A former top aide to Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren has died. Donald Starver, a native of Pittsburgh, served as the City of Rochester’s Deputy Director of Communications and Special Events from 2014 to 2017. He also had worked as a communications officer for the Rochester City School District.
A statement released by Warren on Saturday night says that, “It is with a heavy heart that I share the news of the passing of my friend and former colleague.” Warren says that Starver was a founding member of Rochester’s My Brother’s Keeper and Pillars of Hope initiatives, mentoring many of the city’s young boys and men of color and providing positive support to city students.
Warren says that, “Donald’s legacy will be deep and lasting; as one who was always seeking to aid those in need. I offer my condolences to his family and many friends and associates in City government and throughout our community
From the "Rochester Democrat and Chronicle"
Donald Starver's last texts to his friend Tamara Leigh were typical of Donald Starver.
The texts came in late March, and he asked if she and her children needed anything as the world was shuttering.
"He was asking if me and my sons were OK and if we had everything we needed," she said Monday. "I'm a diabetic and I haven’t been going outside much. That's just who he was. He was always that person who just wanted to make sure everyone was OK."
That trait — what Mr. Starver's friends describe as "pure kindness" — is what has made his death late last week all the more difficult to comprehend. Mr. Starver, 56, died at his city home, his friends say.
According to friends, he suspected he had been stricken with COVID-19 in the weeks before his death, but no specific information or confirmation was available Monday and his immediate family, who do not live in the Rochester area, could not be reached.
"I know 'kind' can be a generic word, but he had the kindest, most sincere heart," said Tiana Stephens, who worked with Mr. Starver at City Hall.
"Donald’s legacy will be deep and lasting, as one who was always seeking to aid those in need," Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said of Mr. Starver, who served as the city's deputy director of communications and special events from 2014 to 2017.
Whether Mr. Starver's cause of death was COVID-related may not become publicly known, but he was insistent in helping those in need during these trying times, his friends say.
"When the pandemic first started out he was reaching out to people to see what do you need," said Stephens, who was the recipient of cleaning spray Starver had.
In particular, Stephens said, Mr. Starver was trying to help older residents and single parents with children.
"I think because he didn't have family here ... we were his family," Stephens said.
Retired Rochester Deputy Police Chief Wayne Harris worked with Mr. Starver on different initiatives, including the Black Men Achieve awards, which honors the work and achievements of local African Americans.
"He was one of those 'give you the shirt off his back' kind of guys," Harris said.
An avid fisherman, Mr. Starver would take young people fishing and pass on life lessons along the banks of the Genesee, Harris and other friends said.
"I like to say this is my happy place," Mr. Starver said on a Facebook video of him fishing on the Genesee. "It's just so calm and serene. Even if I don't catch anything, just being here, on the river, enjoying the fresh air, the beautiful scenery, the wildlife, there's nothing better."
Mr. Starver's friend, William Schwappacher, posted the video Saturday as a remembrance of Mr. Starver, and the video quickly had close to 2,000 views.
Typically, Leigh said, Mr. Starver was a "catch-and-release" fisherman. But he recently posted on Facebook that he would bring fish to anyone who might need food during the pandemic.
"He was always thinking of someone else," she said.