Colin Patrick Muilenburg
2002 - 2016
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Colin Patrick Muilenburg passed away on July 18, 2016, just over a month before his 14th birthday, at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital in San Francisco. Colin was a smart, sweet, sensitive, funny, incredibly imaginative boy who was on the cusp of a new life, and his parents Chad and Erin O'Neal Muilenburg, and his brothers Zachary Muilenburg and Joshua Muilenburg, will always miss him more than words are able to express. Colin was born on August 27, 2002, in Sacramento. His older brother Zachary was genuinely delighted to welcome him home, and they were the closest of friends ever since. From the start, Colin captivated his family with his imagination and subtlety, sometimes holding the whole family transfixed as he told long and complicated stories of creatures, worlds and characters that only he could see, including an entire alternative universe known as "Colinesia". In 2005, with his younger brother Joshua, another incredibly close friendship between brothers was born. Colin's relationships with his brothers Zack and Josh were central to his life, and they were his bedrock and a source of magic in his world. Colin was never happier than at home with them, playing role-playing games or other fantastically intricate games of their own invention. Like so many kids, he loved superheroes and Star Wars and Legos, but for Colin, movies or completed Lego sets were only ever the beginning of the story, not the end. Colin attended Country Oaks Preschool and went to Del Dayo Elementary School for kindergarten and first grade. He really blossomed in the Rapid Learner Program at Del Paso Manor Elementary School, where he attended second through fifth grade. His teachers and classmates there encouraged his intelligence and creativity, fostered his talents as a writer, and permitted him to be his unique and special self. He attended sixth and seventh grade at Winston Churchill Middle School, along with his class of friends from DPM who had been like a second family to him as they grew up together. His best friends, George Sicner and Joseph Bender, occupied a place of special and irreplaceable importance in Colin's life, as they too were gifted with extraordinary imaginations, curiosity, and vocabularies that allowed them to understand one another and enjoy a level of comfort and trust that only occurs in the rarest of lifelong friendships. In 2008, Colin was diagnosed with a genetic form of FSGS, a chronic progressive kidney disease that would eventually claim his kidneys. His parents encouraged him to live his life as a kid and not as a patient, and with his academic success and his easygoing, sunny disposition, many people had no idea that he was battling such an implacable situation. Like one of his beloved superheroes, he had an unassuming public persona, and few knew of his true strength, or of the true scale of his epic battles. On July 7, 2016, his aunt Jen O'Neal gave him the gift of life by donating her kidney to him. The transplant was a great success, and Colin's hard work and hope for the future helped him recover with amazing speed. He was taken from us suddenly on July 18, 2016, by a previously undiagnosed weakness in his aorta, just as he was poised to grow into a young man. His mother Erin will always treasure his creativity, his originality in a world full of pressure to conform, his ever-present sweetness, his love of a good story, and his willingness to share and discuss with her all of the many details in which they both delighted. His father Chad reveled in his sense of humor, his boundless imagination, his easy companionship, and all of the things he could observe with his "Colin eyes" that no one else could see. He will be missed greatly, not just for who he was, but because so many were so eager to see who he would become. A memorial service for Colin will be held at Carmichael Presbyterian Church at 5645 Marconi Avenue, Carmichael, CA, at 2:00 on August 8, 2016. All are welcome. Memorial contributions in Colin's name may be made to Family House in San Francisco (, an organization that provides housing and invaluable care to families with hospitalized children at UCSF. "You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus." Mark Twain

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Published in The Sacramento Bee on Aug. 2, 2016.
Memorial service
02:00 PM
Memories & Condolences
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12 entries
August 25, 2016
Jonathan Stenger
August 9, 2016
Dear Chad,
My thoughts go out to you and your whole family. In Judaism we say, "Zichrona l'vracha" - may his memory be a blessing. May you and his mother brothers carry his memory and his love and creativity with you always.

Marisa Brett (Williams '92)
marisa brett
August 9, 2016
Dear Muilenburg Family,
Words fail me in being able to express my sadness for your family's loss.
May Colin's spirit and your love for him forever live on in your heart.
Tom Nelson
August 9, 2016
Dear Erin, Chad, Zach and Josh-

Words can't express how heartbroken we are for your beautiful family. Colin was blessed to have such dedicated parents and loving brothers. Although he has moved on his love lives with you all forever. So sorry for your loss. The Gowan Family
August 9, 2016
Dear Muilenburg Family,
Words fail me in being able to express my sadness for your family's loss. May Colin's spirit and your love for him forever live in your heart.
Tom Nelson
August 7, 2016
I've had the pleasure of knowing the Muilenburg's since Zachary first visited us in 2001 for his first dental visit. Colin showed up for his first exam in 2003. Joshua brought up the rear in 2006. There are no words that can give the Muilenburgs any solace, but I was brought to tears in reading and re-reading their kind and thoughtful review of Colin's wonderful life and how he made such a wonderful impact on all those he met. I only knew them in my office setting, but I could see how special all of the boys are. My heart and condolences go out to the Muilenburgs and wish them strength in enduring their loss.
Richard Keilson
August 4, 2016
This is one of the most beautiful celebration of life articles I have ever read......what a beautiful young man and soul, everything the family shared about his life and personality so giving to the reader......he was meant to be on this however short term...his eyes were wide open while here.

I am so sorry for your loss.
August 3, 2016
Dear Chad, Erin, Zach and Josh,

Our hearts go out to all of you during this very sad and difficult time in your lives. We cherish your family and all of the experiences that we shared with you and your boys over the many happy years at Country Oaks School and beyond. We feel blessed to have been given the chance to be apart of your lives and to have experienced Colin's bright smile, inquisitive mind and creativity watching him blossom from a shy child into the amazing young man that we were so proud to see that he was becoming. Our thoughts and prayers are with you always.


Wendy Rountree, Angie Williams and Gilder Caplan
Wendy Rountree
August 3, 2016
Dear Muilenburg family, Even though I never met your son, this tribute here to his young life is incredible and such an inspiration. Treasure these great memories and your family are in my prayers....
Rufus Friday
August 2, 2016
Dear Erin, Chad, Zack & Josh: Words can't describe the sadness of losing Colin. Everyday we watched the three brothers from across the street swinging on the tire, playing basketball and football, and walking the dog. We will never forget when they all voluntarily helped a neighbor (us) in time of need. May your hearts be filled with wonderful memories of joyful times. Colin will be missed dearly. Our prayers go to you all at this difficult time. The Jagirs
Ajit & Mike Jagir
August 2, 2016
Dear Erin, Chad, Zack and Josh,
Nothing, absolutely nothing, can prepare a mother, father, brother or sister for the devastating loss of such a beautiful soul. Who knew that you could actually feel such a hole in your heart, but it is real. I am so sorry that you have joined the club that absolutely no one willingly chooses. Take each day and give yourselves ample time to figure out how you will move forward. You will eventually be able to breath again, to swallow again, find a smile appearing across your face... Colin's life here with you will always be relevant. Alex and I keep Niko alive through our love, actions and music. It is a new life journey and our hearts are with you.
Sonya & Alex Heal Winchell
August 2, 2016
What a beautiful tribute to Colin. He was such a clever boy and so imaginative - Dean always appreciated his presence at their group playdates. From the neighborhood to school community to friends - everyone was blessed to have crossed paths with Colin.
Jennifer McLane
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