Garrettsville Council Member Thomas E. Collins, 57, died early Jan. 26 after a brief hospital stay. Funeral arrangements are being handled by Carlson Funeral Homes and Cremation Services.
Collins was first elected to Garrettsville Village Council in 2018 and was serving his second term.
Collins was also a past president of the Garrettsville-Hiram Rotary Club and was slated to take that office again July 1, said Dolores McCumbers, who is also a past president of the organization.
She remembers Collins as a visionary who could see things “no one else could see.”
“Garrettsville’s Buckeye Block was devastated by fire in 2014, but he would look down there, and say, ‘What a beautiful view.’ He always saw how we could make it better,” McCumbers said.
Though Collins battled MS, McCumbers recalls hearing that he had planted a pollinator garden on French Street, and secured a separate grant for special swings so that disabled children could play at Garrettsville Skate Park. When Rotary provided funds, he not only paid for a sign directing people to the Garrettsville boardwalk, but dug the post hole and placed it himself, she said.
Mayor Rick Patrick, who said he has known Collins most of his life, remembers Collins as a well-liked, community-oriented man. He secured Rotary Club grants for the village to install bike racks in the downtown area and to beautify the Headwaters Trail – Windham Street Trailhead, Patrick recalled.
“His latest thing that he was really involved with was getting the EV [electric vehicle] charging stations,” Patrick said. “We’re getting a charging station put in in the municipal parking lot by the police station. That was his project. It’s not in yet, but he saw it from the beginning. He got grant money to do that.”
Upon learning that a neighboring community had a waterpark, Collins envisioned one in Garrettsville, perhaps adding it to the wish list of projects he always had with him at Rotary meetings, McCumbers said.
If the park is ever built, McCumbers said she hopes to have it named after Collins.
“He could look at things and see how progress could be made if we would do certain things. He was just a lovely, lovely person,” she said. “What struck me the most about him was when I saw the clouds he would see the sunshine. He was always positive thinking, very forward thinking.”
Collins was also active with the Sierra Club and the Portage Parks District. His desire, McCumbers said, was to leave this world a better place than he found it.
Wendy DiAlesandro is a former Record Publishing Co. reporter and contributing writer for The Portager.