Ellington Community Rallies Around Tautkus Family

When 18-year-old Austin Tautkus passed away on June 18, it shook the whole Ellington community.

The former three-sport athlete at Ellington High School died as a result of severe injuries sustained in an ATV accident the day before.

Ellington is a small town where everybody knows each other, and if somebody needs help, there are people who will help.

And if you didn’t know Tautkus personally, you probably knew his parents. Both of his parents are teachers in town, and his father, Keith, was the long-time football coach and is the current baseball coach.

When the accident happened, people flooded the hospital room.

“There are all kinds of rules in the ICU – about how many visitors you can have – but there were so many people they just said forget the rules,” said Ellington-Somers football coach Sean Byrne. “They just let people in. There were groups of six and eight people going in.”

The day that Tautkus passed away, there was a gathering of past and present football players. The next night, there was a candlelight vigil on the football field where 300-400 people came out to celebrate his life.

“I’ve never been a part of anything like that before,” said Byrne. “It was unbelievable. How many people, and then we stood there for hours telling stories, [and sharing] a lot of hugs.”

Mike Casciano, who played football with Tautkus, echoed Byrne’s sentiments.

“The Thursday night vigil was awesome,” he said. “Obviously it was a sad time, but it was great to be able to hear stories and memories from everyone that came into the middle of the circle and shared with the people who all gathered at the football field.”

A few days after his passing, calling hours were held at Ellington High School. People arrived early and even before the doors opened, the line snaked far down the sidewalk that runs along the back of the school. As the time went on, the line got longer – going all the way around the school.

While the calling hours were supposed to run from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m., the family was there until 10:30 p.m. – when the last person went through the line.

“They estimated that 1,600 people came through,” Byrne said. “It was unbelievable. I’ve never seen anything like this.”

The next day, the funeral was held – also at Ellington High School. The auditorium seats 600 people, and Byrne said there were people standing around it.

“[There were] a lot of family, a lot of friends, and people from the community who came out to support the family,” Byrne said.

Casciano said it was incredible to see how many people came out to celebrate and share memories of Tautkus.

“It was like no other funeral I have been to before,” he said. “Some stories brought tears, some brought laughter, but all of them showed just how great of a person Austin was and that he will never be forgotten.”

A couple days after the funeral, a balloon release was organized by the Class of 2013. Around 100 people attended, wrote messages on purple and gold balloons, and then released them into the sky.

In addition to the large cast of family and friends, Austin Tautkus has also left behind what is sure to be a lasting legacy of life.  Tautkus directly helped save and improve the lives of no fewer than seven people after his own accident through organ donation. A flag a Hartford Hospital was raised and flew for two days in his honor last month.

“It’s really hitting this town pretty hard,” said Byrne. “The kids, they’re dealing with it, but for a lot of them, it’s the first time they’ve really dealt with someone close to them passing – a kid their own age. It’s been hard.”

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