BERLIN — The local community lost a treasure last weekend when long-time Stephen Decatur High School volleyball coach, counselor and mentor passed away at the age of 47 after a lengthy illness.
Bertha Ann Harmon Ortiz, 47, of Ocean Pines, passed away peacefully last Saturday afternoon at Atlantic General Hospital after a long battle with illness. The ripple effects of Ortiz’s passing were felt this week throughout the local area where the coach, teacher and counselor was a pillar in the community.
Ortiz was employed by the Ocean City Recreation and Parks Department, the Worcester County Board of Education and Stephen Decatur Middle School for the last two decades. After serving as the assistant coach for Stephen Decatur High School’s varsity volleyball team for several years, she took over for long-time Coach Susan Brinsfield a few years back and took the program to new heights including several Bayside Conference and state regional championships. She was also the assistant coach for the Decatur varsity softball team.
Stephen Decatur High Athletic Director Don Howard this week recalled Ortiz first as a player on the softball teams he coached and later as a colleague on the school’s coaching staff.
“She was a hard-working, go-getter type who loved sports and excelled in her sports programs,” Howard said this week. “I’m not sure of the number of years, but she developed a highly competitive program and won numerous Bayside and regional titles and qualified for several state tournaments.”
Far beyond Ortiz’s contributions in her various positions with the Ocean City Recreation Department and later at Decatur was the impact she had on the lives of hundreds of young people in the community she touched as a mentor, counselor and friend.
“She was a highly respected coach and much more important, she was a quality individual who loved the girls she coached,” said Howard. “She will be missed by all who knew her.”
According to her obituary, Ortiz “was an outgoing and kind person who was full of life and will truly be missed not only by her family, but by all of her friends and students whose lives she touched over the years. If you were a part of her life, you were truly touched by an angel. Bertha fought a good fight and she will be remembered as a great daughter, wonderful sister, amazing mother, loving aunt and best friend.”
A viewing will be held at the Assembly of God Church in Selbyville tonight from 6-9 p.m. and again tomorrow at noon in advance of the 1 p.m. funeral service.