Max Falkenstien, voice of KU basketball, dies at age 95
Approximately 1,000 well-wishers, including former Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder, gathered at the Lied Center on Saturday for the celebration of life of Max Falkenstien, the KU radio broadcasting legend who died July 29 at the age of 95.
Falkenstien’s image appeared on a big screen over the Lied Center stage next to a replica of the No. 60 Falkenstien banner that hangs in the south Allen Fieldhouse rafters.
Falkenstien in 2006 had a No. 60 banner hung with KU men’s and women’s basketball greats, to recognize 60 years of broadcasting KU sports.
KU basketball coach Bill Self and volleyball coach Ray Bechard shared texts they received from Falkenstien shortly before Max’s death.
The texts, they said, asked them to “remember me with smiles.”
“We will all miss him. But he will never be forgotten,” Self said.
Self, who said he first met Max 34 years ago, recalled that Falkenstien “treated my mother and father like gold, made them feel so welcome. That’s something I’ll never forget.”
Bechard, who like Falkenstien has lived in Kansas all his life, said Falkenstien “was a Kansas treasure.”
Falkenstien’s longtime broadcast partner, Bob Davis, introduced all the guest speakers and shared some stories of his own. A long interview of Falkenstien by Davis was shown on the big screen just prior to the service — one that lasted shortly over an hour.
“Max constantly said, ‘Don’t make me laugh,’’’ Davis told the audience. He said, ‘It’s bad for your vocal cords.’ This is from a guy who ate at the greasiest places,” Davis added, the crowd erupting in laughter.
“Max was a great friend with a huge capacity for having fun,” Davis stated.
Former KU associate AD Jim Marchiony, who helped plan the service at the Lied Center — he was one of many individuals who drove Falkenstien to dialysis treatments the last two years — said in his speech: “I cherished every moment I spent with Max. He was a gift.”
Marchiony said he was touched that on the day Falkenstien decided to enter hospice he made sure to recognize Marchiony’s birthday. “It meant a lot,” Marchiony said.
Two members of Falkenstien’s handball and lunch group, Larry Hatfield and Don Green, spoke of Max’s competitiveness.
“We were better with him. We’ll be much diminshed now that we’ve lost him,” Green said of the group that would gather for lunch after playing handball at least three days a week.
“We’ll miss Max greatly,” Hatfield said, noting he’s now started playing pickleball with Max’s son, Kurt Falkenstien. “We have enough memories to tell Max stories forever.”
Hatfield noted that Max played handball regularly “until he was 90 1/2 years old. He was really proud of that, also beating Gale Sayers in handball, 21-0.” Of course Hatfield noted former KU football great Sayers had not yet taken up the sport of handball at the time of the whitewash.
Falkenstien’s granddaughter, Kate, who was the first speaker, pointed out her granddad “loved meeting people. He loved being recognized and talking to people. He had a supreme zest for life.”
She also remembers as a youngster having “him show me all his rings (from KU Final Fours and bowl games). I thought they were shiny,” she added.
Among those to attend on Saturday included: former KU basketball assistants Joe Dooley, now head coach at East Carolina, and Tim Jankovich, head coach at SMU; former KU basketball player and assistant coach Jerry Waugh; former KU hoops players Brady Morningstar and his dad Roger Morningstar; college football playoff director Bill Hancock and KU chancellor Douglas Girod.