Michael Clifton Collins


October 10, 1945  –  June 14, 2021


image of Michael Clifton Collins

Michael Clifton Collins

Michael, or Mike, as he was known, peacefully left this world, surrounded by his family, on a rainy afternoon in mid-June.  He was born in Tacoma, WA the eldest of 8 children, to Clifton Collins and Betty (Sizer Collins) Bennett.  Besides his parents, he was preceded in death by his stepfather David Bennett, stepmother Marvel Sanders Collins, and brothers John Collins and Dan Collins.

Mike was an accomplished outdoorsman and athlete, spending much of his youth hunting, fishing, swimming and roaming the greater Soap Lake area.  After high school graduation, he attended the University of Washington, where he rowed on the crew team, coached by the legendary Dick Erickson.  At the UW, he met his wife LaNorma (Borden Collins) Predmore.  In lieu of graduating, he began working for Burlington Northern Railroad, living on Beaver Lake in what is now Sammamish, WA.  They relocated to Billings, MT in the winter of 1968-69, while expecting their first child.

In Billings, MT, Leslie Collins (Barber) was born and was joined a couple of years later by Barbara Collins (Young), in Glendive, MT.  He filled many roles at BNRR, mostly as Brakeman and Assistant Superintendent.  Frequent relocation was a part of the railroad lifestyle, and the family moved  throughout the 1970s from Montana to Alliance, NE, Chicago, IL, Kansas City, MO, and Irvington, IL before returning to Washington State in 1979. In Washington, he was able to fulfill his dream of being an outdoorsman and once again took up hunting, fishing and living off the land.  After building their dream house, he and LaNorma divorced and he relocated to the shores of Lake Pend Orielle in Sandpoint, ID.

In Sandpoint, Mike became a local legend in the amateur sporting world.  He founded Sandpoint Sports Club and organized dozens of running and bike races, many of them raising money to provide workout gear for local kids.  When triathlon first became a sport, he started racing as well as organizing events, often doing both at the same time.  He was known for barking orders to the staff as he rode by on his bike or ran the final leg of his race in order to make the event better for all participants.  He owned several recreational rowing shells and introduced dozens of friends and family to the sport, rowing in regattas around the country.  He was a huge fan of his kids’ sports and attended nearly every game or meet throughout the years he lived in Idaho.  Weekends were spent ski racing with his children at nearby Schweitzer Ski Area.  Sadly, in January 1988, Mike tangled with a lift tower at the finish area of the race course, resulting in immediate and permanent paralysis.

While most people would struggle with accepting their fate, Mike awoke in rehab and forged ahead with his life, accepting the newfound restrictions of quadriplegia and spent the next 33 years making the world a more accessible place for everyone.  After a long rehab, he moved to Kirkland, WA, finishing his Bachelor’s degree at the University of Washington-Bothell.  Many years later he received the Distinguished Alumni Award at the UW Graduation.  It was just one of many honors he received throughout the years.  After finishing college, he ran his own consulting business and then was hired by the State of Washington and moved to Olympia while he headed the Dept. of Business Licensing Services and Washington State Ferries.  After that he was on the go again, this time moving to Sacramento, CA as the Director of the California State Independent Living Council.

Not one to let moss grow under his chair, he uprooted his life after ten years in California and headed to Washington, DC where he was the Executive Director of the National Council on Disability.  This was a huge job and had significant impact throughout the country as laws and legislation were formed with input from his office.  It was hard to be away from family, and in 2009, Michael opted to retire and move back to Washington, ending up in Redmond, WA, ten minutes in each direction from the homes of his daughters.  By now, he was a very proud grandfather to three grandsons.  He spent a lot of time attending their sporting events, school plays and many family functions.

Mike was always very independent, driving his own van and living alone, with help morning and evening from caregivers. His home was well-adapted to life in a wheelchair. Those adaptations allowed him to remain at home, instead of ending up in a nursing home or other care facility as his health declined. That was something he was adamant about. He was so fortunate to get to have closure with his children, grandchildren and siblings. It was a sad but lovely, peaceful end-of-life.  His final hours were pain-free, filled with music and in the company of his daughters and his three sisters.  He will be greatly missed. This write-up doesn’t touch on the many awards he received, the people he met, or all of the places he visited.  He loved Hawaii, sunny locations like San Diego and Lake Tahoe, and always enjoyed the challenge of travel.  He influenced the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as impacting local, state and national accessibility laws.  He made a difference, and he left this world knowing that he had positively impacted many people.

