Inspirational teacher/coach who battled cancer dies

·5 min read

Sep. 16—BEVERLY — Ben Goodhue, a high school teacher and coach who inspired the North Shore with his battle against a rare form of brain cancer, died on Wednesday. He was 45.

Goodhue's family announced his death in a post on Facebook, saying he passed away peacefully, "surrounded by love."

Goodhue, who lived in Beverly, was a health and wellness teacher at Beverly High School and served as an assistant high school football coach in Gloucester, where he grew up. He and his wife, Sarah, had two children, Maggie, 4, and Charlotte, 1 1/2 .

Goodhue's family said he remained determined and positive to the end. On Friday, using a wheelchair, he was honored on the field before the Gloucester High football game, surrounded by players on both teams as they shook his hand.

"He never gave up," said Stacy Sabia, Goodhue's sister.

Beverly High School Principal Betty Taylor said she informed students parents of Goodhue's death in an email at the end of the school day on Wednesday. She said counseling will be available for students and staff at the high school on Thursday from 10 a.m. to noon.

"It's important to know that Ben was a really organized and prepared teacher," Taylor said. "He cared a lot about the concepts of lifelong wellness and health. He was a loyal person and dependable."

Taylor said Goodhue worked up until last spring from home, helping students who were in the school's remote learning academy.

Goodhue was first diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer called glioblastoma in 2017. He made what appeared to be a full recovery, returning to teaching and coaching. But the cancer returned in 2020, and earlier this year he suffered another seizure, leaving him paralyzed on his left side.

Goodhue's perseverance inspired the phrase "Goodhue Strong" and sparked support from friends, colleagues, students, former students and the community. A GoFundMe campaign raised more than $70,000. Local businesses donated portions of their sales to the family. Friends organized a "rolling rally" that passed by his house on Lyman Street. High school students ran a basketball tournament to raise money. A nonprofit coffee company created a "Ben's Blend," with proceeds going to the family.

In recent months, a steady stream of his former students and players stopped by his house to visit. One former student, a Navy Seal who was on a secret mission in South America, reached out online to thank Goodhue for his training and guidance.

"There are numerous kids who have said, 'My life changed because of you,'" Sabia said. "He has a legacy about him. He would never tell you, but he did."

Goodhue grew up in Gloucester, where his father worked for the public schools for 35 years in the facilities department. Goodhue earned a master's degree in teaching at Union College and started out as an eighth-grade language arts teacher in Danvers. He went to Springfield College for a second master's degree while serving as an assistant coach for the football program.

After teaching physical education for six years at the middle-school level in Reading, Goodhue came to Beverly High School in 2007. He served as an assistant coach for the football team and would be at the school at 5:30 a.m. to conduct preseason workouts for athletes in any sport.

Doctors told Goodhue when he was first diagnosed that he had five years to live. But he refused to give in to the dire prediction. After a 12-hour surgery to remove a tumor, six months of radiation treatment, and physical and speech therapy following a stroke, he made what appeared to be a full recovery. In 2019, his wife gave birth to Charlotte, and Goodhue was named physical education teacher of the year for Massachusetts.

Allan 'Doc' Goodhue, his father, said he drove his son to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston for his chemotherapy treatment almost every Monday for five years.

"We had a ball," Allan Goodhue said. "I'd play '70s music on the radio and he loved it."

In a letter recommending Goodhue for the physical education teacher of the year award, Beverly parent Carol Augulewicz said Goodhue exemplified for students how "hardships can be met with fortitude and grace."

"There were no easy solutions, and lots of sacrifices, but Ben returned to the classroom after a short leave of absence for his treatments, and his students were the happiest for him to return," Augulewicz wrote.

In August of 2020, during a routine scan, doctors discovered that the cancer had returned. He underwent a second surgery and six weeks of chemotherapy and radiation. Goodhue suffered a second seizure while recovering from surgery, but with physical and occupational therapy seemed to be recovering again.

In February of this year, Goodhue had another seizure. He ended up using a wheelchair, and doctors told him there was nothing more they could do, according to an interview with Goodhue in June.

Sabia said her brother was devoted to his family and his two young daughters. Maggie, the oldest, would often tag along when her father operated the scoreboard at Beverly High basketball games.

"His daughters were the apple of his eye," Sabia said. "He was really dedicated to them."

Goodhue attended Catholic church and was boosted by his strong faith, his sister said.

"He was really beloved," Sabia said. "He had a kind soul."

In addition to his wife and children, Goodhue is survived by his father, Allan; his mother, Gail; his sister, Stacy, and her husband, Augie Sabia; his brother, Peter, and his husband, Richard; his niece, Emme, and his nephews, Augustave and Allan. Services will be announced.

Staff Writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2535, by email at pleighton@salemnews.com, or on Twitter at @heardinbeverly.

Staff Writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2535, by email at pleighton@salemnews.com, or on Twitter at @heardinbeverly.

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