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The Siskey YMCA branch is getting a new name

The former Siskey YMCA in Matthews is now known as the Brace Family YMCA. Walkers and runners put the gravel track outside the Y to good use on Tuesday.
The former Siskey YMCA in Matthews is now known as the Brace Family YMCA. Walkers and runners put the gravel track outside the Y to good use on Tuesday. jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com

The YMCA of Greater Charlotte on Tuesday said it’s renaming the Siskey YMCA in Matthews for former Y president Harry Brace and his family.

The change comes about 10 months after Charlotte businessman Rick Siskey, whose family was the namesake for the fitness facility, took his own life amid allegations he had operated a long-running Ponzi scheme.

Known as the Siskey YMCA since 1996, the location will now be named for a former president who helped rapidly expand the organization’s membership during his tenure. His wife, Jean, and the couple’s children remain involved in the Y and each year help select the Harry Brace Servant Leadership Award for emerging staff leaders.

“Together, Harry and Jean exemplified the Y’s core values – caring, honesty, respect, responsibility and faith,” said Todd Tibbits, CEO of the YMCA of Greater Charlotte, in a statement. “The Braces have always been about improving the quality of life for everyone in our community. It is so fitting that this Y will carry their name and represent their legacy for generations to come.”

The newly minted Brace Family YMCA is the third-largest Charlotte YMCA branch with about 22,000 members.

Brace became president of the YMCA of Greater Charlotte in 1983, and under his leadership membership more than doubled to 106,000. He died unexpectedly in 1999 from an apparent heart attack while exercising in the Central Y’s weight room. He was 62.

The Y said the board of the nonprofit organization unanimously made the decision, which was revealed to members Tuesday afternoon.

“Due to the circumstances surrounding Rick Siskey, the Y’s staff and volunteer leadership determined that it was in the association’s best interest to rename the branch,” said Molly Thompson, spokeswoman for the YMCA of Greater Charlotte.

The change is effective Tuesday and the branch is in the process of updating its signs, website and social media accounts. New signs, which were going up Tuesday, cost about $2,500, Thompson said.

The Matthews-area YMCA branch was named for Siskey and his family after they contributed an unspecified amount to an $18 million capital campaign. At the time, Siskey, at age 36, was a successful financial planner who also made investments in restaurants and technology companies.

At a luncheon announcing the donation in 1995, developer H.C. “Smoky” Bissell, who led the fundraising effort, called Siskey’s gift the highlight of the campaign because of his youth and commitment. Siskey said he felt especially indebted to the organization, having spent much of his leisure time as a youth at a YMCA in Kankakee, Ill., near Chicago.

“We think this will serve as a beacon for others who will come forward in the future,” Bissell said at the time, according to an Observer story.

Potential fraud allegations first surfaced against Siskey in December 2016, and shortly after that he took his own life at age 58. An affidavit signed by an FBI special agent later alleged Siskey had been running a Ponzi scheme for years, costing investors millions.

A bankruptcy court trustee and the administrator of Siskey’s estate are currently examining claims submitted by investors. Insurance money from Siskey’s death and proceeds from an estate auction and the sale of the SouthPark mansion owned by Siskey and his wife, Diane, will help pay back investors.

Since the allegations emerged against Siskey, the YMCA has said it was following developments in the case but had not signaled plans to change the branch’s name.

The name change will be marked by a private dedication event at a later date, the YMCA said.

Rick Rothacker: 704-358-5170, @rickrothacker

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