Doug Chernovetz was healthy, took great care of his body and seemed to be in the prime of his life. That’s why the former football coach’s death over the weekend left his friends and family members completely stunned.
“I’m still in shock,” said Mike Plansky, who hired Chernovetz while in Marblehead and is currently the Dedham High School athletics director. “It really hasn’t settled in yet. Now it’s just the feeling of grief of losing a friend, colleague and someone who was great for the kids of Marblehead.”
Few details were available about the cause of Chernovetz’s sudden death as of late Monday night, but a Wilmington school official confirmed that the Wilmington Middle School teacher passed away over the weekend.
Chernovetz, 42, was a seventh grade social studies teacher at the school.
The Lynn Daily Item reported in this story that Chernovetz died while on a camping trip with his family in New Hampshire.
Plansky said what stood out most about Chernovetz was his fiery demeanor, but also his passion for education and athletics.
“He was a very intense person, but in a good way,” said Plansky, who said he mentored Chernovetz following his hire. “As a coach and an educator he tried to get the best out of every one of his students. His mantra was that he wanted to turn boys into men. I felt that’s what he did for a lot of our kids at Marblehead. Our program was down and negative and he pumped a lot of life into it.”
According to one of Chernovetz’s co-workers at Wilmington Middle School who did not wish to be identified, that personality transferred from the football field into the classroom.
“He was great with the kids and got a good response from them, but was strong and had definite standards,” said the Wilmington educator. “It was shocking and devastating to hear the news. He was so fit and took great care of himself. It’s just heartbreaking for everyone, and completely unexpected.”
Jacqui Duffy was in Chernovetz’s social studies class during the 2007-08 school year, and said the teaching style of the man known simply as Mr. Chern remains fresh in her mind.
“Mr. Chern was one of the hardest teachers I have ever had,” said Duffy. “He pushed me to study more and harder to keep up with good grades in his class … He was one of the teachers that students felt really connected with.”
There is a Facebook group called “R.I.P. Mr. Chern” that already has more than 700 followers, mostly former Wilmington and Marblehead students.
Chernovetz was honored for his work in 2008 when he was given Coach of the Week Honors by the New England Patriots.
Although his four seasons spent coaching football in Marblehead were marked with improvements on the field, Chernovetz's controversial coaching style was the topic of local discussion on more than one occasion.
In 2008, Chernovetz appeared in court after a former player accused him of assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress and violating his civil rights, according to this story on BostonNewsChannel.com.
Then, Chernovetz was suspended for the first two games of the 2009 season for chewing tobacco around the team, according to this story, which appeared in the Salem News.
“He taught kids how to do things the right way, and he was able to turn our program around,” said Plansky. “He loved teaching, he loved coaching, and he put his all into it.”