His passion was fishing. He and his wife, Eunice Sears, traveled to Mexico each year for extended vacations. They stayed in a motor home on an isolated beach in Mismaloya, near Puerto Vallarta.
For nearly four decades, Sears, a parishioner at Twin Lakes Church in Aptos, brought more than 400 refurbished bicycles and 10,000 pairs of shoes to impoverished children in Puerto Vallarta. He also donated much of his fishing haul to local villages.
They had no idea who he was, Barry said. Just the tall white guy.
His expeditions were reported by the Santa Cruz Sentinel, which made Sears feel uneasy.
“I think he was embarrassed by the coverage of his giving,” said Bob Linney, who coached Watsonville High’s boys basketball team for 20 seasons (1984-90 and 1995-09). “He didn’t want the notoriety or publicity.”
As a player, his appeal was national. The former Santa Clara University star was the first basketball player featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated (Dec. 20, 1954).
A few years back, an autographed copy hung on the wall of room 11C at Valley Convalescent Hospital. Sears gave it to ailing “Jumpin” John Burton, one of eight men credited with creating the jump shot in John Chistgau’s Origins of the Jump Shot: Eight Men Who Shook the World of Basketball. Burton, battling Lewy body disease, one of the most common causes of dementia, died in 2014.
Sears made regular visits to the hospital to keep Burton company after they were introduced.
“He was very humble,” Barry said. “He didn’t like the limelight. He wanted to do his part of helping people in his own way.”
So humble that he was selective about accepting invitations at Watsonville High. He turned down offers to help coach basketball at the school on numerous occasions and had someone show up on his behalf when his basketball jersey was retired.