Paul Kurpiel, a celebrated Chaminade High School athlete who played on two high school state championship teams, died last week following a lengthy illness attributed to esophageal and pancreatic cancers. He was 65.
As a senior at Chaminade in 1970, Kurpiel was a key member of both the Eagles’ basketball and baseball teams that won big-school, Class AA state titles.
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Kurpiel was a hustling defensive standout on the undefeated Eagles’ basketball team. Most of the regulars returned from the previous season (20-6), which ended with a blowout loss to Canton McKinley in a state semifinal.
Guided by coach Jim Turvene, Chaminade’s Dan Gerhard, Terry Tyler, Ted Wuebben, Stan Pfander and Kurpiel were on a state-title mission the next season and delivered. Chaminade eliminated rival Roth in a district final showdown that featured the Falcons’ backcourt of Donald Smith and Phil Lumpkin, both of whom would play in the NBA. The game drew the first sellout crowd at the University of Dayton Arena, which opened in 1969 that season.
Chaminade completed a 27-0 run by beating Waverly 73-55 in a state semifinal, then crushing Rossford 69-47 in the state final at Ohio State University’s St. John Arena. Gerhard was named the Class AA state player of the year and would be a three-year starter at OSU.
“Kurp was a very, very good teammate and a good person,” said Gerhard, who had a long coaching career at West Carrollton. “He was a vocal leader and very dependable.”
At least seven members of that Chaminade team landed NCAA Division I athletic scholarships: Pfander (Indiana football), Wuebben (Creighton basketball, played for Eddie Sutton), Tyler (Michigan basketball, played for Johnny Orr), Mike Eifert (Kent State basketball), John Weiland (Indiana State track), Gerhard and Kurpiel.
Kurpiel had a starring role in the Eagles’ drive to the state baseball title that spring. Playing home games at Solder Field and Princeton Park in Dayton, he led Chaminade in hitting (.349), hits (38), at-bats (109), runs (22), RBIs (31), doubles (8), triples (3) and home runs (10).
And he saved his best for last. Chaminade (28-6), led by coach Rick Wessels, swept Cincinnati Western Hills and Tecumseh at Crosley Field to win the regional. Chaminade defeated Columbus Whetstone 1-0 in a state semifinal on Dan Burneka’s two-hitter and Kurpiel’s opposite-field homer. The next day Tim Wabler hurled a three-hitter and Kurpiel had two homers and a double in a title-clinching 6-1 defeat of Cleveland Garfield Heights.
Kurpiel was named the state’s Class AA player of the year and accepted a scholarship to play baseball at OSU, where he played outfield and lettered in the 1971-72 seasons.
According to his obituary, Kurpiel played minor-league baseball for the Chicago White Sox and retired from the Greater Dayton RTA. He is survived by his wife Sherrie, brothers Tom, Jim and Bob and sister Mary.
Visitation will be from 4-5 p.m. Wednesday at Routsong Funeral Home in Kettering and a memorial service afterward.
• Most of this information was gleaned from the 1969 and ’70 Chaminade High School yearbooks.