William T Kirchgasser

February 17, 1939January 14, 2019

William (Bill) Thomas Kirchgasser, 79 of Colton, NY (formerly of Potsdam), died suddenly at the ER of the Canton-Potsdam Hospital on January 14, 2019. Born February 17, 1939 and raised in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, Bill graduated from Nether Providence High School in 1957. During childhood trips to the Western states with his parents and brothers and Boy Scout Jamborees he developed his lifelong interest in geology. He received his BA in Geology from Union College in 1961 and his MS and Ph.D. in Geology from Cornell University, with a specialty in Paleontology. After graduation from Cornell, Bill received a Fulbright Scholarship in 1967 to research and write with Professor Michael House of the University of Hull in Yorkshire, England. His collaboration with Professor House continued until the publication in 2008 (posthumously for Professor House) of what Bill’s family affectionately called the “Magnum Opus” but was otherwise titled, “Late Devonian Goniatites (Cephalopoda, Ammonoidea) from New York State.” After a year of teaching at the State University of New York (SUNY) at New Paltz, in 1969 Bill began his long and distinguished career as a Professor in the Geology Department at SUNY Potsdam, Chairing the Department from 1985 to 2000, and retiring in 2004 as a Full Professor. Bill’s specialty was the study of rock layers of the Devonian age. He began in the Finger Lakes region of New York State with the study of 370 million to 415 million year old rocks along with a changing fossil content. His career spanned the introduction of the understanding of plate tectonics where large continents broke into smaller fragments and moved elsewhere. He and a group of international Devonian workers took fossil collecting field trips all over the world, including trips to China, Siberia and Australia. There are two Devonian fossils named in his honor — the goniatite subspecies, koenenites lamellosus kirchgasseri, found in West Virginia, and the conodont species polygnathus kirchgasseri, found in France and Germany. Bill also taught a general course called “Ancient Life” for non-geology majors to acquaint them with evolutionary changes over geologic time, and he and a psychology professor collaborated to teach a seminar on evolution to students in their senior year. Named a Professor Emeritus upon his retirement, Bill continued researching, writing, lecturing, doing field work and going to his office nearly every day. He donated his specimen collection to the Geology Department at SUNY Potsdam and, at the time of his death, and was arranging to donate portions of the collection to the New York State Museum in Albany and the Paleontological Research Institute in Ithaca, NY, where he was recently named a Member of the Board of Trustees. A lifelong music lover, Bill played the violin, fiddle, piano and saxophone and regularly attended performances of the Orchestra of Northern New York. He served as Vice Chair of the Canton-Potsdam Hospital Foundation Board, was a Member of the SUNY Potsdam Foundation Board, and held many leadership positions at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Canton. He enjoyed traveling, reading (especially the New York Times), walking, watching sports and spending time at home with Linda and their dog Tully on Arbuckle Pond. He is survived by his wife Linda Seramur of Colton, NY; his daughter Alison Kirchgasser, daughter-in-law Sally DeGan and grandson Parker Gordon of Winchester, MA; his brother Wayne Kirchgasser of Downingtown, PA; his step-daughter Lisa Smith, her husband Dave Smith and grandson Jackson of Portland, OR; his ex-wife and mother of his daughters Marjorie Hess; his late long-time partner Betsy’s sons Andy and Tim Northrop and their families; his nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews; his many friends and colleagues and the generations of students he inspired. He was predeceased by his daughter Karen Kirchgasser, his partner Betsy Northrop, and his brother John Kirchgasser. He inspired his friends and family to live life to the fullest, to be curious about the world, to travel with open minds and hearts and to be “wheels up” for the next adventure. Donations in Bill’s name may be made to the: Sandstoner Foundation – Karen Kirchgasser Memorial Scholarship, P.O. Box 264, Potsdam, NY 13676. A memorial service to celebrate Bill’s life will be held in the spring/summer in the Potsdam area. Arrangements are with the Garner Funeral Service. Thoughts, memories and condolences can be shared


  • Sandstoner Foundation


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William T Kirchgasser

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Linda Harrington

January 25, 2019

To Bill's Family - I was shocked and saddened when I recently read that Bill has passed away. Bill and my husband, Jonathan Harrington, shared an office and friendship all through their graduate years at Cornell University. We, as young couples, spent a lot of time with each other. Our children played together and the Cornell Geology Family was a close knit one. Bill was a member of our wedding party.

Jon and Bill continued to share geology collaborations and whenever Jon was in the north country visiting clients, he would try to contact Bill to catch up. Bill sent the most wonderful note to me after Jon died unexpectedly. I will cherish his kind words.

