The sights, sounds and overwhelming emotion of Christmas morning in 2016 will forever be etched in Kevin Coleman’s mind.
He thinks about it every day. The chilling reminders are inescapable.
“Anytime I hear sirens or I see ambulances, my heart drops,” Coleman said. “If I’m in school, in class, and I hear sirens on the highway, the little things always come back to me. That day was almost a blur — just crying with my family and holding my sister tight. Seeing my parents the way they were, it was really tough.”
The Coleman family will never be the same after a mysterious tragedy abruptly ended a period of love and happiness.
After spending a memorable Christmas Eve together, they received a frantic call the next morning. Their eldest son Ryan, just 24 years old and two weeks removed from proposing to his high school sweetheart, had died in his sleep.
“It’s been a horrible tragedy for our family,” said Greg Coleman, the father. “This was a good kid who went to Iona Prep and Georgetown and was off to the races with his life. He was promoted early, he just got a big, fat bonus in November of 2016 and got engaged to his lifelong girlfriend in early December.”
To this day, multiple autopsies and toxicology reports have provided no answers as to why Ryan passed away so suddenly.
That cruel uncertainty has left the family to wonder if anyone else is at risk.
“It looks like it was a cardiovascular event, but we’re still unsure,” Greg Coleman said. “We don’t know why he died. We’re storing his DNA at a center in Wisconsin with the hope that eventually science catches up. We do that not only for closure, but to make sure that Kevin and my daughter Emily are going to be OK.”
For Kevin, a junior at Pelham High and an increasingly rare three-sport star, it’s forced him to face realities that most teenagers never consider.
Through it all, he’s proven to be unflappable beyond his years.
“He’s the type of kid you would want your son to emulate,” Pelham baseball coach Brian Leighton said. “If you talk to any teacher, all of his coaches, they’ll all say the same thing about him. He’s respectful, hard-working, he’s such a nice kid and he always looks out for others before himself.
“He’s such a good teammate — not just in baseball, but in life itself.”
A young star emerges
Kevin Coleman has excelled at Pelham in football, basketball and baseball, but there is one sport which reigns supreme.
“I think baseball is the greatest sport in the world,” he said. “It’s almost 80 percent mental, in my opinion. You can’t think and hit. It’s too hard. You have to clear your mind when you’re hitting, and that’s the game of baseball. … It’s not just how big you are, how fast you are — it’s how tough are you in the mind? How much mental strength do you have to offer?”
Coleman immediately stood out to Leighton and his coaching staff — “The ball just jumped off his bat at such a young age” — and he became the first eighth-grader to ever make Pelham’s varsity baseball team.
By the time he was an All-State freshman with a .465 batting average, he was drawing rave reviews.