A Tribute to a Classmate, Mentor, and Friend
Remembering Jason Boutin (Class of 1995)
By: Matt Werner (Class of 1998)
September 7, 2020
I am a graduate of The Gilbert School (TGS) class of 1998. I am now 40 years old, a proud father, and currently serving in my 5th year with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as a senior team lead responsible for deploying to numerous disasters including COVID-19 and the impacts from Hurricane Isaias. I am also a certified Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), an accomplishment dating back to my years growing up in Winsted, Connecticut.
The decision to become an EMT was life-changing, setting off a chain of events that has given my life its entire trajectory. However, the story I want to tell here isn’t about me. This story is about the loss of my childhood friend Jason Boutin, a 1995 graduate from TGS.
Jason recently passed away suddenly from complications during his recovery from COVID-19. Upon hearing the news, I was in shock. I contacted my family and some of his closest friends to share the news. All of us were deeply saddened by his loss.
Holding back tears, I immediately began recalling the days when we were children playing together at Park Pond in Winchester, riding bikes through the neighborhood, flying together with my Dad, and camping in my backyard. Those days seem like yesterday. We were so young and innocent, just enjoying the fun and wonder of childhood.
Jason was nearly three years older than me and was someone I looked up to as a mentor. He helped prepare me for my high school days at Gilbert, which calmed my nerves as a freshman. He offered to drive me to school, which was so much “cooler” than riding the bus. He also introduced me to my first girlfriend, and we enjoyed those formative years together, double dating and learning about love. Jason introduced me to coffee, a simple pleasure I enjoy to this day – and our chats over coffee somehow always evolved into deep conversations about psychology, life, and philosophy. It is because of him that I will attribute a part of my own spiritual awareness. I could always count on him to be a great listener and provide me with thoughtful advice as I struggled as a teenager.
During the spring of 1995 as a freshman at TGS, Jason convinced me to join him for a “ride along” as an observer with the Winsted Area Ambulance Association (WAAA), the primary 911 emergency service. Jason had successfully completed Mr. Brady’s EMT Course at TGS and was successfully certified. Mr. Brady was our biology teacher and had undertaken the unique initiative of offering to teach Gilbert students the official State of Connecticut EMT certification course as an after-school program. The initiative was one of a kind in CT – something TGS should be proud of offering – and allowed motivated young adults to learn a trade while also serving as a pipeline of new volunteers to WAAA.
Why am I sharing this story? Well, here is where my friend’s loss has hit me the most. It was Jason who convinced me to enroll in Mr. Brady’s EMT course in fall of 1995. I entered the challenging 120-hour training course as 15-year-old. Even I knew at the time that it was crazy that a young teenager could become trained in life-saving techniques and be exposed to trauma, death, and tragedy. The world of 911 Emergency Medical Services (EMS) would inevitably expose me to a side of my community that most of my peers would never see.
It was because of Jason’s mentorship that I successfully completed the training course and became one of the youngest EMTs certified in the State of CT at age 16. With special permission from the Principal at TGS, I was allowed to respond to 911 calls during school hours. It was an extremely formative time in my life that I never understood the gravity of until I was older. It was also foundational in driving my passion for public service as well as developing my own sense of personal resilience.
With the support and encouragement of my dear friend Jason, and that fateful decision to enroll in the EMT class at TGS in 1995, I went on to serve with multiple 911 squads over the ensuing two decades and eventually found my career in emergency management. It is also because of that decision that my beautiful daughter is here today – her mom is a Chief/paramedic and we met one another at a 911 squad in the Philadelphia area.
Perhaps what makes his loss the most difficult for me is that it’s likely none of these amazing milestones in my life would have happened had it not been for Jason.
I am not sure Jason ever realized the impact he had on my life path, as we had grown apart after our college years. However, no one can unwrite our history together. Our paths crossed for a reason... many reasons, apparently…and for that, I’ll remain eternally grateful for my friendship with Jason.
Jason - thank you for joining me on this path of life together and helping me become who I am today. You will be missed dearly my friend.
TGS Class of 1998
Jason T. Boutin Memorial Scholarship Fund
A memorial scholarship fund has been set up at The Gilbert School in Jason’s memory. Anyone wishing to make a donation may do so either by sending a check to the W. L. Gilbert Trust Corporation (mail to: The Gilbert School, 200 Williams Avenue, Winsted, CT 06098, with memo line marked to the Jason T. Boutin Scholarship Fund) or electronically via The Gilbert School website by clicking on this link (list the Jason T. Boutin Scholarship Fund in the special instructions to the seller).
This list is not complete and will be revised on a regular basis.