Nancy Louise Benson

August 23, 1948August 11, 2012

Nancy Louise Benson of Boulder, CO peacefully passed away on Saturday, August 11, 2012 in her own home. Her husband Ralph Vickrey was by her side with love and support at her death. Ralph, along with Nancy's two daughters, also fought alongside her during her year-long battle with breast cancer, and she was surrounded by love throughout her life. Nancy was 63. She was an amazing woman who will be greatly missed. Nancy was born on August 23, 1948 in McKeesport, PA. She is the oldest child of David and Margaret McCusker of McKeesport, PA, and the sister of Rosemary Nilles of Alison Park, PA, Marilyn Shannon of Ft. Wayne, IN, Dave McCusker Jr. of Burlington, NC, and the late Mark McCusker and James McCusker, both of McKeesport, PA. Nancy was also the eldest of 61 first cousins in a close-knit Irish-American family. She graduated from Greensberg Central Catholic High School in 1966, and was the first in her family to attend college at Carlow College in Pittsburgh, PA on a full-ride academic scholarship. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in English from Carlow College in 1970 with a minor in education. She enjoyed her roles as the editor of the Carlow College newspaper and a debate team member. In January 1970, she married Larry E. Benson, of Conneaut, OH. In 1971, they settled permanently in Colorado. Nancy earned a Master's Degree in Reading with a minor in English at the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1975. In 1979 she earned her Ph.D. in Secondary Education with a focus on evaluation methodologies at the University of Colorado at Boulder School of Education. She taught adult classes in English as a Second Language, worked at the Economics Institute at the University of Colorado, and taught Junior High English in the Jefferson County school district. In 1979, Nancy and Larry founded Treehouse Real Estate, and they owned and operated a residential real estate business for 17 years. The highlight for her was helping families relocate to Boulder County from all over the country. However, Nancy's true passion was always education. In 1997, Nancy and Larry opened up the doors to Treehouse Learning, an early childhood education center they built in Lafayette, CO, which is now in its 16th year of operation. Nancy and Larry later divorced, and Nancy continued to run the program. Through the vision Nancy pioneered, thousands of families and children have been impacted through the nurturing care and learning opportunities at Treehouse. It began as a family business, and Nancy ensured that the legacy she created for the community will continue beyond her life. In 2001, Nancy met Ralph Vickrey. The two fell in love and became committed and loving partners. After a decade of commitment to each other, Nancy and Ralph married on September 2, 2011, the same day as her breast cancer diagnosis in order to make that day ultimately a celebration. Throughout their relationship, they took bike tours around Ireland, France, Italy, Scotland and Spain, enjoyed camping and fishing in the mountains of Colorado, and most recently, celebrated a belated honeymoon in May 2012 in Hawaii, also marking the end of Nancy's cancer treatment. Nancy deeply loved her two daughters, Susan and Amy. She enjoyed deepening her close relationships with her adult children and made it a priority to spend time with them. She also treated their husbands like children of her own, and often bragged about her "sons she never had to raise." Nancy adored her granddaughter, Palesa, and considered playing with the baby an integral part of her cancer recovery. She eagerly awaited the arrival of her second grandchild in December 2012. Nancy was an active athlete and runner, completing her first marathon in Paris in April 2011. She trained with a local running group, Toledo Runners, and was dedicated, tenacious, and competitive--a streak which always emerged during hill repeats. Just days after her cancer diagnosis, Nancy ran the Boulder Half Marathon, with Ralph riding alongside on his bike. Ralph remained by her side during her entire battle with cancer. Nancy even continued running and doing pilates during treatment, and greatly appreciated the blessing of staying active. Nancy was a lifelong learner as well as an educator. As an adult, Nancy fulfilled a childhood dream of hers to take piano lessons. She enjoyed playing "La Vie en Rose" for company that came to her house, and delighted her piano teacher with her exceptional progress. She also took French and Spanish lessons in preparation for multiple trips to Europe and Mexico. Nancy is survived by her husband, Ralph Vickrey, of Boulder, CO; her daughter, Susan Horn, son-in-law Bryan Horn and unborn baby, all of Windsor, CO; her daughter, Amy May, son-in-law Osei May, and granddaughter Palesa May, all of Boulder, CO; her father, David McCusker of McKeesport, PA; and her siblings Rosemary, Marilyn, and Dave Jr. She was preceded in death by her mother, Margaret Caulfield McCusker and her brothers Mark McCusker and James McCusker, all of McKeesport, PA. A memorial service will be held in honor of Nancy on Friday August 17th at 10:00 am at St. John's Episcopal Church in Boulder at 1419 Pine Street, with a reception to follow. Crist Mortuary is handling the arrangements. To honor Nancy's legacy in the community, The Nancy L Benson Memorial Fund has been established. Tax-deductible gifts can be made to The Community Foundation, 1123 Spruce Street, Boulder, CO 80302 or on their website, Her children will recommend grants from the fund that honor Nancy's life and her passion for education. Her family asks that a donation be made in lieu of flowers.


  • Memorial Service

    Friday, August 17, 2012


Nancy Louise Benson

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November 1, 2012

Dear Ralph,
We just read about Nancy and her amazing life accomplishments. May the years you enjoyed together, and memories you have continue to be a comfort for you as you proceed in life. And whenever you again visit Obstruction Pass, please let us know so we can find you and have a visit.
Jim & Bev

Taree and Andrew Muller

August 21, 2012

Our prayers are with all of you. We will miss running with you Nancy. God Bless you all.

Burke Taft

August 19, 2012


Burke Taft here. Condolences from myself and Janie. Nancy was our neighbor when we bought a house in the High View subdivision after house sitting for you in the Leheigh house.

We now spend the summers on Lake Erie and winters in Boulder.

Best wishes!

Burke and Janie Taft

August 17, 2012

Ralph's Indiana relatives are deeply saddened at Nancy's passing. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of you. We are sorry that we are so far away, but we do share in your sorrow.

Sue Murrell, Kokomo, IN

Patti Gee

August 16, 2012

With my deepest sympathy to Susan and Amy and all those that loved Nancy. She was a brave and soulful woman and a true inspiration to me. I am so fortunate to have known her and very proud to call her my friend. I will miss you Nancy.

Bob and Frieda Helgerson

August 16, 2012

So sorry to read about your Mother‘s passing. She appeared to have bravely addressed her cancer and actively fought back. Not surprised that she still lived her life with such positive vigor. Both you girls are your Mother‘s daughters. She was so proud of all your accomplishments and I‘m sure of your marriages and growing families. Our prayers to you in this time of sorrow.

August 16, 2012

Tina Koplinski

August 15, 2012

Take comfort in knowing that now you have a special guardian angel to watch over you. We have only known Nancy & Ralph for 2 years, she had become our favorite camping buddy. We will miss her very much.
Love, Gary, Tina & Doc


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