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Cowichan soccer community mourns loss of its heart and soul

Billy Keserich Jr. was 52.

The undisputed backbone of the Cowichan Valley Soccer Association, Bill Keserich Jr. (Billy), unexpectedly died last week, sending shockwaves of grief throughout the entire soccer community. He was 52.

He is survived by his father Bill Keserich Sr., his mother Wendy Keserich, his sisters Michele Keserich, Susan Lee Seward, Jane Harbert, and Judy Harder, as well as many extended family members.

“We take some comfort in the fact he died peacefully in his sleep,” said a Dec. 15 statement from his family on the Facebook group “Remembering Billy K JR”. “The Coroner’s report does not tell us why he died, only that it was from natural causes. Billy had a life-long heart condition, and that may have played a role, but we will never really know for sure.”

Michele Keserich said their family has been comforted by many in their time of need.

“We have an outstanding, incredible community who have wrapped us in their embrace and have shared their love of my brother which has been a great source of solace for us all while trying to wrap our heads around the finality of the loss of our Billy,” she said.

While no one knows why Billy was taken so young, no one will ever forget the impact he had in the years he was here.

“It is his huge heart we will forever miss…along with his passion for his family, friends, community — especially his soccer kids,” said the statement.

Billy wasn’t just a member of the Cowichan Valley Soccer Association. He was the defacto heart and soul of the club.

Part of the Keserich family, a name synonymous with everything that is great about Cowichan soccer, Billy represented a legacy of dedication to the game and to the community that didn’t start with him, but was one he continued proudly.

Billy’s friend, teammate, and co-coach Steve Richards, said it was a testament to how much Billy was a part of not only the soccer community but the community as a whole when, the day after Billy died, what started as a small turnout at the soccer club on a regular training night evolved into a huge gathering to remember him and to offer support to his family.

“Everyone just wanted to be together and try to make sense of how quickly all this happened,” Richards said, adding that many are now left questioning how to move on with the knowledge that the man who everyone was able to rely on was no longer there.

“He has taught me what a joy and privilege it is to coach these amazing kids and to do it with a smile,” said Stacey deLusignan, who coached with Billy for five years with the Tide soccer academy. “It will never be the same without him there but the legacy he has left behind will live on with CVSA and these kids forever.”

By all accounts, Billy was there for anyone who needed him.

Richards said when he was diagnosed with a recurrence of his cancer and was sick and weak from treatment, “Billy was the guy that was always there to help in whatever way he could, and he was like that for everybody. It was that reliability and also the breadth of Billy’s influence that was key,” Richards said.

Emerald White told a similar story of her own family’s experience with Billy.

“When Poppy got sick with childhood cancer five years ago my sister Lavender and I were left to live on our own for long stretches of time while my parents were in Vancouver with Poppy getting treatment. We were 17 and 15 and struggling to get to school and jobs and keep on top of all the household chores on our own. I don’t think there was any one person who showed up for me and my family during this time the way Billy did,” she said. “That year Billy was my lifeline. Even after working longer hours to help cover for my dad he would always come by the house to make sure we had everything we needed. He was who I called in tears when the laundry machine broke and who made sure we always had rides to soccer practice. They say tragedies like cancer show you who your true friends are but I have to disagree. It shows you who your family is. Billy was, and will always be, family.”

There are a lot of soccer players in the valley. There are a lot of coaches in the valley, too. Billy knew them all.

“He had a gift for learning everyone’s name, whether they were four years old and learning to play the game or 44 and joining an adult team for the first time. Billy made everyone feel connected to the club and each other,” said Darian Achurch. “Billy was a tireless volunteer for youth and adult soccer and touched thousands of lives through his work with the club. He was always there to lend a helping hand; whether that meant coaching, reffing, opening up change rooms, or just providing a cheer for the Cowichan players. The hours he spent making our club run smoothly will be sorely missed in the months and years ahead.”

A heartbroken Keserich family and extended family within the Cowichan Valley Soccer Association now face a future without their irreplaceable rock.

“We’re going to carry on to try to honour Billy by doing small bits of everything that he did, everything that he took care of,” Richards said.

And no doubt they’ll carry on successfully, because while he may be physically gone, they will forever have the memories of Billy’s smile, his unrelenting kindness, and his huge heart to rely upon.

A celebration of life will be in spring/summer, likely at the soccer fields, where everyone pay their respects.

Larger than life, Billy Keserich Jr. was a friend to all. (Facebook)