Sean MacDonnell

Sean Christopher MacDonnell

2014 - 2022

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Obituary of Sean Christopher MacDonnell

Sean Christopher MacDonnell, eight years old, from Old Saybrook CT, has been called back to heaven. Born on March 23, 2014, Sean is the cherished son of Christine and George G MacDonnell LCDR USCG CC ACADEMY, and the brother of Owen, who is nine years old. Owen was his best friend, and vice versa. They were inseparable by choice. Sean and Owen had a special bond. Sean is the beloved grandson of Susan and Michael Laraia of Old Saybrook CT, and Celia and Greg MacDonnell of Newport RI and great grandson of Irmentraud Rehm-Laraia. He also leaves behind his much-loved Aunties (Molly and Margo), Uncles (Jonathan and Jim), cousins (Zoe, Michael, Luke, and Cameron) and numerous great aunts-uncles and cousins. Those who knew and loved him could not have imagined, that he was only “on loan” to them for eight years and must be returned to heaven. Sean was bright and energetic, with an inner strength that earned him the nickname of “Strong Sean”. Shortly before his fourth birthday he was diagnosed with embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare and aggressive type of children’s’ cancer, that is diagnosed in roughly 350 children in the U.S. each year. Sean was enrolled in his first clinical trial and began chemotherapy treatment on his fourth birthday. Since the initial diagnosis his family adopted the mantra “No bad days” and they have been true to that motto every day since. They have purposefully and steadfastly made the most of every second they have had together. Because of his engaging and outgoing personality, Sean was a quintessential Jimmy Fund Kid, often representing the Jimmy Fund at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. In 2018 Sean took part in the annual telethon. His television spot was scheduled quite late in the evening for a 4-year-old. He was interviewed (reluctantly) by Dennis Eckersley and Dave O’Brien in the NESN announcer’s booth. During the conversation, O’Brien referred to him as a “marvel”, to which Sean turned to his father and said with displeasure, “That man called me a “MARBLE”! Donations poured in. The Red Sox Organization, through the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, has been very generous to the MacDonnell family. During one game, Big Papi, who was in attendance in his private luxury box, personally came out to meet Sean and his brother Owen, giving them the thrill of a lifetime. Throughout his short, but well lived life, Sean helped focus a spotlight on children’s cancer awareness. He was “adopted” by Team Big Jon, as part of the Pan Mass Challenge, and visited during chemotherapy by the Boston Hockey Beanpot Winners. The Boston Bruins Organization displayed a life-size cardboard cut-out of Sean at one of the home games. He was also given an individual tour of Gillette Stadium sponsored by Sami’s-Sendoffs, where Patriot’s Special Teams Captain Matthew Slater met with him. Not to be outdone by Boston, on June 1, 2022, the New York Mets dedicated that day’s game as Sean MacDonnell Day. It was played at Citi Field in Queens NY. Sean started the game off by throwing out the first pitch to his dad. He and his brother met with All-Star players Francisco Lindor and Pete Alonso. They were then invited to the announcer’s booth where he and his dad met with all-time greats Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling. Sean has been surrounded by the love and devotion of his extraordinary family, a legion of devoted neighbors and friends, and a community that has been unwavering in their dedication to their young native son. From the very beginning Sean was taken under the community’s wing. Whether it be for an extravaganza at Shoreline Auto, with hundreds of people celebrating his life, or the Old Saybrook Police Department sponsoring the fundraiser “Shorts for Sean” in which, for the first time, police officers there were allowed to wear uniform shorts in the summer, or the Old Saybrook Fire Department who led a wild and boisterous parade in front of the MacDonnell home, on Sean’s sixth birthday, during the Pandemic. Local businesses have also continued to support this family in crisis for the past four years. The Old Saybrook School System, including both Owen and Sean’s teachers have been committed and dedicated to bringing the gift of learning to these two boys, during these extremely difficult years. The Ancient Order of the Hibernians Division 1 in Newport RI has never forgotten the MacDonnell Family. They too sponsored a high spirited, silent auction/ gathering, bringing together friends and family to support one of their own Brothers. Not to be forgotten are the professors and staff from the University of Rhode Island College of Pharmacy, who have held Sean and his family in their hearts since his initial diagnosis, serving both as friends and a valued medical resource. Most importantly, the most needed support for Sean and his family comes from the United States Coast Guard (USCG). Sean was born into the USCG as the son of an active-duty USCG Officer. He grew up loving the USCG Academy Campus in New London CT, where his father was assigned as a faculty member. One of his Sean’s favorite things was attending the cadet regimental reviews on Friday afternoons, saluting as the Flag was marched by and listening to the band play “Semper Paratus”. The Coast Guard Family has been unlike any other military organization. They have supported Sean and his family through four