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Philanthropy Matters | A Family’s Legacy Becomes a Community’s Mission


One Year After Passing the Torch, A Family’s Legacy has Become a Community’s Mission

In 1989, cancer claimed the life of 23-year old Cathy Deary, the youngest of thirteen children in the Deary family of Putnam, Connecticut. The response of this grief-stricken family was a deeply personal and heartfelt call for action among themselves and the greater community to improve the odds for others faced with the same diagnosis that Cathy faced. 

The Deary’s set out on a fundraising crusade, setting a course to raise awareness of the need for early detection and cancer screenings, and helping to provide the means by which others could access such services. Partnering with Day Kimball Healthcare (DKH), the first “Cathy Deary Memorial Race and Walk” marked the beginning of the DKH Deary Memorial Cancer Fund, ensuring that funds would be put to good use for the local community and that no one in Northeast Connecticut would forgo cancer screening because of cost.

A year ago this December, and after a quarter-century in the making, the founders of the DKH Deary Memorial Cancer Fund passed the torch to DKH and changed the name of the fund to reflect the broader community that it serves. The fund, now known as the Northeast Connecticut Cancer Fund of DKH, has raised over $1 million and continues to operate in the same way as intended, providing financial assistance for cancer-related screening and treatment services to individuals living in Northeast Connecticut who otherwise may not have the financial resources to obtain medical attention.

But more importantly, when DKH took over the reins it was much more than a matter of accepting responsibility to manage and administer these funds: DKH was entrusted with, and has committed to, protecting and perpetuating a family legacy spanning three decades and four generations of hard work, dedication, care, and commitment to the community.

That legacy began in 1946, when Tom and Therese “Teddy” Deary moved to Putnam and found it an ideal place to plant their roots and raise a family of thirteen children. Firmly entrenched in the community and epitomizing the spirit of friendship and family values at home, through business, and in faith, the entire family became woven into the fabric of the community. As the challenges of raising a large family included frequent attention to the health and well-being due to numerous accidents, illness, and injury, the Deary’s reliance on local physicians and Day Kimball Hospital grew as did a relationship of mutual trust, friendship, and support.

This relationship would be put further to the test when both Tom and Teddy faced life-threatening challenges of their own later in life, including heart surgery for Tom and Teddy’s diagnosis of terminal lung cancer which she succumbed to in 1998. Tom’s access to a trusted and capable cardiologist, as well as a lung specialist at DKH, and the compassionate care and treatment Teddy received through DKH’s Rose Bove LaRose Cancer Center, Hospice & Palliative Care of Northeastern CT, and HomeCare, would all prove invaluable to Tom, Teddy and family in their most critical time of need. As a tribute to Teddy “Grammie” Deary, family and community members donated more than $11,000 to Hospice in support of its programs.

Beginning years ago with Tom Deary’s annual donation of newspaper subscriptions for patients in the hospital, one would be hard pressed to find a year when a Deary was not associated with DKH by virtue of their time, talent, or treasure. In addition to annual and capital campaign honor rolls, the names of Tom and Teddy Deary, their children, and extended family members can be found on numerous board, campaign, and event committee lists, not the least of which includes son Peter’s tenure in a leadership role on the Board of Directors where he also served as Chairman.

And while the Deary’s relationship with DKH spans as many as 70 years of mutual care and support, it was daughter Cathy’s passing in 1989 that became the impetus behind the family’s undivided attention toward raising funds for cancer awareness and treatment. With all thirteen children and their parents involved, the race and walk dedicated to Cathy was just the beginning and would soon evolve into a popular, community tradition attracting hundreds of athletes and families to Putnam each August.

As the family and community participation increased with each generation, so did the involvement and partnership with DKH. Additional fundraising efforts for the fund grew over time to a year-long cycle which would include a spring gala and auction, wine tasting, and guest bartender night. In 2009, a cycling component was added and the event was renamed the DKH Deary Memorial Race, Walk & Ride. All monies would remain local, providing cancer treatment and preventative services such as mammograms, colonoscopies, diagnostics, medications and surgical procedures for DKH patients needing financial assistance. By the end of 2015, the fund had raised over $1 million and was providing assistance to more than 200 Northeast Connecticut residents in need each year.
There is no doubt that the Deary name will forever be synonymous with the Northeast Connecticut Cancer Fund of DKH. But what is also remarkable and bodes well for the long-term growth of this fund is the outpouring of the community that has evolved, joining DKH in its mission of the fund’s development and stewardship.

Major business partners have continually come forward to sponsor annual events, and numerous business owners, hospital employees, school and youth groups, and civic and religious organizations have historically organized and sponsored fundraisers, large and small, contributing proceeds to the fund. It has not been unusual for individuals to visit the DKH Development office with money that they personally raised by participating in walkathon, running a bake sale, or even growing a beard. These, and other efforts continue to this day.

New event committees have also formulated over the past several years. In 2004, motorcycle enthusiasts Dave and Rita Conrad inspired what has now become an annual classic car and motorcycle ride, “Cruisin for Cancer Care” which will be held again this coming June; employees of Putnam Bank recently partnered with Deary Bros. Mike’s Stand to organize an annual “Scoops Night” in the month of August; and this past September, Missy Bonsall of Generations and Marcy Dawley of The Last Green Valley organized the first, and potentially annual, “Hike for Hope” in honor of Missy’s fiancée who lost his battle with cancer.

The 2017 schedule of events in support of the NE Connecticut Cancer Fund will include all of these events, along with a Guest Bartender Night in March, the Wine Tasting in May, and the focal point of the year – the annual Race and Walk, which is scheduled for June 17th. In addition, the Deary Memorial Garden, an integral part of the annual tradition and planted at the original site of the race, will be moved to the Schneider Center grounds on the DKH campus and rededicated on May 18th.

DKH is extremely grateful for the legacy of the Deary family and their tireless efforts to bring the Northeast Connecticut community together in the fight against cancer and to remember, celebrate and honor those who have battled the disease. We are proud to report that with the passing of the torch, and the wholehearted commitment of the community, an additional $60,000 has been raised this past year through memorial donations and events. The Deary legacy does indeed burn bright, and will continue to do so in perpetuity through the Northeast Connecticut Cancer Fund of DKH.

Do you have questions, concerns, stories to share, or topics related to philanthropy and Day Kimball Healthcare that you’d like to learn more about? Please feel free to reach out to Kristen at 860-928-7141 or email

Related Resources
Learn about Giving to DKH
DKH Annual Fundraising Events
Northeast Connecticut Cancer Fund of DKH



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