Obituary of William J. Kirsch
Rensselaer– William J. Kirsch passed away peacefully on Sunday, December 9, 2018, at home with his family at his side. Bill was born and raised in Rensselaer, where he met and married his wife of sixty-four years, Grace (née Grace M. Gilbert). From a young age, Bill starred in baseball and basketball for Rensselaer High School under the guidance of his father Joe and mother Marion. He then went on to star in both sports at Siena College in Loudonville. One of Bill’s greatest scholastic sports successes was sinking the winning basket against Iona College at the original Madison Square Garden structure in 1954, from a distance well past half-court, a record that was never broken at the Garden.
Soon after graduating from Siena, Bill began his distinguished career as a teacher and basketball coach, including at the Rensselaer Boys Club. His first head coaching job was Maple Hill High School in Castleton. He would soon teach and coach at Russell Sage College and the Sage Junior College of Albany (JCA), where his teams garnered a stellar record of 79 wins and 13 losses. JCA provided the experience Bill needed to secure the job he cherished most which was head coach and athletic director of Siena College. Over the next twenty years, “Coach Kirsch” began the resurgence of Siena College basketball by leading the program to Division I, setting the stage for the national recognition the entire institution has received over the past several decades. Bill’s real professional achievement, however, was the positive impact he had on the lives of countless students, athletes, and colleagues.
Bill and Grace enjoyed an active and rewarding retirement in Florida for over a quarter-century. They enjoyed golfing, swimming, participating as active members of the local German heritage club, and discovering a shared affinity for dancing of all types. Unknown to most of Coach Kirsch’s former players and friends, Bill became quite the country dancer of the Texas two-step as well as many German style dance moves.
Bill is predeceased by his son Steve (Page) and brothers Bob (Cathy) and Tommy. He is survived by his wife Grace, brothers Don (Pauline) and Glenn (Gail), his children, Tim (Sue) Kirsch, Gayle (Ron) Durivage, Ned Kirsch, and Amy (Bill) Weitzel, along with sixteen grandchildren and six great grandchildren. Relatives and friends may call at the Lyons Funeral Home at 1700 Washington Avenue, Rensselaer on Thursday from 4-7 pm. A funeral service will be held on Friday at 10am in the Chapel at Siena College. Burial with proceed immediately following at the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Rensselaer. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in Bill’s name to the Rensselaer Boys and Girls Club.