Chess "keeps memory alive"

12.28.07 In late January, a chess set will be distributed to each of the 200 fourth-graders in the city of Portsmouth, New Hampshire in memory of Jeremy Alex, a 28-year-old who disappeared in the Maine wilderness three years ago. The Jeremy Alex Fund was established by the Portsmouth Rotary in 2005 in memory of Jeremy with the goal of helping at-risk children and teens.

Ted Alex, right, sets up his son Jeremy’Äôs old chess board while Rotarian Bill Hurley, left, sets up a newer board, one of 200 they will distribute to fourth-graders around the city. Jeremy died three years ago, and the chess sets will come from a fund in his memory.

The following story appeared in SeacoastOnline on December 24, 2007:

By Adam Leech
December 24, 2007 6:00 AM

PORTSMOUTH ’Äî Although Ted Alex and his family still do not have closure, three years after his 28-year-old son Jeremy disappeared in the Maine wilderness, something undeniably positive has come from the tragedy.

The Jeremy Alex Fund was established by the Portsmouth Rotary two years ago in Jeremy's memory with the goal of helping at-risk children and teens. The fund has gone toward a number of things over that time, including trips for students to foreign countries, athletic functions, a health expo and various enrichment opportunities.

In late January, a chess set will be distributed to each of the 200 fourth-grade students in the city thanks to the fund. Chess was one of Jeremy's passions, and the Rotary's Jeremy Alex Fund committee thought it was a good idea to promote the expansion of cognitive skills and critical thinking that comes with playing chess.

"We thought it might be a good thing to expose some fourth-graders to the game," said Rotarian John Hebert. "It's a way to try and keep Jeremy's memory alive and do some good in the community."

Jeremy disappeared into the Maine woods near Northport, where he and his girlfriend were in the process of moving to, on the afternoon of April 24, 2004. Numerous searches were conducted, but no trace of Jeremy was ever found. Jeremy struggled with addictions throughout most of his adult life, but he is remembered by his family as a kind person with many passions, according to the fund.

It has turned a tragic circumstance into a means of promoting alternatives to reckless behavior, according to Ted, and it has allowed him to look at the tragedy in a different way.

One of the most memorable moments for Ted was when an at-risk student got to go to Costa Rica with the Spanish Club thanks to the fund. Through charity work he did there, that student had a life-changing experience that allowed him to better appreciate his mother ’Äî a single parent with two kids and two jobs. Ted remembers the student's tearful thank-you standing at a Rotary meeting following the trip.

"The hardest part was when he looked at me and he said, 'Tell Jeremy I said thank you,'" Ted said. "That really hit me. ... That's just one of the positive things that has come from the fund."

A variety of life lessons can be learned from chess, according to Hebert. He said there are consequences for good and bad decisions, which are immediate and don't allow for a "do-over."

Rotarian Bill Hurley said he was never much of an athlete growing up, but loved chess and met many friends through his school's chess club. One of the best parts about chess, he said, is that it's accessible everywhere, as long as you have a self-contained set like the fourth-graders will.

"Chess doesn't require any other resources. ... The kids don't need a ride from their parents to get somewhere, you don't need to be an athlete, be able to sing or play an instrument," he said. "I think at-risk kids or kids without a lot of other things going on can be attracted to this."

With more than $200,000 in the permanent endowment, the fund will help kids for years to come. Ted said the chance to provide opportunities for other children to find the right path is exciting. "I don't think we'll ever see the true results of the Jeremy Alex Fund," he said. "All it takes is a kid to have a chess set, meet up with a friend with a chess set; they get playing chess and it keeps them out of trouble. And maybe it sends them in a different direction."

Image courtesy Don Clark (


Great clip on Jeremy Alex Fund; enjoyed the article.


This story has really hit home for me today. Jeremy Alex and I were best friends back in 4th grade. We were both new to Riverside Elementary in Vassalboro back in 1986. We bumped into each other in the hall looking for the right classroom. We struck a friendship right away. I had no idea what had happened to him. He moved away after that year. I checked out his myspace page and its definately the same guy. We had lots of the same interests back then-I didn't know that chess would have been one of them. I remember his mom had made him a really neat teddy bear that played the Star Wars theme. I'm very sad to hear of his circumstances and hope that a miracle may occur and he could be found alive. I can't get over the irony that we were best friends in the 4th grade and now, because of him, 200 4th graders will be playing chess. Chess has certainly played a role in my life and definately helped to keep me out of trouble as a youth and I am thankful that Jeremy has played a part in doing the same for others.

This is for a great cause and it is only 18 miles from me as I live in Rochester N.H. Thanks for posting Dan.

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