SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD, NJ -- On a sunny Wednesday afternoon in September, Dr. David Heisey sat in his office speaking about his late colleague David Multer. With great ease, he spoke highly of the history teacher who touched so many lives dearly. Dr. Heisey, who had the opportunity of working with the teacher for 20 years, referenced one of Multer’s unforgettable traits: his big heart.
Multer’s 44-year teaching career at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School can be described in a variety of ways. From his impact on the theatre program to his position as advisor for Junior Statesmen of America and most famously his impact in the classroom as a US History I teacher, Multer touched everyone that he came in contact with in a unique way that will never be forgotten.
Dr. Heisey referenced his favorite memory of his relationship with Multer. One year during a fall JSA states competition, Multer couldn’t make it, so instead, Dr. Heisey replaced him as a chaperone.
“I went [to the JSA states competition] and soon after I got a box from Amazon thanking me for doing that. [Multer] bought me two books both of which I read, historically based,” Dr. Heisey said. “I was a social studies teacher myself, so I remember that. He knew me, and he kind of picked the books based on my interests. One was about General McArthur. I remember reading both books thinking ‘wow’, he knows me well.”
Multer’s teaching style didn’t center around technology or textbooks, but rather his incredible knack for retaining information and photographic memory that captivated students every time they walked into his class.
“He made it more than just a class...some history teachers just talk about what they need to talk about to get through the lesson and then there done,” sophomore Tyler Sinetar said. “He cared about each and every student, about how they did and all that they knew. He wanted them to know everything, and he would make jokes, and references -- he would just make [history] fun to learn.”
Multer knew everything there was to know about any given topic. He would always share his knowledge with his students and included anecdotes in every lesson. He had a story for everything -- lessons that one wouldn’t find in any history textbook. His teaching went beyond the basic understanding of topics.
Noel Baxter, the district Social Studies supervisor, had the opportunity to work with Multer for eight years. As one of the less experienced supervisors in the district -- at the time -- Multer provided assistance with whatever Baxter and his other colleagues needed help in doing.
“He really wanted to see everybody succeed - not just his students, but his colleagues and I thought he approached me the same way and I always appreciated that,” Baxter said.
Baxter will never forget the time when Multer gave her oldest son every presidential quarter that had been distributed as that had been an interest of her son at the time. She said she will never forget her generosity to not only her son, but to everyone.
“I said to Julian when Mr. Multer passed away, I said I have to make sure to put a note with those quarters so you know who they came from - the man they came from is very generous,” Baxter said. “Not just his ideas and his thinking and his knowledge, but anything he had that he could give, he would.”
Every year, Multer would bring out a game for his students called Diplomacy. He would spend multiple days playing this game with each of his periods. One year, around Christmas time, Multer bought all the history teachers their own game of Diplomacy. This is just one instance of Multer showing his generosity.
Multer made it a priority to share a special connection with each of his students. No matter their background, he could always strike a commonality between them. Any time it was someone's birthday, Multer would take out a small music box on his desk and play “Happy Birthday” for the student. He would make sure everyone participated and felt welcome in his class.
A student and longtime friend of Multer’s, George Falkowski, first met Multer his senior year of high school in 1977-78 as a student in Multer’s constitutional law class. The pair immediately hit it off through their love for the New York Yankees. After Falkowski graduated in the spring of 1978, they stayed in touch. As the Yankees made the playoffs in the fall of 1978, Multer gave Falkowski his ticket to a playoff game against the Kansas City Royals when he couldn’t go.
“But of course, I'm still in touch with Dave and Mr. Cancella, [and] we're going back and forth. He says that he's got tickets to the playoffs,” Falkowski said. “The Yankees had been bad most of my youth, so he offered me his two tickets for Friday, October 6th, which happened to be my 18th birthday...the Yankees won the game 6 to 5.”
Their close friendship blossomed into a friendship larger than baseball. Falkowski will always remember his friend as a jovial, dedicated, and generous person.
“He had so much to give to a lot of people and I think he spent every day doing it,” Falkowski said.
Students and staff over the years have very fond memories of Multer and his class. Whether it be from his generosity, impactful teaching style, engaging conversations, or his ability to recall many historical facts, Multer touched many people’s lives. He will be honored and always remembered at Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School for everything he did and for the person he was. David Multer will never be forgotten.
This article originally published in The Fanscotian.