‘I’ll miss seeing her smile’: Hundreds say goodbye to SCSU gymnast
MILFORD — At the end of Saturday morning’s Mass for Melanie Coleman, the 20-year-old gymnast who died in a training accident last week, a man and woman embraced on the steps of St. Mary Church, surrounded by a crowd of mourners who were exiting the doors behind them.
Over 200 people had come to say their goodbyes. They spanned all ages, but among them were a large number of young women close in age to Coleman, who was a student and gymnast at Southern Connecticut State University.
The day was cold and clear as nine men carried her silver-blue coffin, which was topped with white flowers, out of the church and into a hearse.
As folks cleared the building, a line of cars waiting to exit the parking lot grew longer.
When approached, several attendees declined to comment, their faces drawn. Media was not permitted inside the church or in the cemetery.
One man, who identified himself as a friend of Coleman’s father, lingered near his car after the Mass ended. When told that at least 235 people had attended the service, he said, “Of course.”
Donations came from friends and strangers alike, from donors who lived in state and from those as far away as California and Georgia and Oklahoma. Some said they had loved ones who had suffered similar injuries.
Many donors mentioned connections to the gymnastics community. Coleman had been involved in gymnastics since age 2, and she became an all-state gymnast at Jonathan Law High School, her death notice said.
“Everyone on the Sacred Heart Gymnastics Team has your family in their prayers,” said a comment on a GoFundMe page.
One donor, who claimed to be a young student at New Era Gymnastics, where Coleman practiced, wrote, “She [Coleman] was my coach a few times and she was always happy. She would always push me to do my best and could always put a smile on my face.”
Coleman died after suffering a spinal cord injury during training at New Era last Sunday. Her death was ruled accidental.
“Melanie has taught my daughter at New Era Gym for 4 years,” another donor wrote. “She always had a smile on her face and taught with kindness. She was such a caring, patient, and loving young woman.”
After her death, Coleman’s family announced she would continue to help others in need through organ donation, a kindness which did not go unnoticed.
“My sister, who had a congenital heart condition received a new heart 2 weeks ago due to the Life giving donation of another grieving family,” wrote one GoFundMe donor. “Our family will forever be thankful for this gift. I wish you peace.”
Coleman was close to her family and had four brothers and sisters, according to her death notice.
“Melanie was an artistic, vibrant, smart and talented young woman who emitted love and kindness to everyone around her,” the notice said.
One donor on the GoFundMe page wrote, quite simply, “I’ll miss seeing her smile.”