Colin E. Atterbury

Colin E. Atterbury

Died May 16, 2009

Colin Atterbury met the love of his life, Andrew Sorbo, in 1979, but they were not able to marry until 2009 when Connecticut legalized same sex marriages. By then, Colin had just four months to live, dying on May 16 that year. “It was very moving,” Andrew recalls. “It was a little sad, too, because we all knew the end was coming for Colin.”

After graduation, Colin earned his medical degree from the University of Missouri in 1969 where he became an assistant professor of medicine. One of his students wrote, “I learned so much from you I cannot spell it out. Others were brilliant, but you were the BEST . . .” Colin returned to New Haven as clinical professor of medicine at Yale Medical School. He retired from Yale as professor emeritus of internal medicine and associate dean. He also served as chief of staff of the West Haven Medical Center, a Veterans’ Administration hospital.

Colin and Andrew met by chance in New York City where they both were spending a weekend of theater-going. A conversation struck up in a theater led to a long lunch. “There was an electricity between us,” Andrew recalls. After lunch, Colin walked Andrew to the theater where he had a ticket for the next performance – and then waited outside until the performance ended. On their 25th anniversary as a couple, Colin and Andrew performed a civil union ceremony, an event which prompted Colin to donate several hundred dollars’ worth of tulip bulbs to spruce up the church grounds.

Three years later, on a trip to Asia, Colin fell ill. At first they chalked it up to something he ate but doctors diagnosed pancreatic cancer and gave him six months to live. He lived for three more years during which time they organized their finances so Andrew, whose 35 years as a teacher and principal in public and Catholic schools had left him very little retirement income, could support himself when Colin was gone. The Defense of Marriage Act prevented Andrew from receiving most of Colin’s pension and health insurance coverage, and he was forced to sell the house they had lived in together. Andrew has since campaigned publicly, both before Congress and on the Internet, for the repeal of DOMA.

When Colin died on April 16, 2009, one of his former students wrote this tribute: “Colin has left such a legacy in medicine he should never be forgotten. Though you did not have biological children, you have a host of medical students who learned so much from you. Colin!”