Zach Schwartz was the type of teenager you’d want your daughter to bring over one day and introduce him to the family as her new boyfriend.
That’s how a former baseball coach of Schwartz, Jason Mariella, described the young Brewster resident that succumbed to cancer on Sep. 1 just a few days before he was going to start his freshman year at Brewster High School. His death broke the heart of an entire community that grew to know him as a precocious and caring young man which was evident when about 200 people—students, parents and community members–gathered in the high school parking lot last Tuesday to remember and honor Schwartz who fought cancer courageously until the end.
He was 14 and was affectionately known simply as “Z.”
“He carried himself the right way with the highest character,” Mariella said.
Mariella, who knows the entire Schwartz family, coached Zach a few summers ago on an 11U baseball team. He also saw Zach play modified baseball with his son this past season and said an observer would’ve never known Zach was sick.
Zach always gave 100 percent with the right attitude that made him a joy to coach, Mariella said.
Brewster Chamber of Commerce president Rose Aglieco, who is heavily involved in Brewster’s Relay For Life, said Zach started a Relay team, ZACC Attack, which raised huge sums of money for childhood cancer research. He was always enthusiastic and courageous, Aglieco said. His team raised $12,000 this past June.
The news of his death came as a shock to many community members. Aglieco met with Zach earlier this year at one of the first kickoff events for Relay and she recalled his mother mentioning that Zach wasn’t feeling well that day with a sore throat and tiredness. Just days later, Aglieco heard his cancer had returned.
“It was devastating,” she said. “This young man, he tackled it as best as he could. The inspiration that we got from Zach was just unbelievable.”
Zach never wanted people to fuss over him; he simply wanted to be like his peers and live as normal a life as possible, Aglieco said.
“He really didn’t want to be Zach with cancer,” Aglieco said. “He just wanted to be Zach.”
H.H. Wells Middle School principal John Clark said Zach was respected by all of his teachers and fellow students. Even when he was sick, he always had a positive attitude and exceled in school.
He took both algebra and geometry and passed both regents with flying colors before he finished the 8th grade. (Those courses are usually for 9th and 10th graders.) He continued to participate in sports and was always a good friend, despite whatever health problems plagued him. Clark said.
“Just a kid who was really well loved,” Clark said.
Parent Joe Parrello, who has a son the same age as Zach, coached Zach when he played for the Brewster youth football league a few years back. Parrello said his heart is bleeding for the Schwartz family.
“For a kid like him to not be here anymore is a loss for the entire community,” Parrello said.
Scott Rhodes, who helps run the Brewster Youth Football League, said helmet stickers have been ordered with Zach’s number to honor him all season long. While the past few days have been traumatic, it also shows how strong the Brewster community is and how families support each other in times of despair, Rhodes said.
Schwartz leaves behind his parents, Marc and Joelle, his sister, Sadie, along with two grandfathers, several uncles, aunts and cousins, and a community that spent the night before the first day of school gathering to remember him.