Mayor laid to rest with moving tributes, funeral processionWritten by Joel Sensenig | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
The city of Toledo’s two-day farewell to its late Mayor D. Michael Collins concluded Feb. 12 with a funeral mass at Our Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Cathedral.
Prior to the service, a funeral procession from Coyle Funeral Home to the cathedral on Collingwood Boulevard passed many spots important to Collins for personal and professional reasons, including the former Southwyck Mall site, Heather Downs Country Club, Wixey Bakery, Walbridge Park, Toledo Zoo, the former St. James School, the future Downtown site of ProMedica headquarters and the Toledo Police Patrolman’s Association building.
Along the route, the roadways were lined with city vehicles, police and fire personnel, schoolchildren and members of the community paying their respects as the procession made its way from South Toledo to Downtown and into the Old West End.
Bishop Daniel Thomas of the Diocese of Toledo celebrated the funeral Mass.
During the homily, Thomas discussed Collins’ work ethic, which has been widely praised by those who knew him.
“I dare to say that those who worked with him in the Marines, in the police force, in city government, perhaps even in his family, knew how hard he worked and how hard he encouraged others to do the same,” Thomas said.
He referenced the slogan Collins used during his 2013 campaign for Toledo mayor, “Collins Cares,” saying that everyone could implement that in their own lives.
“Today, we make his campaign slogan a new slogan, because we can say, ‘Toledo cares.’”
Following the mass, private burial services were conducted at Toledo Memorial Park.
On Feb. 11, the University of Toledo’s John F. Savage Arena hosted the public visitation and memorial service for Collins, who died Feb. 6 at the University of Toledo Medical Center after experiencing cardiac arrest Feb. 1 while driving.
Collins’ widow, Sandy Drabik, and the rest of his family were joined by city and state officials, former colleagues of Collins with the Toledo Police Department, friends and members of the public in honoring his life of 70 years.
In the arena’s reserved seating section above the crowd, Collins’ Toledo Rockets season ticket seats were illuminated and adorned with Irish regalia in a tribute to the heritage he was so proud of.
“Look at the numbers of people who are present in this facility,” said Imam Shamsuddin Waheed, of Toledo Masjid Al-Islam, who gave the invocation at the service. “This gathering, as well as the funeral Mass to come tomorrow, is a testament to Michael Collins, not only as the mayor of Toledo, Ohio — but as a man, as a human being.”
WTOL-11 news anchor Jerry Anderson and 13abc news anchor Diane Larson served as masters of ceremony for the service.
Larson pointed out that service attendees included Evelyn Johnson and Andra Crisp, the two members of the public who helped administer CPR to Collins prior to the paramedics’ arrival to the vehicle accident. After being identified, the two received a standing ovation from the crowd.
“Ladies and gentlemen, ours is a community that D. Michael lived for, he breathed for, he loved,” Anderson said. “And I mean, a lot. This tremendous turnout tonight shows that the feeling is mutual, Mr. Mayor.”
Nagi Naganathan, interim president of UT, was the first to give remarks during the service. He mentioned Collins teaching criminal justice classes at UT for more than a decade just a few hundred feet from the arena.
“He was passionate about education,” Naganathan said. “He truly believed that education is the solution to poverty.”
Naganathan also addressed the commitment Collins had to the city in which he was born and raised.
“He truly loved the city of Toledo and its people, and his only goal was to make the lives of people in this community better,” he said. “He didn’t want the credit, was happy to take the blame and focused only on achieving the results that benefited the citizens of Toledo. And that is the profile of a leader, someone who truly places the issues and responsibilities to his community first, at all times.”
Ron Scanlon, a retired Toledo police detective, remembered happy moments he shared with Collins, his former partner with the Toledo Police Department.
“I knew from the moment we started working investigations that Michael was something special,” he said. “His demeanor, his tenacity, and his ability to work an investigation from start to finish was always thorough and aboveboard. He was truly one of the best.”
He told of going ice fishing on Lake Erie with Collins and his late son Michael. After Collins talked Scanlon into driving his vehicle out onto the ice, they heard the ice cracking while about a mile and a half off shore.
“It just scared the blank out of me,” he said. “But Mike laughed and he told me, ‘That sound is traveling miles away. Don’t worry about it.’” The next day, several fishermen in the area had to be rescued by the Coast Guard.
Scanlon told of another time fishing with Collins in the Toledo Police Walleye Tournament when the weather took a turn for the worse; they were miles away from shore.
“Mike said, ‘Don’t worry, I know the lake. I’ll get us back to shore.’” The two ended up in Canadian waters and had to be towed to shore.
Collins was the anti-politician, Anderson said.
“He always ran with that ‘I’ behind his name,” he said. “In 2013 when Mike Collins pulled off a win that some didn’t see coming, he did so impressively. … He was to be independent, but he did so surrounded by the legion of young Toledoans who believed that, ‘Oh yeah, you will do better in Toledo.’”
Next to speak was Robert Reinbolt, Collins’ chief of staff, who said Collins’ love and respect for his family was present in everything he did.
“He was always talking about them, expressing his pride in a latest accomplishment,” Reinbolt said. “He always encouraged staff to keep their family first. … I can still hear him saying, ‘Go home, it’s getting too late to still be in the office. Work will still be there in the morning.”
Although conversations with Collins were rarely short, Reinbolt said he enjoyed them.
“His desire to make Toledo a better place was contagious and made all of us better staff members,” he said.
Reinbolt said the challenges faced during Collins’ first year on the job — the death of two firefighters, the record-breaking snowfall and cold temperatures of the winter and the August water crisis caused by algae toxins in Lake Erie, among them — did not deter Collins.
“Most people would be very frustrated faced with all these challenges,” Reinbolt said. “But not Mayor Collins. It challenged him to make him stronger and more determined and work harder to accomplish the goals outlined in his campaign commitments and make Toledo a better place to live.”
Matt Sapara, director of development for the city, was the last to speak during the remarks section of the service.
Sapara said one of Collins’ management philosophies was to let managers run their respective divisions.
“He had enough respect in our collective abilities to let us manage our teams to ensure that if the unthinkable happened, an unplanned change in leadership for example, there would be a seamless transition and would not impact the services the citizens of Toledo expect and deserve,” he said.
Sapara said one of Collins’ legacies will be solidifying the future of Downtown Toledo by landing the ProMedica deal approved last month by City Council.
“Certainly ProMedica should get the lion’s share of credit for demonstrating its leadership to the community, but it was the mayor who shaped the deal,” he said. “The mayor firmly believed that the key to a successful region is a strong and vibrant Downtown. This will be one of his legacies.”
Sapara also said the ProMedica deal will help cement Collins’ place in the city’s history books.
“History will show that Mayor Collins was the catalyst for the city of Toledo’s renaissance,” he said.
Collins’ successor, Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson, spoke before presenting the City of Toledo flag to Drabik.
“We come to this place collectively to pay our respects to a man who willingly and eagerly went anywhere and everywhere, to talk with anyone, about anything, always, always, striving for the betterment of this great city,” she said.
After Toledo Chief of Police George Kral read the record of Collins’ accomplishments, a video presentation of Collins’ life was shown, followed by a performance of “Amazing Grace” by Toledo Fire & Rescue Department’s Pipes and Drum Corps.
Benediction was then read by Monsignor Christopher Vasko, of The Historic Church of St. Patrick.
Collins was hospitalized in critical condition for five days after suffering cardiac arrest Feb. 1 while driving in South Toledo. He was taken off life support and died at 1:25 p.m. Feb. 6.