A Special Tribute to Alex Schachter

After a tragic week that affected one of my dearest friends, I wanted to take the time to reflect on a very special life lost during the Parkland shooting. During his funeral which was attended by over 1200 family members, friends and members of the community, I was incredibly moved by the stories that were shared by family and close friends of 14 year old Alex Schachter. What I discovered was that this very sweet boy was so good, so kind, so silly and so talented. His aunt and uncle talked about his love of movies and food – especially fruit snacks, granola bars and ice cream. His grandpa reflected on how his grandson called him up one day to ask him what instrument he played when he was kid. When his grandfather told him he played the trombone, Alex decided to follow in his footsteps and with hard work and lots of practice, eventually landed a spot on the Stoneman Douglas Marching Band. This year, the band became the #1 Marching Band in the state of Florida and Alex was thrilled.

Alex’s brothers and sisters talked about his love of movies, his obsession watching 1000 episodes of his favorite TV show and the way he’d make silly Pterodactyl noises chasing his sisters around the house. He practiced his trombone for hours, played ball with his friends and embraced life as a fun loving teen.

Alex’s friends shared their personal memories about their friend who always looked out for them and remained in close contact even when one of his buddies moved away. One of his friends wrote an incredibly moving poem about Alex and another shared how he planned to memorialize Alex by engraving his name on his shoes.

Alex’s dad shared stories of a competitive kid who loved to play basketball, travel with his family, visit with grandparents and extended family throughout the country and attend camp in Florida and on the east coast where he made even more lasting friendships. Despite a seemingly normal childhood, Alex also experienced loss in his life when his mom passed away when he was just a few years old. Soon after, my very dear friend, who had recently lost her husband, met Alex’s dad and they fell in love. My friend knew the heartbreak his family was going through and helped raise Alex and his older brother along with her two young daughters. Together, this very special family spent countless hours surrounded by family and friends and focused on the things that made their kids happy. They were and will always be role models to their children, family, friends and their entire community.

As they begin a very painful chapter in their life, the Schachter family is determined to keep Alex’s memory alive by supporting and celebrating the things he loved – from music, to his favorite smoothies to basketball. In fact, just yesterday, their local smoothie shop started selling Alex Smoothies in his memory. The family recently launched a GoFundMe campaign to support the students of the Stoneman Douglas Marching Band as well as provide necessary funds towards increased security at the high school.

At a CNN Town Hall event this week, Alex’s dad Max read a poem that his son had written for a literary fair called “Life is Like a Roller Coaster.” Alex loved roller coasters and I’m sure never imagined this prophetic poem would be his last, but it has left an impact on his family, friends, community and now, the world.

Alex Schachter was the personification of a child who was doing what he loved surrounded by people who loved him more than life itself. If there were more kids like Alex on this planet, the world would absolutely be a much better, happier and safer place. Rest in peace sweet Alex. May your memory and your spirit be an eternal blessing.

If you would like to make a donation to the Alex Schachter Scholarship Fund to support music education and increased safety in schools, please donate now to the GoFundMe page that was launched in Alex’s memory.

Character Assassination is Not Just Reserved for Politicians…it Just Hit My Dad

I have to say, I feel very lucky to have two amazing parents who have inspired me to become who I am today. Unfortunately, today I watched as some very hurtful people maligned my dad’s character and realized that while he’s never run for public office, I got a taste for what horrible people do in order to get elected.

This weekend, I wrote a letter that I was hoping my dad would share with members of the community he lives in where he was running for an unpaid board position. He didn’t do it and honestly, even if he did, I don’t think they would have cared. So instead, I’m sharing it with here so you know how amazing my dad is and how proud I am of everything he has done in his life. If you have ever met my dad and are lucky enough to become his friend, you’ll understand why.

To the Members of the St. Andrews Homeowners Community,

In light of a recent email that was circulated around the St. Andrews community by individuals who clearly do not know my father, I decided it was time to tell you what kind of person he is is by sharing some personal information I think you all should know about. Perhaps from this letter, you will be able to truly assess what a kind-hearted, hard-working, financially responsible and trustworthy individual Neil Stoller is and hopefully, when you vote today you will do so without being manipulated by someone’s malicious online web search.

