By Jason Rich ’98
“The Siena College community was saddened to learn of Gino passing,” said Fr. Kevin Mullen ’75, O.F.M., Ph.D. “He was a generous and caring member of our community whose humor and joy touched everyone he met.” On a more personal note, Fr. Kevin added, “He was a good friend and I will miss him. Our thoughts and prayers are with Gino’s wife Willie during this difficult time.”
Most days, Turchi could be found on the Siena campus most days, often in the MAC where he was beloved by staff and student athletes. Gino and Willie were fixtures at Siena basketball games at the Times Union Center, and Gino traveled to Dayton, Tampa and Spokane to cheer on the Saints in NCAA tournaments.
“Gino represented everything Siena is about,” director of athletics John D’Argenio said. “He lived his life with tremendous passion. Anybody who closely followed Siena athletics over the past 15 years was influenced by Gino in some way. His legacy will live on through his generous philanthropy.”
The relationship between Siena and the Turchi’s began when Gino and Willie set up a trust fund at Siena to honor their late son Eugene who died in 1993. The fund has helped support the College’s successful men’s and women’s golf programs. The Turchis also helped make possible the expansion of the Callanan Field House, home to the theater that bears their name.
In addition to Willie, Eugene and the Siena family, golf was the love of Gino’s life. His older brother August (now deceased) was a caddy at the Mohawk Country Club. He taught Turchi the rules of the game and started him caddying at the age of eight. In 1963, Gino purchased 145 acres of farmland in Ballston Lake. There, he designed and built the Northway Heights Golf Club, now Eagle Crest, between 1963 and 1967. On December 7, 1980, he made the first hole in one at the course from the back tee of the 17th hole. Turchi continued to be an avid and accomplished golfer well into his last decade.
Siena athletes weren’t the only beneficiaries of Turchi’s largess. He quietly paid the bills of many sick, injured and bereaved acquaintances, never expecting anything in return. Nonetheless, he was publically recognized for his generosity. In 2004, Gino was honored with the Capital District YMCA President’s Award for his “outstanding service, unselfish commitment and dedication.” He had long supported the YMCA mission and his contributions and advocacy helped that organization to expand the programs and facilities it offers the community. The Turchi Family Center at the Schenectady YMCA, is named in honor of Eugene.
Siena awarded Turchi an honorary doctorate in humane letters at the 2005 commencement. His acceptance speech is framed in the Turchi Theater. Gino and Willie (92), who married the day after the Wizard of Oz was first released in theaters, celebrated their 73rd wedding anniversary on August 26.