Gerald Tice Gasser, 76, of West Chester, a retired athletic director, died of heart failure Tuesday, Dec. 20, at home.

Mr. Gasser joined the staff at Conestoga High School in 1960 as a physical education teacher, baseball coach, and assistant basketball coach. He was head basketball coach from 1968 to 1977, when Conestoga won the Central League title and the District 1 Class AAA title.

From 1977 until retiring in 1997, Mr. Gasser was athletic director at Conestoga. He was also assistant principal for several years.

A member of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Directors Association, Mr. Gasser was selected as association's Region 1 athletic director of the year in 1996.

"By far, he is the best athletic director in the Philadelphia area. He's good with the coaches. He's good with the kids. He's good with the parents. And he has a great sense of humor," a friend, Jack Cleghorn, told The Inquirer in 1997. Cleghorn was then athletic director at Ridley High School.

Mr. Gasser told The Inquirer that when he became athletic director, "I missed being involved with coaching. We had great kids. I've always been able to relate to them."

Although he no longer coached, Mr. Gasser knew all of the athletes and kept up with them after they graduated, his wife, Anna Sansenbach Gasser, said.

Mr. Gasser traveled to Massachusetts to watch a former Conestoga player's college football game and went to North Carolina to watch a former member of Conestoga's women's lacrosse team play.

The night before he died, his wife said, he watched Davidson College's basketball team beat the University of Kansas, 80-74. One of Davidson's players, Jake Cohen, is a Conestoga graduate.

For 30 years until 1991, Mr. Gasser officiated at area high school football games. He coached in the new Conestoga American Legion baseball league in 1974 and later umpired American Legion baseball games.

Mr. Gasser grew up in Malvern. He graduated from Tredyffrin/Easttown (now Conestoga) High School, where he played basketball, football, and baseball. He had the highest batting average on the baseball team.

He earned a bachelor's degree from Springfield College in Massachusetts in 1960. While teaching, he earned a master's degree in education administration from Villanova University in 1965.

He and his future wife met at Conestoga High, where she was also a physical education teacher.

For more than 40 years, they vacationed with their family in Ocean City, N.J.

A golf enthusiast, Mr. Gasser traveled on annual golf outings with friends all over the country. He had season tickets to University of Alabama football games for the last 15 years and attended the Alabama-Louisiana State University game last month. A son, Gregg, attended Alabama.

In addition to his wife of 44 years and son, Mr. Gasser is survived by sons Gerald Jr. and Daniel; a daughter, Kimberly Steliga; a brother; and four grandchildren.

Friends may call from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 29, at Mauger-Givnish Funeral Home, 24 Monument Ave., Malvern. The funeral will be at 10 a.m. Friday, Dec. 30, at Episcopal Church of the Good Samaritan, 212 W. Lancaster Ave., Paoli. Burial will be in Northwood Cemetery, Downingtown.

Donations may be made to Philabundance, 3616 S. Galloway St., Philadelphia 19148.

Contact staff writer Sally A. Downey at 215-854-2913 or sdowney@phillynews.com.