Ernie Lorch passed away this past Monday. He had been hospitalized and his family had moved him to a specialized care facility in the past year.
Lorch will be remembered for his over 47 years of working and devoting hours and hours of time to community-based programs at upper Manhattan’s Riverside Church and the City Wide Athletic Association.
He was born in Germany, spoke the country’s language fluently and lived in France for nine years during his early years. We first met Lorch in the early ’60s when he coached youth football. When the City Wide Athletic summer basketball program tipped off in 1965 at 10 NYC Department Playgrounds in the five boroughs–with two sites each in Brooklyn and Queens and at playgrounds in the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island with assistance from the New York City Youth Services Agency–Lorch was the first coach at the Bronx site to enter teams representing Riverside Church.
But most of all, Lorch will be remembered for his kind and concerned contributions to the youth of this city. Had it not been for Lorch, the City Wide program would have become a memory after it was excluded from the city’s summer budget. It was Lorch who went to the then Gulf & Western Corporation, located at 60th Street and Broadway, and secured funding that enabled City Wide to continue and become a prototype for summer basketball programs in cities around the country.
We spent much time traveling to cities across the country, assisting them in structuring models based upon City Wide. It was Lorch who assisted the City Wide Board of Directors in creating scholarship programs in high schools around the city and, in particular, at Harlem’s Rice High School.
On a personal note, Lorch assisted this writer in founding the now Junior AAU program in 1973 in Indianapolis with assistance from Jim Fox, the director of the AAU’S men’s basketball programs. We started the AAU National Tournament at Indiana State University with 10 teams. New York, Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans, Newark, two teams from Indiana and so on as the New York Hawks became the first-ever National AAU Junior basketball champs.
It would never had happened without the role played by Lorch. Again, it was Lorch raising funds that sent the first-ever USDA team to play throughout the Soviet Union, establishing a home series that lasted some seven or eight years. But his kindness extended well beyond basketball and sports; he dug into his pockets and sent whole families of children to colleges around the country.
And as far as those accusations regarding individuals who attempted to extort money from him, especially the so-called BW from the Wagner Houses in East Harlem, you should be ashamed of yourselves. And for those individuals who were seeking money from Lorch on the very day he passed…burn in hell!