Danny Hostetter; athlete made others better

By Bryan Marquard
Globe Staff / September 18, 2009

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Danny Hostetter, as his friend Joe O’Donnell succinctly put it, “lived the life that many of us dream of living; he was the football star who married the cheerleader.’’

On and off the field, he put up enviable numbers. In high school, he scored five touchdowns for Barnstable in the Thanksgiving Day game against Falmouth. As an adult, he taught himself to play golf and notched more than his share of holes-in-one. The most impressive statistic, though, emerged from a quiet conversation he had with his daughter, Kristin Pandit of Milton, when he was being treated for cancer.

“I can’t remember exactly how the conversation led up to me saying, ‘I love you, dad,’ ’’ she wrote in a eulogy. “But after I said it, he paused and looked me right in the face and said, ‘Why do you love me, Kris?’ ’’

She listed the ways in a letter to him that she read Saturday as part of her eulogy. The reasons numbered 91.

Mr. Hostetter, a real estate developer and the last of the second generation of the family that founded and ran the landmark Wimpy’s restaurant in Osterville, died Sept. 7 in Massachusetts General Hospital of sinonasal cancer. He was 65 and lived in Osterville.

Admired for his business acumen, his graceful athleticism, and a mix of charisma and humility, Mr. Hostetter could have dined out on a lifetime of success, then retreated when a rare illness arrived. Instead, in his final months, he heeded the advice of a relative stranger.

“The hospital counselor said: ‘Everything you need to say to your wife, say it to her. Everything you need to say to your children, say it to them,’ ’’ said his wife, Priscilla. “The third piece of advice that was really precious, too, was, ‘Seek out your best friends and tell them what a difference they made in your life.’ We drove home that day, and Danny said, ‘I think I’ve done pretty well on the first two.’ And then he sought out his friends, and I think they got great joy from knowing the difference they made in his life. He singled out each one of his friends.’’

It was as though the illness inspired him to live life anew, his wife said. “When we got the diagnosis, we sat down and said we’re going to celebrate every single day, and that’s what we did,’’ she said.

Daniel C. Hostetter was born in Osterville.

The youngest of three, Mr. Hostetter grew up working at Wimpy’s, which his parents founded in 1938 and named after the character in the Popeye cartoon who has a weakness for hamburgers. The family operated the restaurant for about 58 years and now leases the property to others who run it as a cafe.

Mr. Hostetter went to a prep school, and then returned to Barnstable High School, where his exploits and career point total earned him a football scholarship at Boston College.

“For a few years, he was the biggest thing on Cape Cod since cranberry bogs,’’ Globe sports columnist Will McDonough wrote in 1965, when Mr. Hostetter was playing for BC. “It wasn’t until he scored 112 points as a senior and attracted statewide attention that most Bay Staters realized that they had other things besides sand and clams on the Cape.’’

In his mid-20s, Mr. Hostetter traded football fields for fairways and spent the next four decades accumulating club championships on the Cape and near Jupiter, Fla., where he had a second home, as easily as he used to score touchdowns.

Along the way, he once hit a hole-in-one twice in one day, his son said. Playing in a member-guest tournament, added his son, Dan Jr. of Hong Kong, Mr. Hostetter had a hole-in-one on the 14th hole. The following year, he did it again, same tournament, same hole.

“It didn’t matter if you were a great golfer or not; Danny just looked at the people,’’ O’Donnell said. “He basically coached us. He bought us equipment. He advised us on all sorts of golf stuff that we wouldn’t know.’’

The same was true, his son said, when Mr. Hostetter was home or at work as a developer on Cape and around Stowe, Vt.

“He always brought out the best in everyone,’’ his son said.

Mr. Hostetter was a student at Barnstable High when he met Priscilla Morin, whom he married 42 years ago. “I was a cheerleader, but no rock star in anything. But he was. He was the all-star.’’

“It was love at first sight,’’ she recalled. “Even at that age, we knew we’d end up together. He was the love of my life, and I know I was the love of his life.’’

Everyone else knew, too.

“They had the most incredible friendship and the most affectionate marriage, that kind of couple that you just can’t imagine one without the other,’’ their daughter said. “It’s the marriage that everybody wants. You see those two people together, and you want that relationship.’’

In addition to his wife, daughter, and son, Mr. Hostetter leaves another son, Adam of Cotuit, and seven grandchildren.

A service has been held.