August 12, 2021
Colin James McFadden, born July 20, 1995, died at John Dempsey Hospital on August 12, 2021. He collapsed at the scene of large building fire, serving alongside his fellow Burlington firefighters and 28 other fire departments. Paramedics rushed him to John Dempsey where doctors identified and operated on a brain hemorrhage caused by undiagnosed acute promyelocytic leukemia. The brain hemorrhage caused Colin's collapse at the fire. Despite the valiant efforts of his medical team, Colin did not recover. Colin was born in Bristol and was a resident his entire life. He was the son of Shawn E. and Lee Riccio McFadden and brother of Matt and Brendan. Colin's early years were full of a sense of humor and joy at making others laugh. From the time he began speaking, Colin's powers of observation and interest in lights and sirens were keen. He could hear approaching emergency sirens long before anyone else. He loved pointing out railroad crossings, fire alarms, and emergency vehicles. In kindergarten Colin began struggling in school. At the age of seven, he was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, a type of autism spectrum disorder. His family worked hard to find Colin the right supports and environment to help him grow. Over time, a group of caring professionals influenced Colin and his future. One of his most important supports was his assistance dog, Stitch, who appeared with Colin on the Jane Pauley Show, a national talk show, in 2003. In fifth grade, Colin began attending the Gengras Center school in West Hartford. Colin played on soccer and floor hockey teams, made many friends, and found a special mentor in teacher Todd Girard. Colin developed confidence in himself, learned he had many strengths, and that Asperger's Syndrome did not define him. While at Gengras, Colin worked for Habitat for Humanity both in construction and at the ReStore. It was at Gengras that Colin bloomed and began his path to becoming an adult who contributed so much to his community. Colin participated in programs at the FOCUS Center for Autism. As a teenager, Colin spoke on panels about autism. He and his peers told large groups about their own experiences, to help parents, teachers, family members, and the community understand autism. Colin was a member of Boy Scout Troop 6 and attained the rank of Eagle Scout on June 29, 2013. His first merit badge was Horsemanship, which he earned at Shepard Meadows Riding Center. He gave back to Shepard Meadows by building a bridge for horses and riders as his Eagle project. His scouting merit badge work included First Aid, Citizenship in the Community, Radio, Emergency Preparedness, and Fire Safety. Each of these reflected the interests that were taking hold in Colin's life. Colin spent springs, summers, and falls working at Lake Compounce where he made friends and had fun. After leaving Gengras, Colin attended Bristol Technical Education Center and graduated from the electronics program. He then pursued a career combining his interest in electronics with his focus on safety. He worked supporting fire detection and alarm systems and began a new position the day prior to collapsing at the fire. In April 2015, at age 19, Colin began advocating as an adult, for both himself and others. On Autism Awareness Day, Colin spoke to legislators and media at the state capitol, impressing all with his accomplishments and poise. He talked about the people and the programs that helped him, so that others would learn how beneficial they are. He shared his accomplishments including becoming a volunteer fire fighter. Building on his interest in electronics, and public safety, Colin became an amateur radio operator. He joined the Insurance City Repeater Club (ICRC), earned his license, and was given the call sign KB1-YYG. He participated in many community functions including providing communication at Boy Scouts outdoor events. He was vice president of ICRC. Colin was also a member of the Bristol Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). Several years prior, as a boy scout, during a bad winter storm and a power outage, Colin volunteered at an emergency shelter run by CERT. As an adult, he joined CERT, to serve Bristol and prepare for emergencies. During 2020 and 2021, Colin spent many days providing traffic control for Bristol Covid testing sites and the Farm to Families food distribution. His truck, with its ham radio antennae and many yellow lights mounted above the cab, could be found at community events including the annual Shamrock Run. During the early days of the pandemic Colin's two 3-D printers ran day and night making N95 masks for the staff of UCONN Medical Center. Colin joined the Burlington Volunteer Fire Department (BVFD) in 2015. While Colin lived in Bristol, he was close enough to BVFD Station 2 to join the department. He completed State of Connecticut Fire 1 and Fire 2 training courses, along with many supplemental classes. Colin fought structure fires and brush fires and responded to many accidents and other calls. He loved responding "hot", with full lights and sirens. While serving as a firefighter, he became an EMT and served on the BVFD Ambulance staff. He responded to non-critical calls as well as cases requiring lifesaving care. His service in the BVFD meant the world to Colin. Colin was a member of the Connecticut Society Sons of the American Revolution. Besides his parents, Colin leaves his brothers, Matthew and Brendan, his maternal grandparents, Donald and Joanne Riccio, his sister-in-law, Vanessa McFadden, his nephew Robert and his niece Cassidy. Colin's girlfriend, whom he loved dearly, already misses him terribly. He also leaves numerous aunts, uncles, cousins and his step grandfather. He was predeceased by his paternal grandparents, Mary and Leo McFadden and by his assistance dog, Stitch. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Thursday (August 19, 2021) at 11 AM at St. Matthew Church, 120 Church Ave. Bristol. Burial will follow in St. Joseph Cemetery, Bristol. Calling hours will be held on Wednesday (August 18, 2021) between 3 and 8 PM at Funk Funeral Home, 35 Bellevue Ave., Bristol. In lieu of flowers, please donate to any one of the organizations listed at Colin's tribute page at www.FunkFuneralHome.com
Published by Register Citizen on Aug. 15, 2021.