Officer Colin, Ithaca’s youngest police officer, died Saturday after eight years of battling brain cancer, according to a Facebook post by his family. He was 10 years old.
Colin Kiyoshi Hayward Toland passed away at St. Jude’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN. An Ithaca local, Colin had been treated by his “second family” at the research hospital throughout his life.
His parents, Tamiko Toland ’90 and Ian Hayward ’04, posted the following message on Officer Colin’s official Facebook page on Sunday:
“Lieutenant Colin returned to the cosmos in the loving embrace of his family. His passing was more peaceful and gentle than we could have imagined.”
Lt. Colin was diagnosed with anaplastic ependymoma, a form of brain cancer, at age two. He was diagnosed again in Jan. 2015 after several years in remission, but lived a life “shaped but not defined” by his condition.
After expressing interest in becoming an officer to now-retired Chief of Police John Barber in early 2016, the Ithaca Police Department offered him an official position as a part of the force.
Colin was sworn into the Ithaca Police Department by Mayor Svante Myrick ’09 on Sept. 12, 2016, fulfilling his dream. Myrick also declared the date to henceforth be Colin Hayward Toland Day within the city of Ithaca.
Colin’s reason for becoming an officer was simple: “Because I wanted to help people.”
After his swearing-in, Officer Colin participated in SWAT training, visited the 911 call center, and made official appearances with the chief of police. He was promoted to IPD sergeant a year later, in Nov. 2017.
“I’ve accumulated about a dozen of Colin’s IPD business cards since first meeting him because he would give me a new one nearly every time I saw him,” Cameron Yates ’18, a close friend of Colin’s who bonded with him over similar experiences, wrote in a statement. “It speaks to the fact that he was very, very proud to be a part of the police department.”
Colin was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant by the Memphis Police Department in a surprise ceremony in Memphis on March 9, 2018. The department also awarded him their Medal of Valor.
Colin was also an honorary chief of the Orange County Police Department, as well as an honorary deputy chief of the Wilton Fire Department and an honorary supervisor with Bangs Ambulance.
In Dec. 2016, Colin made his first “arrest” — capturing the Grinch in a campaign with the Ithaca Police Department and saving Christmas, making national news.
For the past two years, Officer Colin and his family threw large birthday parties to celebrate another year of his life. So many people attended his ninth birthday that his parents moved his 10th birthday to Stewart Park so the whole community could celebrate with Colin.
“He always managed to stay upbeat and funny despite the tough path he was walking,” Yates said. “He was just so loved by so many people.”
Colin attended school as frequently as he could during his treatment, even tutoring younger kids.
In the week before his passing, Ithaca police officers, including former Chief Barber, visited Colin in Memphis in a squad car and full uniform. At Barber’s retirement ceremony in March 2017, he called working with Colin his “biggest inspiration” and the “highlight of his career.”
“For his fellow officers and really everyone who knew him, myself included, it was such a gift to be part of his life,” Yates said.
In the post announcing Colin’s passing, his parents urged everyone to remember Colin’s example in how best to live their lives.
“Please carry Colin’s spirit with you in life. Find opportunities to help others, even in small ways. Keep joy and light in your heart, as these will light the darkest pathways.”
He is survived by his parents, Tamiko Toland and Ian Hayward, his brother Aidan, his grandmother Toshiko Toland and his extended family.
“Though often described as a fighter, Colin did not truly fight,” his family wrote in his obituary. “He endured with a positive attitude and he never saw himself as a victim of fate.”
Colin will return home to Ithaca for a viewing and calling hours at Lansing Funeral Home and will be buried at Greensprings Natural Cemetery. His family plans to holds celebrations of life for Colin in both Memphis and Ithaca, and there will be a community gathering at Ithaca High School on Friday, March 23 from 4:30 to 8:30 pm.
“He gave and received so much love,” Yates said. “He’s earned a bit of peace.”