Appreciating The Talents — and Courage — Of Danvers’ Ed Gieras

As the leading boys’ scorer in Danvers High basketball history – and the only boys’ player to surpass the magical 1000-point milestone (1024) — Ed Gieras has left a unique legacy in his beloved hometown. Just check out the 1000-point banner that hangs in the high school fieldhouse.


But with his passing last weekend at the age of 57 after a nine-year battle with Huntington’s Disease, one of the Falcons’ all-time great cagers has left an even greater legacy — his courage.


Well aware that he had a 50-50 chance of contracting the disease that killed his father, Dominic and two brothers, Jessie and Michael, Ed Gieras, one of Salem State University’s all-time basketball greats as well, confronted the condition head on.


Once the symptoms began to be visibly evident, then worsened significantly the last few years, Gieras was a true profile in courage to anyone with whom he came in contact.


“Ed lived his life to the fullest as long as he could, right up until a few months ago,” Mike Hennessey, his best friend, said. “Even when he lost most control of his body and the ability to speak, he made you aware that he was doing okay and enjoying whatever he could every day, especially his family and friends and being a sports fan.


“He never complained. He never hid from his many friends or the public. And he helped raise a good deal of money for Huntington’s research.”


Over the last several years Gieras had become in many ways Danvers’ Peter Frates, the former St. John’s Prep and Boston College baseball standout who has gained national fame during his extraordinary battle with and tireless efforts in raising money for, ALS.


In recent years Gieras, after the disease forced him to retire from a successful career as a food broker, was seen almost daily walking a three-mile route around the Woodvale neighborhood where he lived and through Danvers Square. He often did his “constitutional” twice a day with part of that regimen a stop at the downtown Dunkin’ Donuts.


During his walk he would happily acknowledge friends who waved through their car window or honked the horn.

“His walks were a vital part of his physical and mental therapy, even when he needed to use a walker to make them happen,” added Hennessey, who became close chums with Gieras once they became eighth grade basketball teammates. “Ed was just amazing. He knew what was happening to him but he kept his composure, kept his wits. He wanted to be like everybody else as long as possible. I’m just so proud of how he handled this right to the end.”


Gieras and Hennessey were key members of the 1975 Northeastern Conference-winning basketball team; the last NEC title team until the 2011-12 team under second-year coach John Walsh won the NEC and the program’s first state championship. Gieras was NEC MVP his senior year.


Gieras then moved on to Salem State, where he became one iof the top players in the history of that successful program. Gieras averaged 19.7 and 20.5 points per game his two seasons as a regular, spanning 1978-1980 and finished with 1211 careert points, rankin him eighth all-time. His senior year, 1979-80, he wqs a key performer as the Vikings won the MASCAC title and earned a berth in the Division 3 NCAA tournament.


After marrying college sweetheart Susan Carter, they raised three children, each of whom played youth sports and each of whom got the benefit of receiving coaching from their dad. Later Ed became a basketball official associated with IAABO Board 130.


“Sue has been ‘The Rock’ through all of this,” Hennessey declared. “She has been as amazing in her role as mother, wife and business person (running a small daycare center in her home) as Ed has been as the champion of courage.”


Gieras’s Danvers High coach, John McGrath shared the highest praise for his former all-star player. “Ed statistically was the greatest player in Danvers High history as far as I am concerned,” said McGrath, who guided the Falcons to NEC titles in 1964, 1970 and 1975. “He was a great passer and shooter and he was strong physically. Nobody pushed him away from the basket. He could score from most anywhere on the floor, He was one of the few players I ever had who I said could shoot whenever he wanted from wherever he wanted.


“On a personal matter,” McGrath said, “I was honored, after Ed’s father died, when his mother asked me to keep an eye on Ed as he continued his high school years; make sure he behaved himself, applied himself to his studies. From that directive Ed and I became very close. He confided in me like I was his second father. That was a great honor. He did fine and made us all proud at Salem State and beyond.”


These have been bittersweet times for Danvers High boys basketball. In the last two months two of the program’s all-time greats have passed. First Jeff Ryback, who led the Falcons to the ’64 NEC title, died in February at 66 after a successful career as a writer and sctor. Now the DHS hoop family has lost Gieras. All while the Falcons just concluded the first undefeated (27-0) season in program history while winning their first Division 2 state title and third state title in four years.

This entry was posted in Gary. Bookmark the permalink.