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By Gerry Boyle '78
Andy Colligan '94 didn't have children and had never married, but when he was fatally stricken by a brain aneurysm New Year's Day, he was surrounded by his kids.
Colligan, 30, a former Colby hockey and lacrosse player, collapsed on the bench as he coached the Charlestown, Mass., Mites, a hockey team for players ages 7 to 9. He died the next day at a Boston hospital.
Colligan, a financial consultant, had coached youth hockey for six years, not because of any obligation but because he loved sports and children. His dedication to his young players was noted by friends and family after his death and also by the Boston press, which at that time was immersed in the trial of a hockey dad who beat another father to death at an area rink.
"In the middle of this trial, it just seemed to be an incredible frame of reference that not all people involved in sports, at the youth level particularly, are problematic," said the Boston Herald's Joe Fitzgerald, who wrote a column about Colligan after his death.
Fitzgerald said he was contacted by parents who asked that he write something that reflected just how much the coach meant to them and Colligan's players. "Not to have a kid involved," Fitzgerald said, "not to come from the town where the program is housed-you're a single guy, got a girl, bought a house in New Hampshire, to be on the ice at eight o'clock in the morning, there is no reason to be there, except that you love to be there.
"The sense I got from the parents who called me was, this Colligan guy, he was the kind of fella to whom you were grateful to entrust your kids, you know? And that's got nothing to do with winning or losing games. Nothing at all."
By all accounts, the affection Colligan showed for his players was returned wholeheartedly, as was his love for friends and family. At memorial services and in written remembrances that were circulated after his death, he was described as ebullient, affectionate, a prankster, a lovable rascal.
"To be his friend was to embrace the entire package," wrote Aram Goudsouzian '94. "In return you received the greatest rewards: Andy's unconditional loyalty, his genuine pride in you and stories to treasure and share."
The stories that were rekindled after his death included Colligan giving friend and Noble & Greenough School classmate John "Jac" Coyne '94 a pep talk after Coyne's early-decision application to Colby was deferred-and Colligan's was accepted. There was Colligan driving hundreds of miles to make an appearance at a friend's 30th birthday party, and Colligan calling his sister to report excitedly that he had been given a Charlestown sweatshirt by his hockey parents. He said he had been "accepted."
Coyne said he recently asked Colligan to be a groomsman at his wedding; 12 days later, Colligan collapsed on the bench at the Charlestown rink. Within days, the story of his untimely death was making the rounds not only with Colby friends but in greater Boston.
Charlie Corey, who coached Colligan in hockey and lacrosse at Colby, learned of his former player's death from teammates. Corey, who now coaches at Lawrence Academy, remembered Colligan as a player for whom the team's success, not his own, was the only priority. When teammates grew weary of the grind of training and practice, it was Colligan who rallied them with his sense of humor, Corey said. "That's why you go into coaching and teaching-kids like him," he said.
In this case, the player grew into the kind of coach that players and parents remember. And in a serendipitous turn of events, Colligan's contribution to the lives of young hockey players will continue.
His family asked that Colligan's organs be donated. His heart was donated to 63-year-old Peter Kenyon of Connecticut, who had been living with a mechanical heart-assist machine for more than three years. Kenyon, who told the Hartford Courant that he now has "the good, strong heart of an athlete," said he looks forward to a new life that will include public service.
Among Kenyon's goals: he wants to return to coaching youth hockey.
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