By Evan Wheaton
These are what Jake Silver cherished most in life.
His friends and family were reminded of this as they filed into the Ashland High School gymnasium for a celebration of life. After a long battle with osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, Silver passed away on Feb. 22, 2019, just two days prior to his 19th birthday.
At the start of the Fall 2018 semester, Silver was a new student at Springfield College. Before he pursued his communications/sports journalism degree, he reached out to his advisor, Martin Dobrow.
“I obviously only knew Jake [Silver] for a short time,” said Dobrow. “He came in with new students and requested a meeting with me right away with his mom and spelled out his medical situation right from the start. It was clear to me that this was a very serious situation and I think we all knew that he was up against some very hard possibilities. I don’t know that anybody here knew that his time here would be as brief as it was, but it was clear that he had
fought an enormous battle for quite a period of time even before he came here.”
Silver was first diagnosed with cancer during his sophomore year of high school in May 2016.
Before his diagnosis, he was a placekicker for the Ashland High School football team.
“My understanding is he was a placekicker and a very good one,” said Dobrow.
During his time at Springfield College, Silver attended TV club meetings. He wanted to be a sports commentator.
“He got selected to do the weather with me and Ross Meglin,” said freshman Irene Rotondo. “I don’t think he even got to do one show before he left, but I remember when he got the email, he was really excited. He was so excited about that; he couldn’t wait to do it. He just thought it was the coolest thing.”
As his health began to decline, Silver left Springfield College altogether by the end of October. While he was away from school, he planned to have his right leg amputated because of a large tumor.
“When he started getting really sick, he was going to get an amputation, and that was the day he found out he had all the tumors in his lungs,” said Rotondo.
It was discovered that Silver had 20 small tumors on his left lung as well as one large tumor on his right lung. Rather than an amputation, the treatment plan was changed to chemo pills.
Silver returned to Springfield College on Dec. 9 to gather the rest of his belongings, watch a men’s basketball game, and visit his friends.
“The last time I saw him was Dec. 9,” said freshman Evelyn Aguilar Duarte. “He came to Springfield to see a game and he let me know. ‘Hey I’m in Springfield,’ and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh come to my room I miss you.’”
“He was just telling me how hard it was being here without the help of his mother because he relied a lot on his mother’s help. Being here alone without her was hard for him.”
Silver reconnected with his other friends as well.
“I just saw him across the gym and I ran towards him and I hugged him,” said Rotondo. “I was so happy to see him. I missed him so much.”
Joe Arruda, another friend of Silver’s, had the opportunity to catch up.
“He was on my floor…I ran down the hallway and I was like, ‘Jake, what’s up, man? How’re you doing?’ It seemed like nothing was wrong and I assumed he was alright … I figured he was getting his treatment and doing well. Then just a month or however long later he was gone.”
Before his passing, Silver was able to check many items off of his bucket list. He attended many sports games, as he was a devout Boston sports fan.
He was going to meet Tom Brady and attend Super Bowl LIII, although his health took a significant decline. Having to miss the game, he gave his Super Bowl tickets to his nurses.
“He got really sick in Atlanta,” said Rotondo. “When they were at the hospital, they found out he had a tumor on his heart, but they didn’t tell him. They didn’t want him to give up because by then he already had the diagnosis of three to six months left. I don’t know if he ever knew he had the tumor on his heart.”
After Silver passed away, his friends at Springfield College were heartbroken. As the news of his passing spread, many took to social media to honor him. Many students came out in support of Silver and his family while expressing their grief.
“The vast majority of people on campus never met him, but he was a part of this community, and even in a very brief time, he really touched this community,” said Dobrow.
Aguilar Duarte informed her professor, Missy-Marie Montgomery, about his death as their writing studio class was very close, having just four students. Aguilar Duarte felt that her professor deserved to know the news about Silver.
“She told me she was going on sabbatical second semester so I felt like she had the need to know,” said Aguilar Duarte. “I sought out her husband [Dobrow]. I went to him one day and I was lucky enough that he was free and I told him about the news.”
Aguilar Duarte also sent a text message to Silver’s phone in hopes that a family member would see it.
“Jake, unfortunately you won’t see this message, but hopefully someone in your family does. Hearing the news of you passing tore out my heart and I couldn’t stop crying. The last time we saw each other was Dec. 9 when you came to Springfield. I had no idea that was going to be our last goodbye and our last hug. The last thing you said to me was ‘You know you give the best hugs, I’ll see you soon.’ I will always cherish the friendship we had. It hurts so much to know that your first friend in college isn’t on this earth anymore. It’s something I can’t cross my mind. Writing studio with Missy on Tuesday’s at 9:30-10:20am were the times we spent time together. We talked about life and about your journaling class. I can’t believe that you’re gone. I remember you showing me the collection of hats you had in your room and how much you loved it. Thank you for the memorable talks and picking out my outfit for a party. You truly are the definition of a genuine loving friend. May God rest your soul and may we meet again.”
Silver’s mother, Melissa Duca, recovered the message.
“This is his mom. Thank you for writing those beautiful words.”
Silver will be remembered forever by his family and friends. Although his time at Springfield College was brief, Silver made a great impact with his positivity and beaming personality.
Photo courtesy Melissa Duca