Bustleton community remembers young cancer victim

Family and friends gathered at Hayes Memorial Playground for a dedication to Holly Colwell, who passed away last year at 33 after battling cancer.

Holly Colwell’s family stands in front of a tree planted in her memory at Hayes Memorial Playground. LOGAN KRUM/TIMES PHOTO

In August last year, the third annual Save the Second Base wiffle ball tournament was hosted at Hayes Memorial Playground to raise awareness and money to fight breast cancer. The event was called Homeruns for Holly and raised money for 33-year-old Holly Colwell, who had been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in 2018 before the disease spread to her liver.

Bringing the full tournament back this year was impossible because of COVID-19, but organizers Christine and Nick Tarducci, from Bustleton, were able to host a smaller gathering at the park last week. It was a dedication for Colwell, who passed away one week after last year’s tournament.

Family, friends and coworkers of Colwell gathered in the field where she had thrown the opening pitch last year. There, a tree had been planted in her memory on Aug. 10, the anniversary of her passing.

“We just don’t want to forget her,” said Christine Tarducci, an 11-year survivor of breast cancer. She and her son organized the first wiffle ball tournament in 2017, and the number of participants nearly doubled in the tournament’s first three years.

Colwell graduated Frankford High School in 2003 and worked as an EMT for the Philadelphia Fire Department for five years. She was survived by her mother Joan and her siblings Dee, John, Victor and P.J. She married John Colwell and was a mother figure for his three kids.

Colwell’s friends and family stand around the tree dedicated in her memory. LOGAN KRUM/TIMES PHOTO

Colwell’s family remembered her as an artist who had a love of decorating and doing Halloween makeup. She loved the beach and made three trips during the last year of her life even while undergoing chemotherapy.

Her mother Joan said that even as she was passing away, she kept standing up even after the nurses told her not to.

“She fought to the very last second,” Joan said. “She was not a quitter.”

When the Times talked to Colwell last year, she had arrived at the tournament having no idea it would be dedicated to her. She had been in the hospital just three days before but stayed to play the entire day. Her husband John said she passed away at nearly the same exact minute as they had arrived at the tournament just a week before.

“It made me appreciate that week before,” John said.

Colwell’s husband, John, said the dedication was a reminder of the good things people can do. LOGAN KRUM/TIMES PHOTO

Each home run raised $25 for her treatment, but Colwell said she would donate the money because her health insurance covered much of her procedure costs.

“You see something like this and you can’t help but have hope that people are good,” John said.

“Especially in the world we’re in right now, for people to still be able to come together and care about other people they don’t even know, it’s pretty amazing,” he said.

Holly and John bought a house near the Northeast Philadelphia Airport three weeks before she passed away. She made a list of upgrades she wanted to make to the house like changing the flooring and painting, which John spent the past year completing.

Nick Tarducci said they plan to bring the tournament back in the future, possibly as early as next spring, depending on the continuation of the pandemic.

“We’ll be back bigger and better than ever,” he said.

Nick Tarducci, organizer of the annual Save the Second Base wiffle ball tournament, said the event couldn’t happen this year due to coronavirus, but will come back next year bigger than ever. LOGAN KRUM/TIMES PHOTO