My dad is truly one of a kind. From an early age, he was a performer – entertaining crowds starting at age three with his rendition of “Don’t Fence Me In.” From there, while he had a passion for theater, he also loved sports and in junior high, he played basketball on a team named “The Comets” with fashion icon Ralph Lauren! Although back in those days, Lauren was better known as Ralphie Lifschitz. Incidentally, my dad’s nickname was Butch.

As he grew up, dad auditioned for the High School of Performing arts and made it! And while his dream was to become a professional actor, Dad came of age when heartthrobs like James Dean were all the rage. And so, rather than move to Hollywood or try his hand auditioning for a Broadway show, Dad attended City College, worked in his aunt and uncle’s bakery in Brooklyn and eventually decided to become an educator after he married my mom (his childhood sweetheart) when they both graduated in 1962.

By the time my brother and I came along, Dad’s favorite sport was tennis – he played regularly on weekends and then encouraged both of us to take lessons too. While he was a bit of a tough coach, Dad actually was a great motivator and in high school, I even won a few trophies as a doubles player for my tennis team. My only downfall was that every time Dad watched one of my games, I usually choked and lost the match.

While my parents bought a home in the Poconos so we could escape the humidity and concrete jungles of Brooklyn, Dad used to work summers to bring in extra money. During the year, I remember that he worked by day as a special education supervisor and then he’d make extra cash selling roofs for Edelstein & Sons. I also recall when my mom was attending graduate school, Dad would serve us TV dinners – which he fondly referred to as “radio dinners” – giving us permission to watch our favorite television shows in the den while munching on fried chicken.

Despite his busy schedule, my father always did what he loved. From tennis, to performing in community theater, to taking us to the Amish Country, Gettysburg, Washington DC and eventually Israel, Greece and Italy too, Dad has always made the things he loves an important part of his life.

While he constantly worked hard to support our family, my father was also a dedicated public servant. He served as the president of the Paerdegat Civic Association located in Brooklyn, NY where he looked out for the hundreds of families who lived in our community. While working at the Board of Education, my father was one of the original volunteers for the Special Olympics – dedicating his time to handicapped and mentally disabled children.

Throughout his career, my father was a motivating force for children with special needs as a teacher and special education supervisor. He retired after becoming a school principal and then proceeded to work as a principal in a religious school for a few more years.

My parents covered the costs of my college and graduate school education, paid for my wedding and assisted with a downpayment on our home in Westchester. They did the same for my brother who now lives in Florida. Despite the fact that they both worked in the New York City Board of Education, my parents were able to afford homes in Southampton and Florida – the ideal locations to enjoy retirement and a relaxing life.

When I worked as a publicist at CBS, I used to take Dad with me to the CMA Awards so that he could enjoy the performances and help me out on the red carpet. One of my favorite memories was when Dad took on the glorified role as water boy – racing around the red carpet offering bottled water to Brad Paisley, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, among many other country music artists. My friends in Nashville loved seeing my dad every year and when he wrote them a song called “The Jewish Cowboy,” he pretty much became an honorary member of the Country Music Association.

Today, while my dad has been retired from the Board of Education for more than 20 years, he pursues his passions even more. He plays tennis and golf several times a week, he’s taken tap dancing lessons with my mom – and even made the cover of the Southampton Press since he was the only man among the group of Senior hoofers. Dad also performs every year in the Palm Isle Players sold out theatrical production in Boynton Beach Florida and leaves Southampton every October so that he can make it back in time for rehearsals. Dad has also applied his love of history, coupled with his incredible gift of gab when he was a docent at a museum in Stonybrook, NY. He is also the author of the children’s book Grandpa Fix-It.

All I can say is I am so lucky to have been raised by a man who truly loves everything that life has to offer. You too would be lucky if you elect him to serve as a board member for the St. Andrews Homeowners Community.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Beth Feldman