years of clinical trials, weeks of daily radiation treatments in Boston, and all that comes with it. In the spring of 2020, when it was believed that Sean had “licked this thing”, the Coast Guard transferred the family, assigning his father as Commanding Officer of Coast Guard Cutter MAPLE, stationed in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina. For four short, blissful months, the MacDonnell’s settled into their newly built home, met new lifelong friends and lived a life where their biggest worries were merely the current pandemic and riding out hurricanes in the Atlantic. This was not to last. In September of 2020, Sean’s quarterly follow up tests came back as questionable. The family packed what they could into the car “like refugees” and came back to New England, to their expert medical team at Dana Farber. The USCG, dedicated to taking care of their own, reassigned Sean’s dad to the CG Leadership Academy stationed, once again, on the New London Campus. On June 4, 2022, through USCG Headquarters, Sean officially became an honorary Chief Petty Officer in his beloved US Coast Guard. Sean will always be part of the Coast Guard and the Academy. He will be inurned in the Columbarium located on the campus. On August first, 2022, General David H Berger, Commandant of the United States Marie Corps, appointed him Honorary Marine, United States Marine Corps, for his “unyielding support and devotion to Corps and Country”. After four years of chemotherapy, new trial drugs, two rounds of daily radiation for six weeks at a time, as well as extremely challenging surgery, it was clear that even the most innovative treatments could no longer stem the tide of this awful disease. With that news, the family picked themselves up, piled in the car, and traveled to their favorite family place, Disney World. They have been many times in the past eight years. Recently Sean told his mother that he was sure there was a Disney World in heaven and that someday they would all go there together. With the freedom from cancer treatments, Sean was able to play Little League baseball for the first time in his life, and he loved every minute of it. He and his brother played for the Paint Shop, and he proudly wore the Number 1, with Owen wearing Number 11. He made wonderful friends and played every game that he could when he was feeling well enough. The team made a banner reading “Strong Sean” and had a parade in his honor. Each player wore a Number 1 as a tribute. Sean rarely talked about his disease, nor did he complain about it. It was his life, all that he knew. When he could no longer hear in one ear because of the growing tumor, he would matter-of- factly tell you to “come over to this side because I can’t hear in that ear anymore.” Such was his life. He loved to learn about all things mechanical. He could discuss in detail anything from steam Locomotives, to planes, to the space shuttle. He could also point out the quartz content of large stones, and he loved pretending that he and his brother were Lewis and Clark on an adventure. His true love was the military. He loved battleships and was an aficionado of WWII. Sean was truly very special. The MacDonnell family would not have had these past four years with Sean without the care of his highly esteemed group of medical specialists in Boston. The family will be forever grateful to Dr. Natalie Collins MD ,PhD for steering the ship at the Jimmy Fund Clinic, along with her able-bodied crew: Annette Werger and Amber Miller APRNs Dr Reza Rahbar MD Head and Neck Surgeon Boston Children’s Hospital Dr Torunn Yock MD, Pediatric Radiation Oncology renowned for Proton Radiotherapy Mass General Hospital Dr Collins remained at the helm. She was in constant touch with Sean and his family, as well as his hospice team. The family is extremely grateful to Connecticut Hospice for perfectly matching the Spiritual Specialist Dana with the MacDonnell’s. They are exceedingly thankful to have had Chuck Gabrielle RN and Mike Brotz LPN with Sean. They compassionately cared for Sean and helped to ease him through this passage. While everyone who knew and loved Sean and his family are profoundly sad, we also know that we will all be together again someday, and until that time we will strive to have No Bad Days! A Mass of Christian Burial at the Coast Guard Memorial Chapel at CGA in New London, CT will be held on Monday August 8, 2022, at 11AM. A private inurnment will follow at the Columbarium. As the services are taking place on a military base, attendance will be limited to family, and invited guests. A Celebration of Sean’s Life, for all to attend, will be held on Tuesday August 9, 2022, from 12 noon to 3PM at the Elks Lodge, 142 Seaside Ave, Westbrook CT. For those who are unable to attend the observance in Westbrook, there will be a remembrance of Sean’s life at The Hibernian Hall, 2 Wellington Ave, in Newport RI, at a future date. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the USCG Academy Alumni Association. Arrangements are in the care of the Robinson, Wright & Weymer Funeral home, Centerbrook, CT. For more information, please visit

Mass of Christian Burial

11:00 am - 12:00 am
Monday, August 8, 2022
United States Coast Guard Acedemy
31 Mohegan Avenue
New London, Connecticut, United States
Attendance is limited to family and invited guests.

Celebration of Sean's Life

12:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Tuesday, August 9, 2022
Westbrook Elks Lodge
142 Seaside Avenue
Westbrook, Connecticut, United States
All are welcome to this celebration of Sean's Life.