Michael (Mike) Collins will be missed without any doubt. The astute municipal politician of Irish descent gave his life to public service as Niagara region’s councilor making an impact throughout the province of Ontario and Canada.
His love of culture was remarkable. Mike Collins was one who would greet in many languages at multicultural events. He learned to speak Italian and Spanish, and was proud to wear the African print dashiki to high profile ceremonies.
Mike Collins succumbed to death after battling cancer for 2 years. Mike was the politician whose presence filled the room. His longtime friend, Jim Bradley, the Minister of Transportation could not have said it better at the funeral, “Mike touched many people in an unforgettable way, has an infectious sense of humor and hilarious impersonations marked with sharp witticism.”
“Those who misinterpreted his humor and unbridled exuberance and penchant for theatricals and dismissed him as some misguided eccentric did not really understand the keen intellect and analytical mind which is very sharp and vast.”
At the funeral ceremony held at the St. James’ Anglican Church, the provincial legislator said, “folk arts members will always remember his visits to open houses and events and participation in their dances and songs.”
He was noted as prefixing a discussion with ‘Okay, here we go, true story” noted his colleague from Thorold City Council Ted Luciani.
Mike Collins started his career teaching English at Niagara College.
The Regional Chairman, Peter Partington, called Mike Collins a regional council colleague and a friend.
“Until late in his illness he never missed a council meeting nor missed a committee meeting,” said the Chairman.
“He engaged skillfully in debates, he added entertainment and humor and eloquence to the otherwise sedate chambers.”
He was the official greeter, social officer and sergeant-at-arms to the council.
He demonstrated his warmth towards new arrival to the region when he recognized Mosaic Edition newspaper during a council meeting in 2006.
Mike Collins was a loyal supporter of the newspaper. He patronized the Niagara Black History Month Dinner Dance sponsored by Mosaic Edition.
He enjoyed wearing the African traditional dashiki, liked the African cuisine and danced to the rhythms of the music and artists who performed at the event.
A group of friends of Mike Collins came together on the 40th day of his passing to celebrate his life.
The event took place at the Robertson Hall of St. Catharines Multicultural Centre where Mike Collins had frequented many times for various multicultural activities.
Reverend Pamela Guyatt of the St. James’ Anglican Church Merriton led the prayers.
She chose Mike’s favorite scripture from the Book of Mathews. In the exaltation of Mike that followed, Reverend Pam observed that Mike Collins was one person who had the ability to form relationships. “In politics his campaign was not about trying to get a vote but about gathering friends. He was a nice person.”
“He was special and he would be missed,” said Reverend Pam.
The prayers were accompanied by church hymns: Amazing Grace, Blessed Assurance, The Old Rugged Cross and To God Be The Glory.
The Chairman of Niagara Regional Council Peter Partington said “Mike was an outstanding representative of the people, Mike never lost his zest for life, never lost his interest in the welfare of others and never lost his commitment and passion to Canada’s rich ethnic diversity.”
Member of Provincial Parliament Kim Craitor described Mike Collins as a great politician. “There are politicians and there are great politicians and Mike was a great politician because he was very caring.”
The mayor of St. Catharines, Mayor Brian McMullan said it was remarkable the event was taking place at the Folk Arts Centre.
“This is the place truly close to Mike’s heart,” he said. The President of The African Association of Niagara, AAN, Dan Frye described Mike as brother who frequented events in African dashiki.
The Board of the Folk Arts Council in their message noted that Mike started the tradition of saying hello at the open houses in 8 to 10 different languages. In the message read on behalf of the Board by Sal Sorrento, the board remembered Mike Collins for his dedication to multiculturalism and for carrying the flag of the Folk Arts Council at the Grape and Wine festival of 2008.
The audience was treated to the blues and jazz music of Jeff Smith who plays regularly at Mosaic Edition’s Black History Month Dinner Dance.
The senior dancers of the Latin Immigrant Niagara Community Association, LINCA were also at the event to honour the memory of Mike Collins with Latin dance routines. Mike Collins was fond of the Latin culture and learned to speak Spanish.
Longtime friend of Mike Collins who was present at the memorial, Jim Bradley, MPP St. Catharines and Minister of Transportation remembered Mike as someone who generally liked people.
Councilor Ted Luciani of Thorold who grew up with Mike Collins was able to attend the event despite a council meeting which was in session same evening. Ted Luciani came to the memorial directly from the council meeting to say a few words about his childhood friend. “There is no limit to Mike’s generosity.”
The President of Niagara Peninsula Children’s Centre, NPCC Jim Marino remembered how Mike Collins actively participated in fundraising activities of the centre. He commended Mike’s support of the NPCC. Donations at the memorial went to the NPCC.
Stephen Collins, son of Mike Collins thanked the community for hosting a memorial ceremony for his father. He said though Mike was well known for what he did for the community he was 100 percent present for his family. He noted that Mike Collins was always there for his family despite the busy life he had in the community.
“Family was important to him, just as much as what he did for the community.”
The 40th Day memorial was attended by a cross section of the community.
Mosaic Edition brings you archived photographs of Mike Collins including photographs from his personal photo album.
Editor’s note: Mike Collins passed July 24, 2009. This story is an excerpt from the newspaper version of Mosaic Edition. It was the story of the 40th Day Memorial of Mike Collins hosted by Mosaic Edition, friends and the multicultural community of Niagara. He was a dear friend of immigrants.