Bill was a brilliant mind and I am so sorry that he is gone. My deepest sympathy to all of his family and friends.


Linda Harrington

Mike Huggins

January 24, 2019

This is very sad news for me. Bill was my undergraduate advisor in geology at SUNY Potsdam in 1977. I helped him out studying conodont fossils from the Upper Devonian Genundewa Limestone and Crosby Sandstone of western NY, as part of his goniatite studies for the same. He was very patient and generous with his time and research materials. He was also, of course, very witty and funny in his sly and clever way, often with a big grin. He helped me navigate the possible graduate programs I was considering, and, ultimately, no doubt, through his recommendation, helped me to land in a great program at Virginia Tech, where I carried on doing, basically, the same kind of biostratigraphic work he had prepared me to do. I was very thankful for his help and mentorship.

Regrettably, my post-academic career took me far away from the North Country and Potsdam. I was only able to visit a few times over the years since then, and I, unfortunately, was never able to meet up with him again face to face, during those infrequent visits. My correspondence with him was not nearly enough, which I greatly regret because he had such a positive impact on my life that I was not able to tell him about. That makes his sudden death all the more disheartening.

Regardless, I want to say how much I miss him, but at the same time, want to share his positive impact on not just me but all the geology students who passed through Timerman Hall. What a great person to represent the College and all of his many diverse interests.

My deepest condolences to his family and close friends for their loss. He made such a great impact on many. Hopefully, that provides some small measure of comfort and solace during these difficult days.

Goodbye, Bill. You truly will be missed. Thank you.
Mike Huggins, Irvine, CA (BA, Geology, SUNY Potsdam, Winter 1977)

PS - I hope Bill's collection of Manticoceras and Koenenites fossils finds a fitting and wonderful home.

Maria Morrison

January 23, 2019

Dr. Seramur,
My heart goes out to you at this time of loss.
Please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers. I will call soon but please feel free to reach out if you need me before I call.
Maria Morrison

Beverly Paone

January 20, 2019

I met Bill 19 years ago. Could always make him laugh and smile. So wish I could do that now. You accomplish a great deal in your life.
Your greatly missed by so many.
Rest In Peace Bill. Until we meet again.
So sorry for your loss.

Nicola and David Jordan

January 19, 2019

We are saddened to learn of Bill's death. He added kindness, wisdom and humor to any gathering. His generosity to family, college and community was memorable. We will miss his incisive commentary.

Kay Deperno

January 19, 2019

I met Bill in 1981, I was a non traditional student at SUNY state. We became good friends, he was easy to be with. He will be missed by many. Healing blessings to his family and friends.

J. Mark Erickson

January 19, 2019

January 19, 2019
I was shocked and saddened when I learned of Bill’s death. We spend our lives building friendships and then we gradually watch those friendships pass away again. Each passing shrinks one’s world a bit once more. Paleontologists are not all that numerous so it was nice, when I came to St. Lawrence to teach Paleontology, to have a colleague just down the road who could help solve research problems or share professional experiences. Bill was always fun to visit with, always gracious, generous with time and talent, a solid professional geologist and educator. We became friends by our shared love of fossils and of the science that we learned from them. Our areas of study did not normally overlap, but we once interacted around the techniques he developed when casting the fossil known as the “Norwood Whale” that he had excavated and cast as a side line of his paleontological work. I had to replicate a fossil, so Bill spent considerable time working with me and some of my students to help us cast an important specimen. The result was a most successful project due to Bill’s kindness and skills. It was a pleasure to have such a friend just “down the road”.
I extend my condolences to his family, friends and colleagues for the loss of this generous, warm and gracious member of our North Country community.
Mark Erickson, Prof. Emeritus,
St. Lawrence University

Margaret Haggard

January 18, 2019

Bill was a kind and thoughtful neighbor to our mother, Ruth Garner. He never passed “the porch” at 8 Lawrence Avenue without stopping to chat. She enjoyed his upbeat reports of the goings on around town. He often checked in to see how she was doing as her appearances outdoors became limited. We will always be grateful for his thoughtfulness. He will be missed by all of us.

Cynthia Hennessy

January 18, 2019

My condolences to the family of Bill. He and I were in the New Horizon's Band some time back and he certainly enjoyed what he was doing. Very sorry for your loss.

Robert Smith

January 18, 2019

I am saddened to hear of the passing of Dr. Kirchgasser. He was my student adviser at Potsdam in the early 90's. A wonderful man who's door was always open for the students.

My condolences to his family.