Cover photo for William Russell Loesch's Obituary
William Russell Loesch Profile Photo
1941 William 2018

William Russell Loesch

November 20, 1941 — June 16, 2018

Born November 20, 1941 West Palm Beach, Florida- Died June 16, 2018 at his home at 85 Brent St, Dorchester, MA.

He is predeceased by his parents Rev. Russell Talcott Loesch, born in Garrettsville, Ohio, and Mary “Polly” Kendrick Francis Loesch, born in Andover, MA.

He is survived by his three daughters and son: Melanie Loesch, Cathy Loesch, Cynthia Loesch-Johnson (and husband Jeffery Johnson) Christopher (and wife Shannon), and their four children, his former wife, Martha Sanchez, and he is also survived by his twin brother, Rev. Dr. Bob Loesch, and four nieces and a nephew.

He lived with his family in several states during World War II. His ancestors came from Wales and from England. In recent years through genealogical research, he learned that both maternal and paternal sides of the family had arrived in the “New World in Dorchester.  The most famous of his ancestors on the maternal side was Captain John “the Bold” Kendrick, who was captain of the ship Columbia, built in Wareham, MA, along with Captain Gray. 

He graduated from Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio, in 1963 with a B.A. in Sociology and Psychology. Bill wrote reflections for his 50th reunion directory in 2013 and stated: “My years at Oberlin gave me first hand involvement in the civil rights movement through two professors and classmates going to Ol’ Miss and Tougaloo College.”He graduated with a Master of Divinity in 1968 and Doctor of Ministry in 1976, both from Andover Newton Theological School. He was a member of the adjunct faculty at Andover Newton Theological School, Harvard University, Emmanuel College and Northeastern University School of Nursing.

Bill lived and worked in urban ministry at Columbia Point Housing, the largest public housing project in New England. His urban ministry at Columbia Point involved working with seven major denominations in dialogue and debate about the ministry to urban areas of Boston, especially at Columbia Point. 

He was the director from 1969-79 of a local church fellowship, the Christian Center of the Columbia Point Housing Development in Boston’s Dorchester section. The center served 500 youth a week, including a drop-in center for youth, a worship center and counseling and referral program. He worked closely with neighbors, and as a resident of Columbia Point, on issues of welfare, housing, drug rehabilitation, youth work and programs to develop individuals and families. 

Notably, he worked under Senator Ted Kennedy’s leadership and Tufts University School of Medicine to establish the Geiger Gibson Health Center, the first community health center in the country. He worked there to address housing, educational and health issues daily.

Bill Loesch wrote a chapter in the Streets of Echoes- Stories from Boston’s Most Enduring Neighborhoods, Volume 5, as part of the Memoir Project of the City of Boston. His essay was about his living in the Grove Hall area between Roxbury and Dorchester and describes his activities during the civil rights movement in Boston, Selma, Alabama; Lynchburg, VA; and DC. 

He was active in civil rights issues in Boston. He marched side-by-side with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and rode to school with students during the 1970’s busing crisis in Boston. Dr. Loesch helped design the McCormack School, making it the first Boston public school required to be open for community use.

From 1976 he was Protestant Chaplain, Director of Pastoral Care and Education at Boston City Hospital, where he faced daily the tragic results of violence in streets and homes, of drug and alcohol abuse, and of homelessness. His primary ministry there was with patients, staff and family members. He helped supervise and train over 1,000 graduate students in ministry, through Clinical Pastoral Education training, as an adjunct faculty member at Andover Newton.  He was also a supervisor of field education from Harvard Divinity School, the Franciscan Friary, Gordon-Conwell Seminary and Andover Newton. Rev. John Eller, ANTS ’69, said “His ministries are overflowing with love, persistence and the skilled tools of urban ministry, which have been hewn day by day.”

He became a member of Second Church in Dorchester and Greenwood United Methodist Church, and created several civic organizations: Breath of Life Dorchester (BOLD) Teen group, a teen peer leadership group, within program called Teens Against Tobacco, affiliated with Greenwood Family Life programs. He led BOLD Teens Against Tobacco as they organized to stop all tobacco ads in Boston Globe and then stopped all pharmacies in Boston from selling tobacco products, the second city in the nation to do so.

Rev. Loesch co-founded The Center For Community Health Education, Research and Service (CCHERS) serving students from Boston University School of Medicine, Emmanuel College and Northeastern University’s School of Nursing. Rev. Loesch has always been a very active member of his community, helping form the Codman Square Neighborhood Council. Rev. Loesch was an outspoken leader in the Codman Square area.

He was a member of National and New England Chapters of Health Ministries and the Association of Clinical Pastoral Education. Licensed as an ordained clergy in the MA Conference of the United Church of Christ and former president of the Massachusetts Protestant Chaplains Association.

