Posted: January 30, 2024
The beginning of a new year is both a time to reflect on the past and press forward to the future. Local Holly Creek Life Plan Community resident Phoebe Busch is doing that by writing a new book born out of her family history and years of experience as a local Colorado educator with a global perspective.
Busch’s book will capture the intriguing life of her aunt, Louise Wood, an important Red Cross executive during World War II. In her Red Cross role, Wood followed Allied troops from North Africa through Italy, reclaiming Nazi occupied territories. Busch plans to incorporate the letters her aunt wrote from 1943 through the war’s end, chronicling her experiences, which included meeting King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.
Busch’s own life is a story of discovery and adventure as well. Her quest for education took root in family trips and dinner table conversations.
“I grew up in Rochester, Minnesota, attended a small liberal arts school called Macalester College, and graduated with my bachelor’s degree in 1964,” Busch said. “Shortly thereafter, I spent six months in Munich with my aunt and uncle and started studying German. I loved every minute of it.”
After returning to Minnesota, Busch launched her career teaching history at Edina Public Schools, where she summarizes her teaching experience as “baptism by fire.” After a year, she returned to Europe, this time to Bern, Switzerland, with her immediate family.
“My father was a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic and received a research fellowship at Bern,” Busch said. “This included travel expenses for the whole family, and I and my three brothers all went over with him and my mother. It was a life-changing experience for all of us.”
Busch enrolled at the Goethe Institute to learn German and then was admitted to the University of Munich and spent two years studying German history. She then became an “educator gypsy” hitchhiking through Europe, teaching for a time at a girl’s boarding school in Ghana, before returning to the US to attend graduate school.
“I realized I needed to get on with life, so I applied to the University of Colorado in Boulder and received by master’s in history with a concentration in European/German history and a minor in German literature,” Busch said. “Boulder was great, because I also loved to ski.”
Busch also met Douglas Busch, a fellow master’s degree student in history. They fell in love and married in December 1969. She was also hired that same year by Cherry Creek Schools — they offered her a job the day of the moon landing.
After teaching at East Junior High and Cherry Creek High School, Busch “took a break from teaching and convinced her husband to work in Italy for a wealthy Polish lady.
“We learned Italian and helped organize an international conference in a little town on the coast and then moved to Rome for three months,” Busch said. “Then we traveled north to spend the ski season in Lech am Arlberg in Tyrol, Austria, where we also worked. I was a waitress and Doug worked in the kitchen. With the money earned, we crossed the USSR on the Trans-Siberian Railway, took a ferry to Japan before returning to the US.”
Busch restarted her teaching career with Cherry Creek Schools and taught history of Western civilization and German at Smoky Hill High School. It was there that she became captivated by the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program, and in the 1990s helped Smoky Hill High School become the first Cherry Creek School to join the IB system.
“While teaching both AP and IB European History, I made one of the best decisions of my life,” Busch said. “In my mid 40s, I enrolled in the PhD program at the University of Denver to study the history of the Austrian Hapsburg monarchy. My dissertation focused on far northern Italy, the territory ceded to Italy after World War I. I wrote a political biography of a leading pre-war Austrian politician, who became a representative for that area under Mussolini’s fascist dictatorship.”
While teaching and traveling with high school students, Busch also worked closely with a fellow educator named Nancy Miller. The two fell in love.
“Love is irrational. It was painful to realize and accept who I really was and give up a conventional life. Doug and I divorced but remain friends,” she shared. “Nancy and I lived together in south Denver for over 40 years — the greatest adventure of all — as we continued to explore the world and decamp to our cabin on the North Inlet in Grand Lake. We were legally wed two weeks before she died of metastatic breast cancer on March 21, 2017. I was heartbroken.”
After retiring from Cherry Creek Schools in 2000, Busch started a second career at DU’s University College teaching German language and enrichment courses in German and Austrian history to adults. She retired for a second time in 2020.
Now, Busch is launching yet another career as an author at her new home in Holly Creek. In addition, she continues her love of teaching through storytelling. She is president of Cherry Creek Storytellers, a group of retirees who find great joy telling memorable tales to Cherry Creek elementary students. Busch hopes to get other Holly Creek residents involved.
When asked why she chose Holly Creek, Busch said, “I researched many places in the Denver area. Holly Creek had several critical deal-makers. I really enjoy the many walking paths in nearby South Suburban open spaces. I appreciate the philosophy of aging here, which emphasizes active engagement with the community. Most importantly, the residents and management warmly welcomed me, an ‘out’ lesbian, and my shih-tzu Daisy. Moving here has become another opportunity for new adventure!”