Collier's cortege: Goodbye to one of their own
How do you measure a man's respect among his peers? In John W. Collier's case, that's an easy task. When the owner of Collier Towing Service died suddenly last week, the brotherhood of tow truck drivers lined up to make sure he had a proper procession to his final resting place.
On Friday, March 12, they met at the Collier shop to drive, 15 strong, down West Main Street to Emmet and up U.S. 29 to Greene County for the funeral.
"It almost brought tears to my eyes," says one observer of the wreckers and their police escort. "It was very moving."
"He had everything a man wanted in life," says Dale Barbour, whom Collier hired 10 years ago even though there was no position open.
George Jones recalls many a tow from Collier, followed by hours of talk in the shop. "He didn't charge me storage because he had a heart," he says. Charlottesville Wrecker's Larry Sipe's favorite memory of Collier is shared bologna and onion sandwiches.
Mighty Tow's Steve Thompson once crushed his hand servicing a car. At Martha Jefferson Hospital, he saw Collier jumping a car battery. Collier left the customer mid-jump to escort Thompson into the hospital. "I didn't even work for him," says Thompson.
Friends says Collier died March 8 of a heart attack after collapsing on his home's porch at age 65. He left behind his wife and three children.
Wayne Hayslett with Taylor's Wrecking was asked to lead the procession. At 11:40am, a police motorcycle escort was in place, and Hayslett signaled the drivers it was time to go.
The procession read like a who's who of local rigs: Mighty Tow, Albemarle Towing, Charlottesville Wrecker Service, Drumheller, Lethal, and Taylor's pulled onto West Main to join the six Collier trucks heading north.
On the drive up to Greene, perhaps they mused upon Collier's favorite saying: "Look up and go bravely on."
In honor of John Collier
PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO