Family members, adult leaders, and contemporaries shared words of praise and tribute at Saturday’s memorial service for Bedford High School’s Ryan Kilian, trying to make sense of his unexpected passing at age 43.
The beloved BHS physical education teacher and varsity boys’ basketball head coach died at his home in Chelmsford on July 12 of what has been described as an apparent cardiac episode.
Since his passing, there has been a massive outpouring of love and support for his family, culminating in the memorial service at a Chelmsford funeral home.
Paul Kilian spoke about his son’s service throughout his life. When working as a personal trainer in Los Angeles, he related, Ryan also went out of his way to work at a Boys’ and Girls’ Club in an underserved area.
After moving back to Massachusetts three years later, his father said, Ryan coached the Concord Academy basketball team while also working as a middle school special education teacher in Lawrence.
As coach of the BHS varsity, he brought the team to Boston to volunteer in BASE HOOPZ, a Roxbury-based basketball program that uses sports as a pathway to higher education and productive citizenship. “He belonged to all of the kids,” the bereaved father said.
Meaghan and Erin Kilian shared memories of their older brother. From a young age, they said, he was a role model for his siblings, not only lettering in three sports but also being a kind and caring person. He continued to be a positive force for his family, forming a strong bond with his niece, they added.
Keith Mangan, Director of Athletics, Health, and Wellness at BPS remembered Kilian’s dedication to Bedford’s students and athletes. “Your unwavering support and love for your team was unparalleled,” he said. “Thank you for fully committing to our program, and our kids.”
The Rev. Margie Saphier, affiliate minister at the First Parish in Concord and a friend of the Kilian family, spoke about the coach’s impact on every community of which he was a part.
“Ryan’s energy and influence shaped and improved Massachusetts high school sports,” Saphier recalled. He also served as John Glenn Middle School football coach, a board member of Bedford Youth Lacrosse, and the founder of Mass Prep Stars, a high school scouting service.
Also speaking were two childhood friends in Carlisle, Greg Saphier and Charlie Jones. Said Saphier, “Ryan’s life was a life well lived. Everything he did he did to the fullest, leaving nothing on the table, and that’s what we should focus on in remembering today.”
Also attending the service were members and alumni of the Bedford varsity basketball team. After the eulogies, Dylan DiGangi, rising senior and a team captain, commented, “Coach Kilian was a great leader, mentor and coach. I’m fortunate to have been able to get to know him and play for him the past two years.
“Coach had a unique ability to connect with so many — players, students and everyone he came in contact with. He will be greatly missed in the Bedford community.”