Northport High School chemistry teacher David Deutsch passed away Wednesday after an eight-year battle with ALS, his diagnosis the inspiration for hundreds of students, faculty, and alumni who have since raised over $2.5 million for through the charity.
The hallmark nerve degeneration of ALS had paralyzed Deutsch and led to complications that frequently resulted in long hospital stays. Sadly, he was unable to attend this year's AMND gala after developing a bad case of pneumonia, which took a turn for the worse this weekend.
Long-time colleague and friend Don Strasser got to say his last goodbyes to David shortly before he passed. "He was just one of those guys that if you had a question, he knew the answer," he said Friday. "If you needed something, boom, he'd build it and bring it in the next day."
The two began teaching at the same year-- Deutsch a biology teacher and Strasser a chem teacher-- and quickly developed a deep friendship, with Deutsch even attending Strasser's wedding. When Deutsch, a vibrant outdoorsman who especially enjoyed spending time sailing with family, was diagnosed with ALS in 2004, Strasser helped to organize a charity event with other teachers, alumni, and students called "Hoops for ALS" and raised $32,000 in their first year.
Deutsch was still working at Northport High School during the first year of his diagnosis but soon became unable to continue, though his inspiration and guidance remained vital to the students behind AMND, who Strasser said continued to visit him every few weeks. "Kids adored him, he just had such a fun-loving personality."
Strausser said Northport High School and AMND, which has upwards of 150 to 200 students involved, are devastated by Deutsch's passing. "It was a tough blow for the kids. That's who they visited, that who they fought for, that's who inspired us. To them, he was a hero."
ALS took him, as it does, at the prime of his life. He was only 43.
A wake will be held Friday night at Raynor & D'Andrea Funeral Home, 245 Montauk Hwy. West Sayville, from 7-9:30 pm. Religious service 10:30 am Saturday at the funeral home and cremation to follow at Washington Memorial Park, Coram, NY. Donations can be made to A Midwinter Night's Dream (AMND) 155 Main St. Suite 4 Northport, NY 11768 or www.AMND.org.