MARBLEHEAD – If you want to watch Marblehead residents of all ages at play, you have to walk down a path called Sterny’s Way.
The path leading to Gatchell Playground is named for David Stern, the beloved Marblehead attorney who coached and managed the town’s youth baseball and football players for many years with vim and vigor. Now, friends, family, and former players have formed Sterny’s Way, a foundation supporting the David Stern Scholarship. Each year, the scholarship awards $1,000 each to two high school students for their service to sports, arts, and the community.
“My dad was the type of person who did everything for the community … he made an impact on everyone he touched,” said Sam Stern, who played for his father’s teams and serves on the scholarship board. “This scholarship was a way to continue that legacy and continue to give back to the community that he always gave back to.”
Before his death from sudden cardiac arrest in 2010 at age 51, Stern made extensive contributions to Marblehead sports and government. In addition to coaching sports and serving on the boards of the youth baseball and football leagues, he was a member of the town’s Planning Board and president of the Community Housing Corporation. He helped many people through his work as a lawyer at Stern, Keilty & Wall in Salem.
Stern was even an amateur restauranteur, setting up a snack shed at Gatchell’s to nourish his players before and after games. Even though Salem financial adviser Dan Brothers had never met Stern, he was so impressed by all Stern did that five years ago, he decided to fund a $750 scholarship in his honor. Now, the scholarship board has expanded its reach by raising roughly $38,000 for two $1,000 scholarships annually.
“He knew so many people, and we knew all those people would want to help out, and from there we started planning on how to reach as many people as we could,” said Sam Stern, who also has started Facebook and GoFundMe pages to ensure that the scholarship fund is self-sustaining for many years to come.
The first scholarship is awarded to a graduating high school senior who has played either youth baseball or football. The second is awarded to a senior for commitment to the arts, because Stern was also a gifted writer and a passionate musician who participated in jam sessions with his friends. Finally, both awards will recognize academic achievement, which Stern valued above all else.
“David before anything cared about getting homework done and making sure you were dedicating all the energy you could to being successful academically,” said Trey Blackmer, one of Stern’s former players and a member of the scholarship board.
Stern was a lifelong Marbleheader, and was proud of the fact that he was born at Marblehead’s Mary Alley Hospital. He attended Marblehead schools and was a lifelong member of Temple Emanu-El, which hosted the overflow crowd at his funeral. Rabbi David Meyer, whose son Stern coached, wore a baseball cap for part of the service.
“He saw such value in the morals taught by the Jewish faith that he wanted to make sure that he embodied them as a person and that his sons did as well,” said Sam. His father also possessed a famed sense of humor.
“He had a boisterous, exploding laugh,” said Bruce Whear, his childhood friend. “He brought levity to situations. He was also a phenomenal emcee … he could do an impersonation of Louis Armstrong … he was a human you would want to know.”
Dozens of his former players attended his funeral, donning their team jerseys. “He gave everyone the same amount of attention, no matter what your skill level was,” said Blackmer. “He made sure that everyone felt like they were really important to the team, and wanted to make sure everyone got better. In doing so, he took everyone under his wing.”
“The reason that he coached was not to get the star player on the field,” said Sam. “It was to get the kid who was letting ground balls go through his legs have one play every season that would make that one kid’s season. I may have been a little too young to recognize this, but whether I liked it or not, I was always learning from him – how to be an athlete, how to be a man. I’m still realizing how right he actually was about the way he lived his life.”