“He was engaging, bright, and someone who made you want to say, ‘This is why I love children,’” said Kathleen Tracy, principal of . "He was such a beautiful child."
West Hartford resident Connor Sorensen, 10, would have been a fifth grader at Duffy this fall. He died tragically on June 30 in a tubing accident on the White River in Vermont.
Reports say that a fast moving current swept him down the river and out of reach of his party, which included several family members. Rescuers reportedly tried to resuscitate him, but he later died at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H., according to reports.
“We’re all devastated,” said Tracy. Even though Duffy is the largest elementary school in town, “We’re a very tight-knit community,” she said. “Connor loved school, and he cared about his family and friends. This will leave such a big hole for us.”
Word of the tragedy spread quickly over the holiday weekend. Baseball was one of Connor’s favorite activities, and the coaches of Connor’s baseball team, Talcott Transmissions in the West Hartford Youth Baseball League, struggled to tell the kids about the loss of their friend and teammate.
"This is shocking, surprising and unbelievable to us all," said Talcott Transmissions Manager Brian White. "He was a very special kid who always tried his best. He will be greatly missed."
“I can see how hard it is on my son and the other kids. Words can’t describe how awful it must be for their family,” said Talcott coach Matt Celio, whose son Joe played on the team with Connor this past spring.
Celio said that the coaches and kids on the team plan to attend Wednesday’s wake together, all wearing their Talcott Transmissions baseball hats. The team has also reached out to the Sorensens to help in any way they can. “We’ll do whatever it takes to support the family,” Celio said.
Baseball played such an integral part in Connor’s short life that his family has asked for memorial donations to be made to the West Hartford Youth Baseball League.
League President Rob Gallo said that the league had already been discussing a way to honor Connor when he got a call from his dad. “Baseball was very special to Connor and the family thought it would be good to honor his memory,” Gallo said.
Gallo said that the WHYBL board will be segregating all of the donated funds and will make a decision in the fall, with input from the Sorensen family, about how to properly memorialize Connor.
“Losing a child is the most painful of suffering,” said Tracy, who added that counseling is available as needed through the website.
Few people can find the right words to say to a family that has experienced the loss of a child. But the following letter, written by Talcott Transmissions coach Matt Celio — well known for his engaging write-ups of games and team activities — to the Sorensen family, and published in its entirety with Celio’s permission, is a touching tribute:
“Talcott’s Most Trying Loss
“On Thursday, the Talcott Transmissions family lost one of our own with the passing of Connor Sorensen. While vacationing in Vermont, Connor was involved in a rafting accident that tragically took his life. Connor recently completed his first year as a citizen of Talcott Nation, during which he saw action as a second baseman, pitcher and outfielder. The ten-year-old played an important part in the team’s successful 2011 regular and post seasons and Connor and his family made this a most memorable campaign both on and off the diamond for Talcott. The 2012 Talcott Transmissions season will be dedicated to his memory. As we think back fondly on the all-too-short life Connor led, it doesn’t take a great leap of imagination, let alone of faith, to picture him tossing a ball or taking some swings in a place where there are no rain outs and it’s always a game day under sun-dappled skies or luminescent lights. Baseball’s first Commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, said every boy builds a shrine to some baseball hero, and before that shrine, a candle always burns. Well, today there are eleven candles burning brightly for you, Connor, and these flames will be an eternal testament to all that you meant to this season’s Talcott players, your friends, and family. We must balance the tears of sorrow and loss with those of joy and remembrance: Connor has rounded the bases, slid safely into home, and is at peace in the Kingdom of God. To paraphrase the immortal Lou Gehrig, today we consider ourselves the luckiest people on the face of this Earth for having been a part of Connor’s life. We love you and will miss you, Conzo.”
Information about Wednesday's wake and Thursday's funeral service can be found here. Donations in Connor's name can be made to: West Hartford Youth Baseball League, c/o League President, 44 Newport Ave., West Hartford, CT 06107.