Sometimes, it seemed as if everyone in Frederick knew Colleen Morin, a bartender and de facto manager at Firestone’s Culinary Tavern. Together with her husband, Casey — a fellow bartender at Guido’s Speakeasy — she was often described as the heart and soul of downtown by friends and customers.
“It was like the perfect balance,” said Ben Jardeleza, a longtime friend of Casey’s who used to work with him at Firestone’s. “Colleen was always so proper and super welcoming, and Casey was more the goofball of the situation. You could go visit them at either end of the street, any day of the week, and both of them would be totally engaged with you. You could tell they really cared.”
When Colleen died in January of complications related to the flu, the news rocked the community. Firestone’s and Guido’s closed to give staff and friends time to mourn. Dozens of customers left bouquets in front of both establishments. When Jardeleza heard the news, his mind immediately went to Casey.
“I wanted to do something for him to show I love him — we all do — and we’ll do anything for him,” Jardeleza said. “Because Colleen was Casey’s whole world. It was obvious how in love they were.”
That communal love for Casey and Colleen set the stage for the Frederick Friends Fest, ready to kick off Saturday at the Frederick Eagles Club on East Patrick Street. Ten local bands will perform for 10 hours with a $10 cover, Jardeleza said. His own band, Crooked Hills, is scheduled to perform that day as well.
The event will be a tribute to Colleen and a benefit for Casey, he added. The bands will be performing for free, so all the proceeds will go to Casey to help defray costs since the death or donate to one of Colleen’s favorite charities.
That the benefit came together at all is testament to the couple’s impact on downtown Frederick. Ricole Barnes, a local musician headlining the event with his band, daMOOD, said he immediately agreed to help when he learned the event was to honor Colleen.
“She was nothing less than amazing,” Barnes said of his friend. The two met more than seven years ago when Colleen first served him at Firestone’s. Barnes quickly became a regular customer.
One of the best things about Colleen, he said, was her sense of humor. After the first time she served him, Barnes realized he had forgotten her name, and made it a game to try to remember without outright asking or looking at his receipt. For the first year, he said, he and his cousin would visit Firestone’s regularly and try to guess without giving themselves away.
“Like, was it Cindy? Was it Carmen?” Barnes said. “It was just fun to try to figure that out. And eventually we told her and she thought it was really funny.”
After Colleen’s death, Barnes said it took him months to return to Firestone’s. It helped to know that he was one of many friends and customers heartbroken by the news. In the days after the loss, Barnes attended a benefit auction at Cafe Nola and a community gathering for Colleen at The Blue Side. He was struck, he said, by the hundreds of people who came to both events.
“It was nice to know that the feeling was mutual,” Barnes said.
The benefit on Saturday, he added, will be another way to show how much Colleen meant to people downtown.
“I’m still in disbelief, but this was a great way for me to have closure and say thank you for all she’s done,” Barnes said.
Even people who never knew the couple personally wanted to help with the benefit. Treena Bell, a bartender and treasurer for the Frederick Eagles Club, said the group decided to pitch in as soon as Jardeleza approached them with the idea.
As a fellow bartender, Colleen’s story resonated with Bell. The Eagles gave Jardeleza a 70 percent discount on the club’s ballroom, and Bell is donating six hours of labor along with another bartender.
“The whole motto of the Eagles is people helping people,” she said. “She’s still part of the community. As a bartender, she was part of my community. So, we just wanted to help them out.”
The outpouring of love and support is still somewhat surreal to Casey, who found himself sharing his grief with hundreds of other people in the weeks after his wife’s death. The two married on April 2, 2011, after meeting several years earlier, at a Super Bowl party (somewhat ironic, Casey said, given the couple’s mutual apathy toward sports).
For Casey, meeting Colleen was love at first sight. Like many others, he was drawn to her for the traits that came to define her — her warmth, her sense of humor, her genuine interest in people and their lives.
“She could make you feel like you were the only one in the room,” Casey said. “She was definitely a bright light that people looked forward to, who kind of reverberated with everyone who knew her.”
The Frederick Friends Fest, he added, is the type of event Colleen would love — a reason for the community to gather together.
“So many people knew Colleen, and I thought it was a good way to bring people together,” Casey said. “She was an incredible person, obviously. And I know she would be really touched.”