Updated Tuesday, July 13 at 8:33 pm
Shock, dismay, and anguish reverberated throughout the Bedford High School community and beyond as word spread of the untimely death late Monday of 42-year-old teacher and coach Ryan Kilian.
“We are devastated by the news,” said a sorrowful Keith Mangan, director of athletics, who hired Kilian as middle school physical education teacher in 2017 and BHS varsity boys’ basketball coach two years later. “Our hearts are broken. This is a tragic loss of an outstanding human being.”
Kilian was stricken at his Chelmsford home. He and his wife Rebekah had two young sons. Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.
“This is an incredibly difficult time for our schools, community, and for Ryan’s family,” said Superintendent of Schools Philip Conrad in a memo to the community. “It is our hope that everyone will lean on one another as we continue to mourn the loss of our friend, teacher, and coach.”
Kilian taught physical education at BHS and was a prominent member of the state youth lacrosse family for many years. Mangan said he has been fielding text messages of sympathy from coaches and athletic directors from all over the state.
Tuesday afternoon, BHA Principal Heather Galante and her assistant principals hosted a meeting of Kilian’s players, recent alumni, and assistant coaches. “It was definitely tough,” said Jeff Mascoli, a senior captain for the 2019-20 season, Kilian’s first. “A lot of the players were at a loss for words. We talked about staying together because that’s what he would have wanted.”
On Tuesday morning Galante announced that BHS counselors and administrators will be available to support students, faculty, and staff in the high school counseling office on Wednesday from 9-11 a.m. and Thursday from noon to 2 p.m.
Kilian, who grew up in Carlisle, was a 1996 graduate of Concord-Carlisle High School, where he lettered in three sports. He earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of New Hampshire in 2000. Before succeeding Vin McGrath at BHS in 2019, Kilian coached at his alma mater as well as at the Bromfield School and Concord Academy.
“We hired Ryan as a teacher, and right away he got involved coaching middle school football,” Mangan said. When he applied for the varsity job, Mangan said, “I didn’t know his basketball resume and was stunned at his experience.”
A professional sportswriter (he used that talent to provide game accounts to The Citizen during the 2021 high school season), Kilian had been a middle school special education teacher in Lawrence from 2012 to 2017, when he moved to JGMS. He received a master of education degree in special education from Fitchburg State University in 2018.
As an incoming team captain, “ I got to know him really well the spring of my junior year. He had a really big impact on me and all the other kids, outside of basketball,” Mascoli said. “He always wanted the best for us, to help us grow as people. He always asked me how my senior year was going, about college applications.”
Mangan spoke of Kilian’s “level of caring for his athletes at every level. He was really trying to teach the important lessons in life – what kind of person you are and how important it is to be fully invested in yourself, your team, your family, and your community, lessons that transcend sports.”
“Mr. Kilian was a positive and kind person who had a generous spirit, and we were thrilled to have him as an educator in our schools,” wrote BHS Principal Heather Galante in a letter to the parents of student-athletes Tuesday. “This is a tremendous loss for our school community. The family is understandably devastated as they are navigating this unimaginable tragedy. Our thoughts are with them and all who mourn his loss.”
Mascoli, a rising sophomore at Syracuse University, said his coach was “a really good leader. Everyone looked up to him and he did a really good job being a good role model for everyone.” The coach added a community service component to the team, and the players spent some time as volunteers at the VA Hospital.
Lacrosse was a passion for Kilian, who was a standout in high school, a board member of Bedford Youth Lacrosse, and the general manager and editor of the website BostonLax.
We will figure out over time how we will honor him. Right now, it’s about being there for each other,” Mangan lamented. “These are the memories and experiences we will hold forever.”
Mike Rosenberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 781-983-1763