The Rev. Alfonso Sherald, pastor of the Bethel AME Church in Morristown and president of the Morris County NAACP, went to the gym every morning and appeared to be a healthy 60-year-old man.
When he did not show up for services on Sunday morning, someone went to find him. He was discovered lying in bed, the TV remote by his side. Apparently, he had died overnight, said his friend, the Rev. Leon Sims of Morristown’s Union Baptist Church.
The news has stunned and saddened people around Morristown who regarded Pastor Sherald as a friendly, tireless advocate for youths.
“He had a special place in his heart for kids,” said Leon Sims, who is a pastor. He remembered Alfonso Sherald as “a genuine gentleman,” and a down-to-earth substitute teacher who connected with students at Morristown High School because he respected them.
Nikiyah Foster, 17, received the news in a text message during a church service Sunday.
“I was in shock,” she said.
High school students liked the Pastor’s jovial nature, Nikiyah said. She never will forget bumping into him at a diner.
“He told my family I was a bad kid,” she said. “He was kidding.”
“The community has suffered a great loss,” said Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty. “He had great energy. He asked me to get more involved at the high school. He said you have to be more visible with youth.”
At a recent community event called Kids on Top, Pastor Sherald spoke with the Mayor about a possible program to encourage area businesses to hire students home from college for the summer.
The pastor followed up with a voice message for the Mayor last Friday. The Mayor had planned to return the call after the Labor Day weekend.
“It still bothers me,” he said about missing the Pastor’s last call.
Dorothy Holman met Pastor Sherald three years ago, but felt like she had known him all her life.
“He was very friendly, very outgoing. Kids loved him. Pastor Sherald was one of a kind,” Dorothy said.
At Morristown High School, where Pastor Sherald was a substitute teacher for the last few years, administrators remembered a giving person who helped kids without seeking the spotlight.
“He had a way of reaching across cultures, across age groups, to reach kids. They knew that he cared,” said Vice Principal Michael Bruchac. “We’re going to really miss him. He had a significant impact on a lot of kids’ lives.”
Alfonso Sherald was pastor at the Bethel AME Church for six years, said the Rev. Sims. The Pastor is survived by his father, Jay T. Muldrow; sisters Geraldine Sherald and Denise Muldrow; and by his brother, Jeffrey Muldrow.
A funeral service is scheduled for 11 am Saturday at Calvary Baptist Church, on Martin Luther King Avenue in Morristown. Burial will follow at Maple Grove Cemetery in Kew Gardens, NY, according to the Rowe Lanterman Home for Funerals.