Bob Bird: Tribute to an unselfish man, Kenai’s Dan Gensel



This column is not a “local” column for only the Kenai Peninsula, because Dan Gensel was known statewide, especially for anyone who loved their high school sports.

Our station KSRM and its five affiliates carried anywhere from 250-300 sporting contests a year in football, basketball, hockey, ABL and high school baseball, softball, even wrestling. We often did courtesy broadcasts with our play-by-play for other stations.

We were picked up directly in anchorage and the Mat Valley whenever their teams came here.

It was all Gensel’s doing since 1999, when he “retired”, after just 20 years of teaching and coaching basketball at Soldotna, and went into his true love, sports journalism. He made KSRM the absolute and unquestioned leader in broadcasting sports in Alaska. I was lucky to be recruited as primarily a hockey announcer, but also did basketball, football and softball when the occasions required.

Dan was more than a sports guy, however. He filled in the morning radio show with station owner Matt Wilson five days a week. Like juggling chainsaws, he would get to the station at 5:15 am (often after calling games late into the night), start doing his pre-recorded sports report, join in early-morning banter and follow the usual routine from 6-9 am. His ad libbing with Wilson made our station THE station to listen to while getting ready for work, disdaining the Anchorage stations … which of course ignored our hometown news and problems.

Summers saw him take Peninsula Oiler baseball. We did home games jointly for 14 years, while he did road games and I stayed at home and lived my life. He once did a 22 inning game in Anchorage. In 2016, he recruited a tremendous young man from Anchorage, Casey Rohl, into the profession. I think he did it just so he could have road games free with his grandkids.

Gensel was a shark that cruised endlessly, knowing that if he rested, he would sink. I often asked him, “When do you sleep, for Pete’s sake?” He answered, “Sleep is overrated.” 

Unknown to most, he used the iPad that posted the running statistics after each pitch, so the players could have distant major league scouts keep track of our games and its nuances … all the while he did the play-by-play! 

Dan was a devout Lutheran and with his equally busy wife Kathy, supported her philanthropic works. He even gave sermons at his parish when invited to do so. He and Kathy attended my Shroud of Turin lecture and knew the truth of Christ.

He gave of himself right to the end, starting with his grandsons, whom he adored and baby-sat for during the day. And he was coaching track and field for Soldotna. This winter he actually called eight straight basketball games in one day during the state tournament. It just might be a world record. I don’t know how he got to the restroom. He was the Alaska Broadcasters Association “Broadcaster of the Year” in 2021 and is a shoo-in to make the ABA Hall of Fame, with station founder and owner, the recently retired John Davis.

He already is in the Alaska Schools Athletic Association Hall of Fame in all three categories as a player, coach and broadcaster.

Dan was in robust and vigorous health at age 66 when he died instantly on May 14 at his home, while working on his back deck for summer repairs. Call it SADS: Sudden Adult Death Syndrome. There has been a lot of that going around lately, especially to athletes, so Dan fit right in with the best of them.

The loss to our station is incalculable, but Matt Wilson, 25 years Dan’s junior, is as talented, resourceful, smart and strong as was Gensel. The two were like brothers. 

For those who love their families, their children’s sports and understand the problems we face is carting them around our enormous state for their competitions, please don’t forget Dan Gensel and his family.

We have lost a Giant.

Bob Bird is chair of the Alaskan Independence Party and the host of a talk show on KSRM radio, Kenai. A celebration of life of Dan Gensel will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 23, at Soldotna High School, 425 W. Marydale Ave. The public is welcome.

Photo Credit: Radio Kenai


  1. Wow! Giving honor to whom honor is due. Thank you. Even though I’ve never met Mr. Gensel or his wife Kathy, I can tell from your loving description that I would have thoroughly enjoyed them and am thankful that they and their family are part of our Alaska extended family. Condolences to and prayers for his wife Kathy, their family, friends, and associates like yourself.

  2. I’m certainly at political odds with the author but as a Kenai resident I must say, this is a moving tribute to as true local hero. God bless Dan and give comfort to his family.

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