WINDHAM — She overcame physical and mental challenges during her brief lifetime, and in doing so won over the hearts of her family members and those who met her through Maine Special Olympics competitions.

Concetta Ann Colello died Wednesday at a hospital in Portland. She was 43.

Ms. Colello was born with Down syndrome, but she didn’t let her disability slow her down.

She competed in Special Olympics for years and was planning to compete this weekend in Orono.

In 1999, Ms. Colello competed in the World Special Olympics in Raleigh, N.C., where she met another power lifter, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

She was a determined competitor.

During one Winter Olympics snowshoe competition, Ms. Colello carried an oxygen pack on her back.

“Concetta was everyone’s shining star. She was an amazing person,” said her niece, Mary Golder of Windham.

“I wish everyone had the heart she had.”

Golder said her aunt had more than 60 Special Olympics medals hanging from the walls in her home in Windham.

Ms. Colello was born in Portland, attended Portland schools and graduated from Deering High School.

When her mother, Arlene Hamner Colello, died 10 years ago, Ms. Colello’s sister, Michelina “Mickey” Taylor of Windham, took responsibility for caring for her.

“(Mickey and Concetta) were very, very close. Mickey did everything with her and for her,” said their sister-in-law, Cindy Colello of Limington.

Taylor’s daughter, Melissa Mae “Missy” Colello, died unexpectedly at age 20 in 1994. She also had Down syndrome and loved to compete in the Special Olympics.

Taylor established the Missy Team in 1995, in memory of her daughter.

Each year, Taylor goes into the community to raise money to cover the expense of sending a few Special Olympians to compete in the games.

Ms. Colello was a member of the Missy Team.

“I am still going to the Special Olympics (today),” Taylor said.

“Not only in memory of my daughter and my sister, but my sister is in heaven now. She’d be kicking me in the butt if I didn’t go.”

The Missy Team, which will include four athletes this year, plans to leave from the Puffin Stop on Route 302 in North Windham at noon today.

Many family members, including Golder, will accompany the team when it heads north to Orono.

The Missy Team will continue on beyond this year, Taylor said. It will become the Missy-Cetta team.

“I can’t give up,” Taylor said. “It’s not something I can do.”

 

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

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