Eugenie M. Applegate, Colin’s Mother. May 1, 2017
Thank you every one for coming today. The outpouring of love and support from my family, this St. Peter’s community and friends has been truly amazing and has sustained us through this excruciating sadness. So many people loved Colin and kept him in their prayers, and for this we are profoundly grateful. After this celebration, please join us back at our house for refreshments.
We want to remember Colin for his many and complex qualities. He was loving, kind, gentle, scientific, connected to Nature, sociable, sensitive, intellectually curious, articulate, bright, talented, musical, funny and so much more (please forgive me; I am a Mom and could go on forever!). I will try to speak to these qualities. Throughout his lifetime, Colin brought us great joy. Most of all, I want to remember that we had a loving and meaningful life together.
Colin arrived on Earth as calm and easy. We soon settled into a pleasant routine of eating, singing, reading, playing and just goofing around. My younger sister, upon meeting him as a 3 month old infant travelling by a grueling airflight, remarked “What a mellow baby!” His early nicknames were Peach and Colliwog. As an infant, Colin did not sleep during the day. Rather he sat in his places, observing. My Mother used to remark that Colin was born a wise, old soul who just took things in.
Colin began to articulate words purposely at 14 months, not particularly precocious. His first words were not Mamma, or Dada, but, as a noise thundered overhead, he said “airplane”. Moments later another outside sound produced “car”. After I settled my excitement, I thought “Oh boy, are we in trouble: the next word will be “car keys”! He seldom stopped the flow of conversation after that.
His scientific side showed early. Before he was 2, he was obsessed with the space shuttle. One day in the Blue Room for older toddlers at preschool, the teacher was talking about counting. Colin volunteered that he knew how to count: “ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, liftoff!” His next obsession was vacuum cleaners. My mother’s friends donated to the cause, and we soon had a basement full of non-working vacuum cleaners that he played with. Again at preschool, at lunch one day he could not get his favorite lunch spot and he burst into tears. His caring and practiced teacher, asked what the matter was. He blurted out that he could not see the classroom vacuum cleaner. By quick thinking, as I recall, she moved the vacuum cleaner to where he could see it, and crisis resolved. Sometime later I found him sitting under the dining room table taking scissors to his much loved book Where’s Waldo?. He was cutting out a tiny picture of a vacuum cleaner so he could have it with him always. Next came keys, for reasons unknown. His granddaddy Apple made the rounds of hardware and other stores looking for rejects. When Apple produced copies of Jaguar keys, Colin was THRILLED! [He wore so many keys attached to his trousers that he could barely keep them up—long before that became a fashion statement!] Continuing into middle school, Colin expressed some interest in horticulture, which of course delighted me. When he asked if he could grow some things under lights in a controlled experiment testing the effect of varying levels of light and darkness, this Mom dutifully took him to Dominion Electric and set him up with lights, fixtures, ballasts, wiring and the requested spinach seeds. Then I awaited the results. About a month later, upstairs I smelled a horrible smell coming from his room. Upon closer inspection, I found the light installation too close to a plastic, now-smoldering, dry cleaner bag. It seems that Colin nearly burned the house down growing….ahem, unapproved plant material!
His interest in computers developed around age 3. He would go the office with Dad and plug away. Dad will add more to this later. But Colin was definitely a computer nerd, and proud of it. For the dreaded school book reports, Colin choose to do his reports on computer manuals. That must have been fun reading for his teacher. After suffering through a few of these, the teacher suggested he might want to consider another genre.
Colin was musical. As we first drove him home from the hospital to our house on Jackson St., Beethovan’s “Ode to Joy” was playing on the car radio. How perfect. I rocked him to sleep singing, and we sang silly songs together. He sang in school choruses, learned the violin and banged around on the piano, mostly the endless theme of Mission Impossible with a school buddy. He listened to various genres all his life. I was quite struck by how much he enjoyed participating in the St. Peter’s production of Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. In his last year, he wanted to learn to play the guitar, and was interested in synthesizing “techno” music—I think I have that right.
Colin had a quirky but well-developed sense of humor. The tiny voice coming from the carseat behind me would talk about “Sersats”. He could not or would not enlighten me about Sersats. It was years later in middle school that he confessed that was his pet name for me. When he was 4, we were visiting his Uncle Jeff, who has a number of very accomplished friends. One asked Colin at dinner one night what was the name of the knitted mouse in the pocket of his sweater. Colin’s instant answer: Freako! Roaring with laughter, this Madison Avenue heavyweight thought this reply was about one of the funniest things he had ever heard. When Colin was about 6, we heard endless renditions of Jim Carey’s “ALL- righty then”, and “Say hello to my stinky little friend.” He would follow up with Robin Williams line as the genie in Alladin “May I take your order please?!” Colin understood what powerful tools humor and satire are, and kept his sense of humor throughout his life, regularly making us laugh in the car and at the dining room table.
Of course, Colin had a bit of mischief in him. As I was struggling in my first trimester of pregnancy with Austen, and needed to lay down on a sultry August afternoon, I set Colin up in his spot at the kitchen counter with a snack of yogurt and his favorite TV shows Thomas the Tank Engine and Inspector Gadget. I instructed him to stay at his spot until he finished his snack. The next thing I heard was the scritch scratch of the kitchen stool moving, and paper towels being ripped from their holder. I opened one eye and asked Colin what he was doing. “Oh nothing” was the reply. Instinct told me to investigate. It seems that Colin and the yogurt had left the kitchen for the dining room with its floor fan. The yogurt now lay in a thin film of about 10 foot square all over the cracks and aged planks of the dining room floor. Was this an accident, or another controlled experiment, one involving the physics of moving air meeting semi liquids? [Another time, on a dare in 5th grade, he hacked into the staff computer system and, it seems, muddled with a few grades. * This previous sentence was not spoken in my remembrances at Colin’s service. As I was reading, a voice said “No, no—don’t say this!” Turns out Colin’s 4th and 5th grade teachers were in the audience! Was the voice Colin’s?]
Colin could be a bit untidy. His room always was littered with computer parts and manuals, piles of clothes, textbooks on pharmacology and medicine, soda cans and so forth. The family rule became “Nothing grows in your room except YOU!” No vermin, bugs, mold or, of course, unapproved plant material. His car became a repository of the same, and more: cigarette butts, unfinished food etc. An English cousin fondly recalls that Colin always made him laugh, whether at the dining room table or driving around in his car filled with milk cartons. Another family saying became “Showers are good!” His mind was buzzing with so many other things, we just accepted the jumble as part of who he was. We gave him his space, and closed the door.
Colin was a very giving person. In 3rd grade he volunteered to help the less technically inclined teachers. They soon began to trust and depend on him. He loved it because it got him out of art class. He continued to help in the computer labs through his time at Yorktown High School. He loved small children and enjoyed playing with, reading to and mentoring them on the computer. Colin was also kind and tender hearted. As a teenager, he often would include Austen in his computer games and local area network parties. After a rain, he would pick up earthworms off the sidewalk and gently move them to the garden so that they did not come to a nasty end.
Colin was SO loving. As I looked through photographs, I was especially struck—and comforted—by the uninhibited affection he showed us and his little brother, Austen. He wrote sweet notes to me and the family. He was interested in, engaged with and completely accepted others. We know he loved us and others because he told us so. Even as he struggled with his terrible illness, he far expanded our capacities for empathy, compassion, caring and love. That is a good thing.
There were just so many moving parts to Colin. We cherish each and every one of them. We will love him forever, and miss him profoundly. Again, we lived a loving and meaningful life together. And that is the ultimate thing.
Rest in Peace dear Colin.