Passing of local sportscaster Dave Sears is mourned
CORNWALL — He was known as “The Voice” long before there was an NBC television show of the same name.
Dave Sears, a tireless community volunteer who for decades served as radio commentator and/or announcer for various Middlebury Union High School and Middlebury College sports, died unexpectedly on Saturday, July 11, following a medical episode.
The unexpected death of Sears — a gregarious and civic-minded individual — was met with shock from hundreds of people throughout Addison County and beyond.
Sears is perhaps best remembered in athletic circles for his radio broadcasts of two wildly successful local teams: MUHS varsity football and Middlebury College men’s hockey. He had been affiliated with Middlebury’s local radio stations, including WFAD and WVTK.
“Dave was an incredibly warm person,” said Bjarki Sears (no relation), an MUHS teacher who teamed up with him in recent years for the MUHS Tiger football broadcasts. “It always amazed me how many people he knew; as we travelled across the state for football games he would always get in conversations with people that at first seemed random, and then they’d ask about each others’ families and you’d realize what a wide net he had cast. He was also incredibly funny, and he extended his play-by-play announcing to life itself — we’d be driving somewhere and he’s commenting on the drivers like he was doing a race on the radio, or he would play by play the process of a guy putting together a hamburger and then giving it to him. Frankly, I stole a lot of his material.”
Dave Sears, 56, had called the Panther hockey games for the past 25 years. Former Panthers head Coach Bill Beaney was traveling in Ireland this week but took time to email his thoughts in wake of Sears’ tragic passing. He called Sears “a man who cared deeply about people, loved sports and was tremendously generous with his time.”
More than a play-by-play man, Beaney said Sears over the years developed deeper relationships with many players that lasted long after they had hung up their skates.
“If you listened to him announce the game, you could feel his love for each of the players,” said Beaney, who led the Panthers to several Division III NCAA hockey championships. “David was well liked and respected by opposing coaches, players and officials. I have many memories, but the most lasting will be the look on David’s face when he spoke about his family and how proud he was especially of his two girls (Megan and Alexandra) and (wife) Susie … He will be deeply missed by all.”
Bjarki Sears echoed Beaney’s observations about Dave Sears’ affection for the student-athletes he covered.
“He loved the kids involved with the sports he covered, much like his old partner Dick Bullock did, and you could see how much the kids saw that,” Sears said. “They would always yell to him, and want to talk to him, and want to share their lives with him, and he always remembered little details about them. He got to know a lot of kids as a substitute teacher too, and I think kids really appreciated how he could relate to people from such diverse backgrounds, and really helped everyone feel equal.”
Dennis Smith is head coach of the MUHS varsity football team.
“He was always a person who would help out with anything,” Smith said, adding he could always depend on Sears to have all the bases covered related to the broadcast of games.
“It was an area of the (football) program I never had to worry about,” Smith said, noting that the duo of Sears and Sears provided the only home-and-away football coverage of any high school in the state.
“He’s a person who filled many holes, and now there are many holes to fill,” Smith said.
Sears also lent his formidable pipes to announcing for the Middlebury College women’s field hockey and lacrosse teams, the Vermont Voyagers box lacrosse team, and umpiring for the Addison County Softball League. You definitely knew if it was a ball or a strike and whether the runner was out or safe at home.
But his favorite athletes were his daughters.
“His greatest joys were as a father, and nothing made him happier than travelling across New England to see his daughters play college field hockey, or to watch his daughter Megan coaching field hockey for MUHS,” Bjarki Sears said.
Sears seemed to know just about everyone in Addison County, which made him a particularly valuable asset to the Cornwall selectboard and fire department, on which he served for 35 years. He was the son of Walter and Charlotte (Ringey) Sears, grew up in Cornwall and was a member of the MUHS class of 1977. He was a lifetime member of the Middlebury Volunteer Ambulance Association. At the time of his death, he was employed by Rouse Tire in Middlebury.
“He was extremely social, and he used all the relationships he created to be a bit of an entrepreneur; he always had many irons in the fire,” Bjarki Sears said.
Ben Wood is chairman of the Cornwall selectboard, which last met on July 7, just before Sears suffered his health crisis. The Addison Independent covered that meeting and quoted him in a solar power-related story that appeared in Monday’s paper.
“Dave was a really important asset to the board,” Wood said of Sears, noting he was the only lifelong Cornwall resident on the panel. “His network of friends and connection to the fire department really helped the board immensely.”
Wood in particular enjoyed Sears’ down-to-earth approach to town business and his keen sense of humor.
“We will miss him tremendously,” Wood said, adding it was too early to map out the process for replacing Sears, who had served on the board for around five years.
Cornwall Fire Chief Dennis Rheaume said Sears was a valued member of the force who at one point held the position of Captain. His recent duties as a firefighter included making sure the department’s communication system was always up to snuff and maintaining records on the longevity of the force’s members.
“I think of the thousands of people he knew, and he knew who to talk to,” Rheaume said of Sears’ ability to get things done. “It was amazing.”
A Memorial Mass of Christian Burial was scheduled for Thursday, July 16, at 11 a.m. at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Middlebury. A private graveside committal service and burial was to take place at Pleasant Hill Cemetery in Cornwall. Friends were invited to call at the Miller & Ketcham Funeral Home in Brandon on Wednesday, July 15, from 6-8 p.m. Members of the Cornwall Fire Department were also busy organizing a ceremony for Sears as the Addison Independent went to press.
Family have asked that those who wish to memorialize Sears give memorial gifts in lieu of flowers in his memory to the Cornwall Volunteer Fire Department, 1952 Route 30, Cornwall, VT 05753, or to Friends of Middlebury Football, attention: Sean Farrell, 73 Charles Ave., Middlebury, VT 05753.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].
The Cornwall Fire Department posted this memorial to David Sears on its Facebook page.
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