Colin Roger Heffern, 37, unexpectedly left this world in his sleep during the early morning of January 21, 2023 in Denver, Colorado. Colin came into this world on September 18, 1985 in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he spent his first seven years and developed a lifelong addiction to bean burritos with green chili. In 1993 Colin and his family moved to Cheyenne, Wyoming. He attended Jessup and St. Mary’s Elementary Schools, McCormick Junior High, and Central High School. He loved sports, played soccer, tennis, swimming, and golf at Central, dreamed of designing golf courses, and led the “Scooter Punx”. Colin was an all-State swimmer in the breaststroke. Colin graduated from Central in the spring of 2004 and was voted “most unique” among the boys in that class. He began college at Colorado State University in Fort Collins that fall.
Colin’s life was in two distinct stages, almost equal in length. In the first half he was strong physically, in the second half strong mentally and spiritually. On October 10, 2004 (the same day that the actor Christopher Reeve died), Colin and some classmates were jumping from a tree branch into a pile of leaves outside his freshman dorm. He landed wrong and broke his neck, which landed him at Craig rehab hospital in Denver for the next three months. The accident left Colin paralyzed below the shoulders for the rest of his life. It was life-changing but not life-defining, and did not stop him. After a year recuperating, he returned to CSU and became a resident assistant in his dorm. Colin met a circle of new friends there who looked beyond his disability and enjoyed his courageous and adventurous spirit. He was determined to live life to the fullest – skydiving for his 21st birthday; studying a semester at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia; sip and puff sailing; swim coaching; and climbing Mt. Everest in his power wheelchair. Just a week before his death he enjoyed trying out a new sip and puff ski at the National Sports Center for the Disabled in Winter Park, Colorado.
Colin graduated from Colorado State with a Bachelor’s Degree in Landscape Architecture in 2009. He then landed a scholarship with the Swim with Mike Foundation to study Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Southern California. After three years in Los Angeles, Colin earned masters’ degrees in both subjects in 2013. Soon after, he chose to return to Colorado and live in Denver. After his dedicated mother helped get him established with his living situation, Colin started looking for work. After several months, Colin landed a part time job with the City of Denver. Colin was determined to find something more permanent. He found a job in 2014 with the National Park Service, where he worked until his death eight years later. There, Colin developed plans to make national parks and monuments more accessible for people with disabilities. The most exciting part of his job was visiting several parks across the United States each year to develop these plans with his coworkers.
Colin took pride in giving back to his community, wheeling down to Craig Hospital every other Friday for the past six years to teach a class to newly injured quadriplegics. He helped them to navigate the scary world they were suddenly thrust into, and to give them a greater perspective by showing them that there is much life to be lived post-injury. For this volunteer work, Colin was presented with the Spirit of Craig award at their annual PUSH gala and fundraising benefit in February 2020, just prior to the Covid pandemic.
For Colin, it was never a matter of IF he could do something but rather HOW. He did anything he put his mind to, including traveling across the US and abroad. Colin also partnered with Jefferson County Open Space by volunteering to make local trails near Denver more accessible.
Colin loved reading, writing, wheelchair hiking, sunshine, good food, travel, playing board games, and developing his “10 Hapless Hands” card game. He will be remembered for his sense of humor, zest for life and adventure, and love for family and dear friends who were like family. Colin loved the caregivers who came every day to get him up and put him to bed, many of whom became his close friends. He had a special bond with his loyal college friend Matt, who became his housemate for the past nine years. And he had begun a romantic relationship with his friend Tes, whom he had met just two months ago. He also leaves behind many friends from CSU, USC, the National Park Service, the Craig community and the “Boys of Summer”.
Colin will be forever remembered and cherished by his beloved family - his parents, Edward and Judith Heffern of Cheyenne, brother August Heffern and wife Clarissa of Fort Collins, sister Carol Fletcher and husband Ben of Denver, and his dear nephews and nieces - Jude, Greer, Eli, Lucas and Mira. He also leaves behind his uncles, aunts, and cousins, especially his special cousin Kasey. Colin left a large mark on many people who loved him for his creative spirit and happy disposition. He gained much wisdom and patience in his short life and NEVER lost at Scrabble.
A vigil service will be held for Colin at 6 pm on Thursday, February 2 at Schrader, Aragon, and Jacoby Funeral Home in Cheyenne. His funeral Mass will be at 11 am on Friday, February 3 at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Cheyenne. Colin’s family and friends are also planning on a celebration of his life the weekend of June 24-25 at an outdoor location near Denver. In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to Jefferson County Open Space, Craig Hospital, or the Swim with Mike scholarship fund in memory of Colin. If you’d REALLY like to honor Colin’s memory, make a bucket list for yourself, with dreams big and small, as Colin did with his 30 by 30 list and was in the process of doing with his 40 by 40 list. There is no day but today.