Volunteer extraordinaire Nora Cusack

Former board member stays busy helping others: by Nora Cusack

Name: Nora Cusack

Where I live: Madison, Wis.

Where and when I was born: Born in State College, Pa., in 1952 to grad student parents. Grew up in California; moved to New York at age 13 and graduated high school there; started college in Madison and never left.

Family: Husband of almost 45 years, Brent Nicastro, age 72, retired photographer. Elderly cat, Touza.

Education: I started at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1969, but never got a degree. I earned an associate degree from Madison Area Technical College in printing, was hired immediately and embarked on a 25-year career in graphic arts. I’m a lifelong learner.

Occupation: Retired from paid work. I am a former small-business owner. After my business partner and I sold our graphic arts company in 1996, I have primarily been doing volunteer work, save for a five-year stint as a staffer for FFRF in the 2000s. Past volunteer experiences have included: elementary school reading tutor; permanency plan reviewer for kids in out-of-home placement; helping the Wisconsin Supreme Court produce the first statewide compilation of Volunteers in the Courts; past board member of FFRF, Wisconsin Women’s Network, NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin, Community Shares of Wisconsin. Currently co-administrator/treasurer of the Women’s Medical Fund, an all-volunteer statewide nonprofit abortion fund. I’ve also been an election poll worker for many years.

Military service: None. My husband served in the Army during the Vietnam era.

How I got where I am today: After my business partner and I sold our business, I discussed with my husband taking time out from the paid workforce and volunteering for a couple of years. A couple of years has turned into 20-plus years. Volunteering for social justice causes is sometimes frustrating but usually very satisfying work. I like being not only a witness but a participant in democracy.

Where I’m headed: Continuing to work for social justice.

Person in history I admire and why: All the women, famous and not, who have worked for reproductive justice.

A quotation I like: “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.” — Gloria Steinem/Florynce Kennedy.

These are a few of my favorite things: Reading, politics, cooking, gardening, watching UW basketball.

These are not: Hypocrites who are opposed to government interference in all things except women’s autonomy over their own bodies. Religious folks who want to impose their personal beliefs on others.

My doubts about religion started: I’ve never had religious belief. I am a second-generation atheist. Both my parents earned Ph.D.s in the sciences, so I grew up with a rational scientific view of the world.

Before I die: I’d like to see social justice achieved. I’d like election gerrymandering to end so that democracy can be restored.

Ways I promote freethought: Being out as an atheist, without proselytizing. I like people to get to know me, see that I am a nice, moral, honest person, then find out that I’m an atheist. Maybe change some stereotypes.

Why are you a member of FFRF? Because atheists need an effective defense against violations of state/church separation and an organization that educates about atheism. Too many people have negative judgements of atheists and think they have never met one. I’ll borrow a saying from abortion activists (“Everyone loves someone who has had an abortion”) and say, “Everyone loves someone who is an atheist.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation