Remembering Robert Kresse by Catherine Konieczny

Remembering Robert Kresse by Catherine Konieczny

It is with a heavy heart that we inform our members of the recent passing of Penn Dixie Fossil Park & Nature Reserve supporter and local philanthropist Robert J. Kresse.

Mr. Kresse was a champion for the community. Everything he did propelled his vision of educational equity forward. He will be remembered at Penn Dixie for his involvement with the Wendt Foundation and for securing the funding in 2014 for the Director of Education position (hi Dr. Holly!). 

My personal involvement with Bob and the Kresse family came before my time here at Penn Dixie. I worked closely with youth at his former church turned second home – the former St. Mary of Sorrows Church, which he purchased and turned into Buffalo’s first charter school, at the King Urban Life Center. 

For a long while, I hadn’t personally met Mr. Kresse – I had only heard whispers of him for a year or two through my afterschool time with the Academic & Technology Success Program (S.T.E.A.M. Team) and Saturday Story Time. It wasn’t until 2018 holiday season that I met Mr. Kresse. He came shuffling into the King Urban Life Center wearing a Santa hat, accompanied by his daughters Claire and Mimi, and a flock of grandchildren. He was beaming because he was about to watch all of the afterschoolers open their wish list Christmas items that he was able to secure for them. 

Mr. Kresse was beaming, everyone was. He made sure to check in with every child, ask them if they got what they wanted, and if they were happy. He was most excited to talk to Performing Art’s student Brandon Knox, who had requested a new bow for his violin. Brandon broke it in, right there and then, for all of us, but especially Mr. Kresse who sat intently under the glow of the Christmas tree and listened to Brandon with a smile of contentedness the whole time.

Members of the KULC Take Flight Space Program presenting their honorable mention project at the Central Library downtown during Black History Month (Above). Brandon Knox, a student at Performing Arts High School, playing his violin for Mr. Kresse, his daughter Mimi and grandchildren, and other members of the King Urban Life Center, at the annual holiday celebration (Top photo).

I ran into him a couple of more times, a board or community meeting here or there, in passing at the KULC when he came in to check in on the progress of various programs, and once at the Buffalo Museum of Science where he even got to meet my Mom. I was so happy for that encounter because I was able to introduce my Mom to the man who had ultimately been the reason for so many smiles and good memories in my life and so many others. 

And in all the people I’ve spoken to regarding Mr. Kresse’s recent passing, they all say the same thing. They all say. “Man, if it weren’t for him…” He was involved in so many things and ultimately made them better. Mr. Kresse embodied the word ‘community.’

We here at Penn Dixie are so thankful for his support and lasting vision of what it means to be a good member of the community and a kind person. Mr. Kresse gave so many opportunities and smiles to those around him, his passions will not be forgotten.

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