Cary Michael DeYoung
September 24, 1997 - July 27, 2020
This site is here to honor the life of Cary Michael DeYoung. It aims to keep Cary’s story and his shining light alive and to offer friends, family and others the opportunity to share memories and sentiments.
Cary was born in New York City. He was a sweet, mellow, sensitive baby, sometimes referred to as “angel boy” due to his ethereal nature. Cary’s big sister, Quincy, was thrilled to welcome her new baby brother.
By toddlerhood, the mellow little baby had become a rambunctious, endlessly curious and mischievous little wonder. Though he tested every limit to no end, (dumping his sister’s jewelry into the fish tank, tossing the phone out a seven story window and riding his tricycle around the apartment at 3am) it was difficult to stay frustrated as Cary’s sparkly eyes, his tender smile and the light that literally emanated from him, captivated everyone. Nicknamed “smiley” by the doorman, Cary lived up to the name every day.
When Cary’s brother Barrett arrived on the scene, Cary greeted him at the hospital and gingerly petted him as one would a new kitten. Indeed, Cary’s way of comforting others was to “pet” them. He was deeply empathetic and would go over to pet children in the playground when he saw them crying.
However, this sweet practice came to an abrupt halt when, while apple picking one afternoon, Cary pet a bumble bee and quickly learned an unfortunate lesson.
Cary moved to Connecticut just before turning six. Though he had only lived there for one month before his birthday, he welcomed his newfound classmates to his birthday party as if he knew them all his life; excitedly greeting them with, “Come on guys!” as he led them through a lively tour of his new house.
Life with Cary was often a series of intense negotiations. Backing down was not in his wheelhouse. When asked at eight what his plans were when he grew up, Cary responded that he wanted to marry his friend Max, drink beer and ride motorcycles. Cary was also a deep thinker. Around age seven, while searching the backyard for a tree he had helped plant, he remarked, “Don’t worry, I can still feel its presence.” This was Cary.
Cary and Barrett could pretend play for hours. Cary was a huge film buff (the scarier the better!) and he and Barrett created home movies starring Fitz and Boo, the family cats. The care Cary gave his own pets – Venom, the snake and Skippy, the tortoise - was remarkable. Cary regularly, and without being asked, cleaned Skippy and Venom’s cage, left detailed notes for the pet sitter on how to care for them and frequently took Skippy out for a sunbath.
On Halloween 2004, shortly after Cary turned seven, he was badly burned while trick-or-treating. He spent a month in the hospital where he underwent numerous and painful skin graft operations. The outpouring of love and support from neighbors, friends, family, schoolchildren, medical professionals, educators, firefighters and strangers was tremendous. Even throughout the hospital ordeal, Cary's endless curiousity remained; "What's the worst case you've ever seen?" he'd relentlessly ask the doctors.
Though the trauma would leave permanent scars – both external and internal – Cary’s ongoing circle of support elevated the family. It was not easy to return to school wearing a burn compression shield on his face and a compression glove on his hand, however, Cary weathered the transition as best as possible thanks to caring teachers and his remarkable burn doctor, Dr. Phil Fidler. Dr. Fidler visited Cary’s school and spoke to Cary’s first grade class in order to help the children better understand what Cary was wearing and why. This definitely eased Cary’s transition back to first grade.
Numerous media outlets reported on Cary’s burn accident. This article, from Yale New Haven Health, explains the experience from the perspective of the medical professionals who cared for Cary: Caring for Cary
Despite the accident, Cary continued to love Halloween. While his costumes took on many themes over the years, it was hard to top the job family friend Mitch Shea did in transforming Cary into Joker.
Cary also spent two summers attending The Connecticut Burn Camp. The camp was created for children who have sustained serious burn injuries. Cary loved the experience and made special connections especially with the firefighter counselors.
While never one for team sports, give Cary a dirt bike or a pair of skis and he thrived. Cary conquered some of the hardest ski trails on both sides of the country. His taste in food was equally as adventurous. No picky eater, the spicier and more exotic the better. In fact, Cary's cousin, Allen Katz created the annual DeYoung lobster fest thanks to Cary's love of lobster.
Cary struggled with learning difficulties and left public school in 5th grade to attend Eagle Hill school for children with learning disabilities. While at Eagle Hill, Cary took up running at which he excelled.
He gained much confidence as well as lifelong friends.
When Cary connected with someone he remained in their hearts indefinitely. Cary’s pre-school teacher, John Perlich, remained a lifelong friend. Cary’s burn doctor, Dr. Phil Fidler, flew to Connecticut from his home in Maryland for Cary’s Bar Mitzvah and a few years later joined Cary on the slopes in Colorado. Mary Walsh, Cary's elementary school teacher, had a very special connection with Cary. Mary attended Cary’s Bar Mitzvah and when she passed away, Cary attended her memorial. Many years later, Cary ran into Mary’s son. Her son expressed how much Cary had meant to his mother; so much so that she kept a permanent photo of Cary on her refrigerator.
