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Kucher's Kids Shoe Drive remembers kind late shoemaker

PORT JERVIS – Since the fall of 2015, a shoe drive hosted annually is aimed at continuing Josef Kucher's lifetime of kindnesses in his community. Hundreds of pairs of new shoes and boots for children and young adults have been collected and distributed each fall in memory of Port Jervis community's beloved, tragically taken, late shoemaker.

Seven years ago, on the morning of November 7, 2014, Kucher, owner of Kucher’s Shoe Repair and Orthopedic at 43 Front Street, was brutally attacked in his small downtown shop. Port’s 77-year-old gentle shoemaker died the next day. His life was taken by sudden senseless violence at the hands of a local intruder as he was preparing to open his shop for the day, as he did every day.

Kucher's 29-year-old attacker fled with a mere $80 that he pocketed from the shop that day. He was captured and is currently serving a 25-year sentence in prison.

The sixth annual Kucher’s Kids Shoe Drive has been underway since October 25th. It will continue through November 24, 2021. New shoes may be dropped off at The Gun Lady shop at 41 Front Street, State Farm Insurance at 20 East Main Street, or ordered online for direct delivery to either location. All donations will be distributed to needy children, with help from Port Jervis’ Salvation Army.

Kucher's Kids Shoe Drive is organized and hosted annually by Maria Mann and Mary Decker. It was created as a way to pay tribute to a master shoemaker who repaired shoes for more than 40 years in Port Jervis. This collection and tribute is one the organizers and others see as appropriate for the late shoemaker; one that would personally please him.

Kucher was born in Austria in 1937 and immigrated to the United States in 1959. A veteran of both the Austrian and American militaries, Kucher grew walking to school daily as a young boy, often without wearing any shoes of his own. He remembered those early days and cold winter walks throughout his life. As a shoemaker, he helped others in many ways, often with little or no charge for his services. No doubt hundreds, like Mann and Decker, carry memories of Kucher's giving nature and positive impact on the lives of others.

Decker said in a news release regarding the drive, “Mr. Kucher left a void in the community that can never be filled. The shoe drive represents the good and generous hearts of the members of the community and honors the memory of Mr. Kucher.”

Mann operated her business next to Kucher’s shop for decades and remains a close friend of his family. She will always remember the tragedy of losing her late neighbor, a friend and fellow businessman who is missed daily.

“Our community lost a sweet, gentle hard-working man. Our memories will last a lifetime,” said Mann. “I know he is watching over us all with his kindness and smiles.”

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