His twin brother Bob Loesch said, “I have known and loved my twin brother Bill all of our lives, attending schools together from elementary through undergraduate years. We shared the same bedroom until we went off to college. Except for a few childhood arguments, we have always gotten along and cooperated well. We have followed parallel careers in Protestant ministry within the United Church of Christ. While I lived and worked in local churches across the Northeast, he lived and worked in urban ministry faithfully in Boston all of his lifetime.  As I reflect on many of his personal qualities and characteristics, they included ‘friendly, sociable, great sense of humor, loyal, honest, humble, caring, faithful, adventurous, generous, happy, joyful, open-minded, studious, empathetic, careful, wise, health-conscious, inquisitive, progressive, grateful, loving, compassionate, trustworthy, good-hearted, cooperative and more.” Some of these correspond to the fruits of the Spirit listed by the apostle Paul in Galatians 5:22: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” “Although my brother was not defined by labels, some of the roles most important in his life were: loving husband, loving father, loyal friend, life-long Democrat, progressive Protestant clergyman, urban environmentalist, community organizer and activist, mentor and advisor to youth, hospital chaplain, Clinical Pastoral Education supervisor, Boston Globe subscriber and New England Patriots fan.”  

“Every morning, as soon as it was delivered, he read the Globe and Dorchester Reporter from cover to cover and clipped out articles for future reference. From the year he first registered to vote, he voted in every local, state and Federal election, and often worked at the polls.”

A message from Mayor Martin J. Walsh: “It’s with a heavy heart that I say goodbye to my friend Reverend Bill Loesch. His passing is felt by the entire City of Boston, Dorchester and especially for Codman Square. For decades, Rev. Loesch has been at the forefront of civil rights, social justice, and improving quality of life in our City.  He brought the community together through the Codman Square Neighborhood Council, the BOLD Teen group, and many more organizations that helped instill a sense of pride in the neighborhood. He set a great example for future generations, and his legacy lives on through the work of his daughter Cynthia Loesch Johnson and the countless people touched by his mentorship.  Boston will always be grateful for his dedicated activism and leadership. And I will always cherish our friendship and the time we spent together: in the neighborhood, in our parks, and even in Foxboro cheering on the Patriots.  My thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones. “

Cynthia Loesch-Johnson said, "my father inspired me (along with many others) to be a leader.  He always led by example by helping others regardless of the circumstance.  His legacy will live on through the organizing we will continue to do everyday around the health policy work of the BOLD Teens, the Hidden Heroes and Sheroes awards celebration and the Codman Square Farmers Market."

The Loesch Family Park was re-dedicated in July 2012. The following information is excerpted from an article by Elizabeth Murray in the Dorchester Reporter:

 For 27 years while living across the street from the Cronin-Wainwright Park on Brent Street, Rev. Dr. Bill Loesch spent time planting flowers and trying to make it more attractive for visitors. The newly renovated park he worked so hard to beautify will bear his name, as Dr. Loesch Family Park. “I’ve always been a person who was raised to be very active in my family and very active in whatever church or group that I’m involved with. Be very active with those right around you because what counts is getting to know people and work with them. I’ve sort of lived that way” Rev. Loesch said.  The 2.24  acre park was popularly known as Wainwright Park for the street that defined its western edge. Rev. Loesch said he had suggested the park’s name be changed to “Peace Park” or “President Barack Obama Peace Park.” “Then the next thing I know, they didn’t take my suggestion. But it’s very humbling. They don’t name parks after living people. I’m very honored to have been active with the park and have it named after me, and then to be part of watching all these folks use the park and enjoy it. My goal is to make it a happier park, a friendlier park,”   

Rev. Loesch received the 1989 Distinguished Ministry Award from the Alumni/ Association of Andover Newton Theological School. Rev. John Eller, ANTS ’69, said “His ministries are overflowing with love, persistence and the skilled tools of urban ministry, which have been hewn day by day.” He was active in many community organizations, including Four Corners Action Coalition, Codman Square Neighborhood Council, Urban Parish Program of Emmanuel College, Academy of Public Service Dorchester High School, Codman Square/Four Corners Alliance for Community Health, Lucy Stone Schoolyard Initiative.  He was honored by the University of Massachusetts Boston at its annual Community Breakfast with the Robert H. Quinn Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Community.

Bill enjoyed traveling with his family all of his life, visiting all 50 states and at least 22 countries, in North America, Central America, the Caribbean, Europe and the Middle East. In recent years, he traveled with his brother or one of his daughters to Alaska, Belize, Holy Land, Cuba, Hawaii, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, Ohio and Canada.  

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of William Russell Loesch, please visit our flower store.

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