BLUFFTON - Joseph L. Urich, Jr., 62, a football star at Bluffton College who later had his own business and served on village council and civic boards, died Tuesday in his home here.
Mr. Urich had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, often called Lou Gehrig's disease. The first symptoms appeared in December, 1999, and in the months after he lost the ability to walk and communicate, his wife, Carolyn, said.
A native of Wapakoneta, he was 12 when his family moved to Bluffton to open a grocery store.
He was inspired to play sports by his three older brothers, particularly Richard “Doc” Urich, who was a star at Miami University and was a college and professional coach. Joseph played offense and defense on the Bluffton High School football team. At the college he played on Mid-Ohio League championship teams and was an all-league selection on offense and defense.
“He loved sports because he was good at [them], and he got a lot of recognition,” his wife said. “But he also developed interests in art and nature and drama. He was one of the people in Bluffton who could bridge the college and the community.”
He was head football coach at the high school for a year in the early 1970s and was an assistant football coach at the college around 1980, his wife said.
Mr. Urich was an Air Force veteran and was stationed in Labrador and Massachusetts. He owned Joe's Pizza Shop - one of the first in town - from 1970 to 1972.
“He loved being in sales, being around people,” his wife said.
He closed the shop and became an insurance salesman, mostly of supplemental Medicare policies, with his own Golden Buckeye Insurance Co. He was last able to work in September.
Mr. Urich served on village council in the 1980s. “He was really proud of this community,” his wife said.
“He was sort of a community icon. He was very gregarious and outgoing and you could never predict what he was going to say, but he was the type of person who never saw a stranger,” she said.
Mr. Urich was a member of the Bluffton Lions Club and swimming pool board and a trustee of the Bluffton-Richland Public Library.
He was a member of First Mennonite Church.
Surviving are his wife, Carolyn, whom he married June 22, 1963; son, David; daughter, Jennifer Urich; brothers, Bertram and Kenneth; sister, Patricia Ann Urich, and a granddaughter.
Memorial services will be at 3 p.m. Saturday in First Mennonite Church, Bluffton, where the family will receive visitors at 2 p.m. and after services. Arrangements are by the Chiles & Sons-Laman Mortuary, Bluffton Chapel.
The family requests tributes to Bluffton College or to First Mennonite Church.