Prior to his death, Mike requested that there not be an in-person memorial.  He wanted to continue to make a difference posthumously, therefore, please feel free donate to organizations that he supported: The Eastside Chapter of National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) that is headed by his daughter, Executive Director Barbie Collins Young NAMI Eastside  He also wanted to support Global Mobility https://www.globalmobilityusa.org/make-a-donation, a fantastic organization that provides free wheelchairs around the world, primarily in developing nations.  There is a button to memorialize Michael Collins on their donation page.  A fund has been established at his high school as well:  Michael Collins Memorial Scholarship, c/o Pam Ball McDonald, Committee Chair, Soap Lake Scholarships, PO Box 135, Soap Lake, WA 98851.

Mike is survived by two daughters, Leslie (Jay) Barber and Barbie (Larry) Collins Young, his three grandsons, Duncan, Finnley and Spencer, and siblings Kathleen Collins, Martin Collins, Nancy Collins Nugent, Shannon Collins and Patrick Collins, and his nieces and nephews Austin, Haley, Ben, Peter and Sara. Thank you for all of your support and love.  Feel free to comment with stories about him here.  We love reading about his adventures and his many friendships across the country and world.


5 Responses to “Michael Clifton Collins”

  • Jim Clark says:

    I swear Mike was a cross between a prize fighter and priest – depending on the circumstances. Mike was a wonderful friend and competitor. We raced with and against each other in sculling. “Take no prisoners” was what could be expected. We raced a 4-person boat on Lake Placid. Mike insisted on steering from the bow seat. One of the most entertaining experiences of my life. We Husky rowing teammates hugely admired Mike’s spirit and will. Truly remarkable man.

  • Aaron Dysart says:

    My dad rowed with Mike at UW and we met in in 1993 after I had similar spinal cord injury. I considered him a mentor and dear friend. Mike was always available if I had questions or needed advice. He inspired me in so many ways it’s difficult to put into words. Mike’s accomplishments were awe-inspiring, and I will sincerely miss being able to call him to hear his tough, gravelly voice. He had a way of cutting through the bull that I greatly admired. His strength of character, grit and determination are characteristics I have attempted to emulate and will always remember. At the same time, he was sensitive and a loving father, grandfather, and loyal friend. His legacy and memories are everlasting — he will be missed by many, thank you Mike.

  • Karla Lynch says:

    I was lucky enough to meet Mike sometime in the early 1990’s, when I attended a meeting of the Governor’s Committee on Disability Issues and Employment. A true gentleman, with fierce determination…to live his life as independently as possible, and to make this world a better place for others. He was a great mentor and a dear friend, who is loved and greatly missed by many. Thank you, Mike, for being you!

  • Sheri N Denkensohn says:

    I got to know Mike in Washington DC. A faithful Washington Capitals fan, we often spoke about the games and emailed back and forth when he left Arlington, Virginia where he lived only a block away. He gave my husband an extremely heavy and probably expensive Capitals jersey. He was generous with his time and was very helpful to me as I navigated work as a quadriplegic in the federal government and how I could continue to keep up the pace while still maintaining my health. He always had a smile, a kind word, and an amazing sense of humor. I’ve been thinking of him because I had not seen any of his most recent publications in New Mobility and then I learned that he had passed away. He will be forever in my heart. God too soon. But a legacy that is unsurpassed.

  • Nora Baladerian says:

    October 10, 2021…I have just learned of the passing of the great and wonderful Mike Collins. He was a good friend to me for over a couple of decades. We met when he was director of the National Disability Council, and an immediate bond began…and I am sure that it was that way with the many others who knew and worked with him. He immediately agreed to help support me in the projects I was working on under grants from the Office for Victims of Crime, OES, and other sources. He had great ideas, great insights, and was always “there” for me. I am so sad today, but appreciate the opportunity to share what a terrific person he was. I send condolences to his family and other friends and admirers and thank him for countless contributions he made. Thanks, Mike, for your friendship, support, integrity, grit, and many other facets of you and the great example you set for those who follow you.

Leave a Reply

Please be respectful. Disrespectful comments will not be published

When you have successfully submitted a comment, look in the space above to see your comment.

Your comment is awaiting moderation.

If you do not see your comment, click HERE