WATERTOWN, NY — Lewis C. Kibling, Jr., 87, Watertown, passed away peacefully and quietly on July 5, 2022, at Community Hospital in Syracuse, where he had been a patient for several days.
Lou was born on Aug. 2, 1934, the son of Lewis (Luke) and Laura Kibling in Watertown, NY, the third of four children.
He was predeceased by his parents, his beloved wife Ann and three sisters, Almeda Jane Matuseski, Helen McFee Harding and Mary Nims.
Lou grew up on the tough north side of Watertown and sports were always his prime interests and pursuits. He was fairly slight in stature, but big in heart and a gifted athlete, fleet afoot, very agile with great hand-eye coordination that enabled him to excel at track, baseball, basketball and football. In high school, he played under coaches like Howard Neal, Fremont “Freem” Powers and Harold Morgan.
Lou received a scholarship for football at Clarkson as a punter and halfback and played one season before transferring to Cortland State for physical education where he received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in PE and Health Sciences. It was there that he met his future wife Ann Henneman in class and fell in love with the girl from the Southern Tier. During the summers, Lou played summer town team ball throughout southern NY and was eventually played minor league baseball in Quebec and Kentucky for the Milwaukee Braves organization.
Lou and Ann were married on July 16, 1955, and soon thereafter took their first teaching jobs in Lowville where they moved to start their teaching and coaching careers, as well as a family. It was there that Lou learned a great deal about coaching from Walter “Connie” O’Connell and coached JV sports for a few years until Connie retired. Lou then took over the Varsity cross country, basketball and baseball teams at Lowville and established many fine teams in that community winning Sectional championships in all three sports. His most shining hour was taking the 1963-64 Lowville boys varsity basketball team down to the Syracuse War Memorial and beating a very talented Vocational High School in the Class B Sectional finals. He always cherished and talked about his Lowville students, athletes, friends and co-workers right up to the end.
In 1968, Lou was given the opportunity to become the boys Varsity basketball coach at Watertown High School and the allure of working at his old alma mater was hard to resist. So the family moved to the house on Elm Street, a block from both Case Jr and the high school and he got busy building the cross country and basketball programs. WHS had joined the Central NY Cities League, which was formidable competition in all sports, and he had to present consistently competitive teams…no small task. Fortunately, there were many tremendous runners and players and the Cyclone impact was felt right away.
The Syracuse schools learned that it was not going to be a cakewalk playing against Lou and his teams and especially in the winter when he told the janitors to turn down the temperature in the gym! Lou loved his teaching and coaching experiences at WHS and like Lowville, many of his former students and athletes became friends and called him regularly.
Known for his fiery and motivating coaching style, Coach was also a well-read student of basketball and baseball, a tireless worker, keeper of statistics and a crafty innovator and strategist. He lived for winning and was a very tough competitor who took losses extremely hard. The extra time he spent perfecting his craft is unaccounted, but he spent countless hours running summer basketball camps, making lesson and practice plans until late at night and working on defensive and offensive variations on weekends. How he had time to go fishing and bird hunting as much as he did, playing in Border League basketball and fast pitch softball leagues and tournaments and still find time for family is a mystery! One might ask Bob Giordano for that answer…..
Any athlete who played under Coach was extremely well conditioned as he worked us hard, making us tireless
and building endurance meant to outlast the competition. The words “ten in a minute” and “get on the line” still rings in most of our ears! Coach was a true believer in fundamentals and building blocks of the skills required to excel. Every practice was laid out meticulously and well organized to keep it crisp and moving and he was always on top of things on the field or in the gym every second. He was the ultimate micro-manager before the term was even invented.
As a father, he instilled love and respect for family, self-discipline, perseverance. courtesy and respect. These were qualities he felt would lead to his children’s success and happiness in later life. As a husband, he loved Ann deeply and they retired at 55 to spend more time together. (and so he could do more fishing!) This became a wise decision as Ann passed away in 2014 at the age of 80. They had moved out of the “big city” to Mannsville in the early 1980s and had a nice, cozy home on Route 11. When Ann died, Coach sold the house after a few years and moved into Samaritan Summit, where he spent the remainder of his life.
The Kibling household was always busy, especially during the school years, and the best memories were when everyone came home at night, watching Ed Sullivan, Jackie Gleason and the Honeymooners, comedians Jerry Lewis, Don Rickles and Jonathan Winters, or Wide World of Sports, Curt Gowdy’s American Sportsman and of course the first cable major league baseball games in color!
Summers meant time spent at the Hard Scrabble cottage on Pt. Peninsula, swimming, fishing and going back and forth to Watertown for baseball and softball games, basketball leagues and camps. Lou was always around the water, either taking his 14 ft aluminum boat into the waves of Lake Ontario chasing bass, walleyes or lake trout, or wading streams and rivers for trout and salmon. He was an excellent fisherman and the family would never have starved.
Later, after Coach turned 60, he started playing golf and deer hunting. He quickly took to these new pursuits like a duck on water and became proficient at both sports. He continued competing intensely at golf and pulling tabs at the Eagles Club with his golf buddies until Covid put a lockdown at Samaritan Summit.
Lou’s coaching accomplishments have been well documented by the WWNY Channel 7 News (thanks Mel!) and the Watertown Times over the years (Jack Case, the late John O’Donnell and John Day) and include inductions to the New York State Basketball Hall Fame and The North Country Sport Hall of Fame.
Coach is survived by son Steve Kibling and wife Michele (Lyng), Lyons Falls, NY; daughters, Sandy Drancsak and husband Jim Drancsak, Constantia, NY, and Sue Gallagher and husband Steve Gallagher, West Carthage, NY; and son, Lew Kibling III and wife Lynn (Arthur), LaFayette, NY.
He also has many grandchildren, Kristin Kibling, San Antonio, TX, Elizabeth Matthews, (John) Galveston, TX and Megan Elizondo (Fabian), Centerpoint, TX (Steve), Chloe DeAngelo (Gino), Rochester, NY, Lucas Dransac, Auburn, NY, Jimmy Drancsac, Constantia, NY and NYC, (Sandy) Erin Hickey (Josh) Carthage, NY Sara Gallagher, Watertown, NY, David Gallagher, (Olivia) Lafargeville, NY (Sue) Kayla Kibling, Korey Kibling, Lewis Kibling IV and Kaitlyn Kibling (Lew III) and Great -Grandchildren: Aurelia and Leonard Elizondo, Centerpoint, TX John Kelly and Ada Jean Matthews, Galveston, TX, Mason Northrop, Carthage, NY, Garrison Wheeler, Carthage, NY, Donovan( Dynamite) DeAngelo, Rochester, NY Rollin Gallagher, Lafargeville, NY
The Kibling family would like to extend our sincere thanks to the doctors and nurses and healthcare aides at Samaritan Summit Assisted Living, Samaritan Hospital Urgent Care and Rehab, Upstate ICU and Upstate Community Hospital for all their care during his time with them.
Calling hours will be 1 to 4 p.m. Friday, July 22, 2002, at Reed Benoit Funeral Home, 632 State St., Watertown, NY, followed by a Celebration of Life gathering at the Caprara Conference Center, 1291 Faichney Dr., Watertown, beginning at 5:00 p.m.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Watertown Cyclones Booster Club.
Online condolences may be made at www.reedbenoit.com