Great Falls Friends and Neighbors members recall how the late Holly Kuga brought boundless energy, writing ability and marketing skills to the club’s projects.
Kuga, 72, who died Dec. 6 following a vehicle collision on Leesburg Pike in the McLean/Great Falls area, was “warm, generous and loving to all,” said former club board member Sally-Anne Andrew Pyne. “We were uplifted by her wise and intelligent conversation, and we were comforted by her empathetic listening and thoughtful advice.”
Kuga, a Great Falls resident, actively supported the club’s scholarship fund, which gives financial assistance to female college students, and did public-relations work for two of the organization’s successful fund-raisers, the Bridge Jamboree and fashion show.
Kuga and her husband, Dr. Robert Kuga, also hosted club gatherings such as its holiday party and “Lettuce Munch” afternoon gathering, club members said.
“Holly took on the tough jobs but never sought glory for her achievements,” said member Teresa Nasif. “She was immensely effective and helpful, but always chalked up her successes to her team members.”
Club member Anne McVey called Kuga a “great conversationalist” and said her quiet demeanor belied a fun-loving personality.
“It wasn’t unusual for Holly and friends to sit outside and enjoy long dinners at [L’Auberge] Chez Francois and look up and realize the staff was patiently waiting to close up for the night,” McVey said. “She was the kind of friend who would invite us over in our pajamas, or corral us into a long drive to an old-fashioned High Tea parlor or a bus ride up to the Philadelphia Flower Show.”
According to Fairfax County police, Kuga was driving her 2012 Honda Accord southbound on Towlston Road at 11 a.m. and attempting to make a left turn onto Leesburg Pike when her vehicle was struck in the intersection by a 2017 GMC Sierra traveling westbound on Leesburg Pike. Kuga died of her injuries later that day at Inova Fairfax Hospital.
Police are trying to determine whether speed, alcohol or drugs were factors in the accident and authorities may file charges against the striking vehicle’s driver, pending further investigation.
Holly Ann Kuga was born Dec. 24, 1947, in Buffalo, N.Y. Her late parents were Frank and Virginia Gruber. Kuga earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the State University of New York at Buffalo.
Janice Sargent, a friend of 55 years, said when they pledged for a sorority in college, Kuga changed the lyrics of the Beatles’ hit “Yellow Submarine” to suit the occasion.
“I envied her sense of humor and wit,” she said. “She was smart, honest, beautiful inside and out.”
Kuga spent her career as a civil servant, starting as a customs agent working in Buffalo, N.Y., and Washington, D.C. She then switched to the U.S. Department of Commerce, where she handled trade issues such as anti-dumping enforcement and countervailing duty laws. She also was involved with key international trade agreements regarding steel, semiconductors and softwood lumber from various countries, family members said.
At the end of her federal career, Kuga served as acting deputy assistant secretary for import administration at the Commerce Department. After retiring, she enjoyed spending time with her daughter and grandchildren, her family said.
Kuga and her husband celebrated their 50th anniversary in June. They met while she was a 17-year-old college freshman, said her husband, adding she was his only girlfriend ever. His wife was a “very kind, loving person” who always made sure to write thank-you notes, he said.
In addition to her husband, Kuga is survived by a daughter, Katherine Kuga Wenner (spouse Andrew Davin Wenner) of New Canaan, Conn.; grandchildren Hadley Livingston Wenner and Carson Kuga Wenner of New Canaan, Conn.; and brothers Dale Frank Gruber (spouse Kathleen Gruber) of Leesburg, Fla., and Robin Michael Gruber (spouse Kelly Gruber) of Atlanta.
Due to the ongoing pandemic, her family will celebrate her life at a later date.
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