standard in 2016, he always had a “feeling that God was calling me to something else,” so he enrolled in Louisville Seminary and became vicar of a church in Campbellsville before coming to Bardstown’s Episcopal church as its rector in 2009.

Lusk described himself as “a country parson,” and that’s what he was, Griffith said.

He never wanted to lead a big church.

Jennifer Nolan, president of Flaget Memorial Hospital, where Lusk worked his second job while serving as a priest, issued a statement Tuesday:

“Karl’s death is a huge loss not only to Flaget Memorial Hospital, but also to our community as a whole. He was passionate about the work that we do at Flaget and was a strong advocate for our mission and our service to the community. As a chaplain at Flaget for 11 years, he was not only passionate, but also compassionate in all his interactions with staff, patients and our community. We were lucky to have known Karl; he was a kind and caring man that we will never forget. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, our staff and our entire community.”  

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