Gerald “Jerry” Paul Birge, 83, of Jasper died Friday, December 2, 2022, at his home. He was born in Jasper on May 6, 1939, to Cyril and Antoinette Kunkel Birge. He was a 1957 graduate of Jasper High School and attended Indiana State Teachers College (now Indiana State University) on a basketball scholarship. He married Margaret “Maggie” Blueher in St. Patrick’s Church in Terre Haute on August 30, 1958.
Jerry began his broadcasting career in the summer of 1956 when he was hired by WITZ as a part-time disk jockey and knew he had discovered what he wanted to do with his life. He began his full-time career reporting sports and broadcasting play-by-play for WITZ Radio in Jasper in 1959. After a brief tenure reporting news and doing play-by-play for WJPS in Evansville, he was hired as a sports anchor for WTVW Channel 7 in Evansville for over five years, anchoring the 6 and 10 o’clock sports and doing play-by-play for numerous sporting events, including coverage of the Evansville College (now U. of E.) basketball team for six seasons.
In 1967 Birge returned to his hometown and served as sports editor of The Herald for over 15 years. During that time, he continued to do freelance television work, which included a “Race of Day” thoroughbred racing series from Ellis Park on WEHT Channel 25, and work for the Farm Bureau network in Indianapolis. He earned multiple “Best Sports Section” awards from the Hoosier State Press Association, media awards from the Indiana High School football and tennis coaches’ associations, and served a term as president of the Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.
During his years at The Herald, Jerry, along with former JHS coach Leo “Cabby” O’Neil, was active in the early formation of the Indiana High School Basketball Hall of Fame and served on its associate board of directors for two years. He was the founder of the Dubois County Amateur Golf Tournament and served as tournament director for 25 years. He was also a founder and charter member of the J-Men Lettermen Club. Jerry continued freelance TV work while he worked as an area manager for TCI Cable in Bloomington, and also covered Indianapolis Colts football for the Bloomington Herald-Times for one season.
Jerry left Indiana in 1987 to become news and sports director for WSTO, WVJS, and cable TV-2 in Owensboro, Kentucky, a position he held for more than10 years, earning the state’s “Best Sports Play-by-Play” honors, and, in 2004 the “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Owensboro Parks and Recreation Department for “outstanding contributions to sports.”
After working for five years as the director of communications and marketing for the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph at Maple Mount, Kentucky, Birge retired from full-time work in 2008 but continued to do freelance play-by-play for high school football and basketball broadcasts in Owensboro. He also hosted a daily television program, “Around Owensboro with Jerry Birge,” on Time-Warner’s Cable Channel 8 for 15 years. It ended its run in December 2013.
In April 2010 Jerry Birge was inducted into the Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association’s Hall of Fame. This honor acknowledged the more than 25 years he covered Indiana sports and the many honors he received in both broadcasting and print journalism.
Jerry was always a man of many interests. He had a lifelong love of baseball, particularly the St. Louis Cardinals, travel–making it to 47 of the 50 states as well as abroad–and theater. He was also keenly interested in the activities of his children and grandchildren.
Jerry was predeceased by his parents, his son Mick Birge, and his brother Bill.
He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Maggie Birge; one son, Joe Birge and wife Jill, Brentwood, Tennessee; five daughters, Joan Little and partner Dan Wilhite, Evansville, Marlene Cocchetto and husband Alan, Erie, Pennsylvania, Marilyn Scherer and husband Doug, Zionsville, Marcia Birge, Evansville, and Jennifer Birge, Jersey City, New Jersey, and daughter-in-law Starlene; 13 grandchildren, Adam Birge and wife Rachael, David and Antoinette Birge, Kathy Osborne and husband David, Amanda Green, Andy Kemp and wife Beth, Tyler Birge and wife Allie, Lauren Birge, Jessica Spanogle and husband Jesse, Nicholas Cocchetto, Julia Gargas and husband R.J., Allison Scherer, and Jordan Rhodes; 13 great-grandchildren, Tyler and Felix Birge, Emily, Megan and Abigail Osborne, Layla Brown, Jayce and Jonas Green, Charlie Kemp, Sophie, Bella, Maddie, and Francis Spanogle, with a 14th great-grandchild due later this month. Also surviving are three brothers, Jim Birge and wife Donna, John Birge and wife Lisa, and Bob Birge and wife Barb; four sisters, Judy Calley and husband Bob, Jane Birge, Betty Anderson and husband Rick, and Kathy Eckerle and partner Curtis Shaw; and numerous nieces and great-nieces, nephews and great-nephews, and cousins.
Visitation will be at Becher-Kluesner Funeral Home from 1-6 p.m. Sunday, December 11, and until services Monday morning. A mass of Christian burial will be held at St. Joseph’s Church Monday, December 12 at 10:00 a.m. with burial to follow in Fairview Cemetery. Memorial contributions may be made to the Mick Birge Scholarship Fund, c/o Dubois County Foundation, 600 McCrillus St., Jasper, IN 47546, or Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph, 8001 Cummings Road, Maple Mount, KY 42356.