Cary was also extremely sensitive and there were people for whom Cary's feelings ran especially deep. Few words can properly describe the care, fun, creativity, and love Cary's former babysitters (turned family members), Heather Shea and Abby Gavezzoli offered. After Heather married, not only would her husband Mitch spend hours critiquing films with Cary, he taught him guitar, helped guide him through the teen years and was the only one willing to join Cary on the craziest amusement park rides.
Cary also adored his Aunt Olivia and Uncle Keith and their children, his beloved cousins, Josie and Oscar.
Cary loved when everyone would visit yet, when they went home, he would frequently wonder aloud if it would have been better if they did not come at all because of how sad he felt when they left.
Cary also cherished the ten consecutive summers he and his extended family spent vacationing in Martha ’s Vineyard. Cary's favorite memories include, fishing with his grandfather, convincing his cousins, Tasha Beck and Dane to break any and every rule, ice cream at Mad Martha’s and, when no one else in the family had the nerve, boldly marching up to Bill Murray to ask him to sign his paper plate.
Cary was deeply impacted by the tragedy that befell Newtown in 2012 when twenty children and six educators were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Cary’s work with REACH - a program created in response to the shootings - at which he mentored young children who were struggling emotionally, was one of the most satisfying things Cary did during high school.
Later in high school, Cary worked for and became close with a family who had lost their six-year-old daughter, Avielle in the shooting. Cary’s work with the foundation created in her honor, The Avielle Foundation, and his relationship with its director and Avielle's father, neuroscientist, Dr. Jeremy Richman – who became a mentor to Cary – also helped see him through many bumps. Jeremy's death in 2019 was a devastating loss for Cary. Cary was quite proud of a well received blog he wrote while working for the foundation. The blog, “Honoring the Past, Paving the Way Into the Future” is shared on this site.
Despite his struggles, Cary enjoyed many wonderful accomplishments and experiences during his young adultlhood:
He spent a month climbing Gannett Peak: the highest peak in Wyoming, he traveled solo to the Peruvian jungle, he kayaked the Everglades in the August heat with his uncle Keith, he skydived on his 18th birthday (and numerous times thereafter), he and a friend started a record label and, he sampled new cities, epic ski mountains and creative cuisine during trips to Denver, Seattle, Jackson Hole, Crested Butte, Tucson, Sedona and Hawaii. ("Thank you for taking me to this place!” Cary exclaimed upon witnessing Hawaii.) Cary loved the natural world and truly embraced hiking. His long hikes with friends and particularly with his uncle Keith – who engaged Cary in the deep conversations he so loved – were some of his finest and most serene moments.
Cary also had a way of finding and keeping wise, supportive and compassionate friends. Jared Fiala and Phil Coffey in particular were there when Cary needed them and were often able to reach Cary in ways that family could not.
When Cary’s grandfather, Richard Hayman was nearing the end of his life, Cary visited him regularly and also joined in his grandfather’s passion: golf. This added much joy to his grandfather’s last few months.
Cary’s grandfather was a symphony conductor. Having had the opportunity to attend a number of his grandfather's concerts no doubt contributed to Cary's lifelong love of music. He loved his bass guitar. Cary’s friend Phil created a playlist in Cary’s honor which highlights Cary's diverse and eclectic taste. It can be found on Spotify as “Cary M. DeYoung Ceremony” by phillyjean.
Cary is missed deeply by his sister, Quincy who often sought out his wise perspective and his brother, Barrett, with whom Cary forged a deep and loving connection as they grew into adults.
In addition to those mentioned, the DeYoung family's hearts and gratitude also go out to the following individuals who offered Cary much kindness and who truly made a difference: Daniel Rimer, Lily Phillips, Kimberly Fink (and the other “K’s"), John Murphy, Andrew Moskovitz, James Crandall, Seth Kadish, Max Feirstein, Todd Corelli, Doug Scarth, Richard Briggs, Carli Taylor & Nicky, Russell Jacobs, Jennifer Hensel, Samantha Birtwell, Rabbi Arielle Hanien, Aline Marie, Dr. Roselle Crombie, The Pryor/Collins family, Kathy Leja, Janet Filmer, Phil Cruz and the Newtown tribe.
Also missing Cary dearly are his grandparents, Ben and Georgia DeYoung and Maryellen Hayman; his cousins, Allen Katz, Susan Gervais, Josie and Oscar Kidney and Tasha, Beck and Dane DeYoung; his uncles, Allan DeYoung, Keith Kidney and Mike Daly and his aunts, Olivia Hayman Kidney, Jennifer DeYoung, Kim DeYoung, Kathy Daly- Rai - aka, "Aunt Kats" and the entire extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins.
Suzy and Neal are eternally grateful and honored to be Cary’s parents albeit for far too short a time on this realm. He is loved and missed beyond words.