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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Bill Kuch, in many ways the Christmas Bureau’s secret Santa, died this year

Janelle Kortlever, left, and Judy Thies, right, checked on a shipment of toys being handled by Bill Kuch, rear, in 2008. Kuch, one of the Christmas Bureau’s most quiet and ardent supporters, died in March. (FILE / SR)
Janelle Kortlever, left, and Judy Thies, right, checked on a shipment of toys being handled by Bill Kuch, rear, in 2008. Kuch, one of the Christmas Bureau’s most quiet and ardent supporters, died in March. (FILE / SR)
By Chelsea Bannach Correspondent

William “Bill” Kuch loved toys.

Kuch, a longtime friend of the Christmas Bureau and toy buyer for The White Elephant, died in March at age 73 following a long battle with cancer.

“He was just a very kind and generous man and, of course, toys were his passion,” Christmas Bureau volunteer Janelle Kortlever said.

Kuch used the connections he developed with suppliers to help Christmas Bureau toy buyers get the best deals on quality toys.

“He was just passionate about the Christmas Bureau,” Kortlever said. “He worked with a lot of charities and he saw how well it was run.”

Kuch believed actions spoke louder than words, according to those who knew him, and he spent 29 years supplying toys for the Christmas Bureau through the store, then organizing deliveries. He was loyal and hardworking, and spent decades with The White Elephant.

In his obituary, Kuch’s family requested that donations be made to the Christmas Fund in Kuch’s honor.

“He loved the Christmas Bureau,” said volunteer Cheryl Taam, a current Christmas Bureau toy buyer. “When he left, you could tell it really made him sad because he loved it so much.”

Ultimately, Kuch made ordering easier for bureau toy buyers, and helped make Christmas Fund donations stretch further.

“He was our right-hand person for toys,” Taam said. “He was so dedicated. He was just the nicest, kindest person.”

After the toy orders arrived, The White Elephant would store the toys for months until the bureau started up in December, when Kuch would help deliver them from the store to the bureau.

“The people here, and the freight truck drivers, were excited to be a part of it,” said Rich Conley, owner of The White Elephant. “Bill was the main man on it.”

The Christmas Bureau, which runs Dec. 8-17 at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center, offers grocery store gift certificates, new gifts, books and more to individuals and families in need during the holidays.

Kuch’s absence is sure to be felt this time of year by his family, friends and the volunteers who knew him.

Kuch, who grew up in Spokane’s West Central neighborhood, graduated from North Central High School before meeting the love of his life, Kathryn Kile, and raising his family in Spokane Valley.

The White Elephant office manager, Katie Mustered, said Kuch was like family.

“He did a great job,” Mustered said. “We really miss him.”

Tearing up, she added, “It was really hard losing him.

“I’ve known him my whole life. He was a great, great guy.”

The Christmas Fund has received several donations in Kuch’s honor: Sally Bulger Quirk and Tim Quirk, of Spokane, made a donation of $500 via Schwab Charitable in honor of Kuch, with a letter that said “his gentle, generous spirit will be missed.” Robert and Pamela Kennedy, also of Spokane, donated $50 with a note that said, “In memory of Bill Kuch.” Nancy Kuch also made a donation of $100 via PayPal.

Donations

Other Christmas Fund donations received so far this year include the following:

An anonymous fund gave $5,000 via the Inland Northwest Community Foundation.

Rick Betts, of Spokane, gave four donations totaling $2,500.20 via Spokane County United Way.

The Guy and Ruth Reed Memorial Fund gave $2,154 via Inland Northwest Community Foundation.

The Clarence Colby Memorial Fund gave $1,792.24.

The William A. Crosetto Charitable Foundation gave $1,000 via Inland Northwest Community Foundation.

The Pounder Fund gave $250 via the Inland Northwest Community Foundation.

Paul Giordanella gave $200 via the Stanley Black and Decker Matching Gifts Program.

The family of Fred Smith gave $108.17.

Lisa Walsh gave $100 via PayPal.

Sandra Anderson, of Spokane, gave $100.

Marcia Downing gave $50 via PayPal

Tom Flack Jr. and Elaine Flack, of Spokane, gave $50.

Judith Horton, of Coeur d’Alene, gave 10 donations totaling $50.

Note: For donations made through PayPal, The Spokesman-Review contributed the PayPal processing fee.

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