Remembering John Collins

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Friends of John Collins, the man who drowned on U.S. Highway 24 during Friday night’s flash flood, say they are devastated by his untimely death. Collins, a resident of Divide, died near mile marker 297. His body was found buried near his battered car. It was unclear whether he decided to leave the vehicle of his own accord or was removed from it by the flood waters. Authorities have ruled his death a drowning.

Collins’ friends Christian and Jessica Russ-Medovich mourn his loss. The couple says their family will cherish his memory forever and that Collins will be greatly missed. Jessica shared memories of him playing Santa Claus for the children at the Kiwanis Club, including their three daughters.

“It was very cool to see John’s face light up and know he was bringing something to a child’s life,” Jessica Russ-Medovich said.

Christian Russ-Medovich, who worked construction with for several years, recalled his skill on the job and his willingness to help others. Collins was a concrete contractor at the time of his demise.

“It was an absolute pleasure to work with him. He really knew what he was doing and was always there to give a helping hand,” Christian Russ-Medovich said.

Collins was a regular at Gold Hill Java at the intersection of Boulder and Tejon Streets and also at the store in Woodland Park. Word of his death surprised and saddened the staff, who remembered his sense of humor and his favorite drink. Paul Clarkson, the Woodland Park location’s co-owner, said he’d known Collins for a decade and will remember him as being friendly, helpful and generous. Collins was a concrete contractor and helped Clarkson redesign the shop when they opened two years ago.

“He was a very big man — in stature and in heart,” said Clarkson.

The Gold Hill Java in Colorado Springs may hold a private memorial service for Collins, and is considering naming a drink after him. Friends of Collins are also working to set up a donation fund to help with his funeral expenses. Collins leaves behind his wife, Dana.