Niagara Gazette — The Rev. Monsignor Francis J. Willenburg, who was a part of the Niagara University basketball team that defeated then-powerhouse City College of New York in 1949, died Thursday in Utica, Niagara University athletic department officials announced.
Msgr. Willenburg, who was ordained in February 1954, died at the St. Joseph Nursing Home. He was 85 years old.
As a student-athlete at Niagara University from 1946 to 1949, Msgr. Willenburg earned varsity letters in four sports: football, baseball, golf and basketball. He played his basketball on campus under legendary coach John ‘Taps’ Gallagher.
Following his junior year, he entered St. Bernard’s Seminary in Rochester.
After becoming a priest, Msgr. Willenburg continued to play hoops in the former State Hospital League for the Utica State Hospital team.
His athletic accomplishments earned him honors in Central New York, including induction into the Rome Sports Hall of Fame in 1989, the SUNY Institute of Technology Utica/Rome Wildcat Booster Hall of Fame in 1995, Central New York Bowling Hall of Fame and the Greater Utica Sports Hall of Fame in 2006.
Msgr. Willenburg is survived by his sister, Anne Morris of St. Petersburg, Fla.; and his nieces, nephews, great-nieces, great-nephews, cousins, and godchildren.
Neither funeral arrangements nor plans for any possible upcoming memorial services were available at the time of the announcement.