“I’m a baseball coach working in the post office to support my ministry.”
These words, which Steve Collier carried with him on his cell phone, described his passion. A lifelong baseball lover and 29-year-old employee in the postal service, Collier trained the sport at high schools in Palmer, Wasson and Widefield, as well as for several youth teams. He instilled his love of the game in his three children, especially his sons, Mason and Josh, who played in high schools in Palmer and Cheyenne Mountain.
“His world consisted of four overlapping kingdoms,” said Becky Collier, who married Steve in 1992. “The post office, the home, the church and baseball.”
Early in the morning of October 23, Collier and his sons were on their way to Arlington, Texas, to watch Games 4 and 5 of the World Series. They were driving south on I-25 when the driver of a northbound pickup lost control, rolled through the median, crossed a railing and collided with a Hyundai Elantra and another vehicle, according to statements from the Colorado State Patrol.
Steve, 52, sons Mason, 21, and Josh, 16, were all killed in the crash.
“It’s just surreal,” said Becky, who teaches at Broadmoor Elementary School. “I’m still in shock.”
Becky had sent Steve and the boys a text message that morning to check on the progress, she said, but received no response. When the state police showed up at the school, “it was a confirmation of what my heart already knew – that Steve and the boys were gone.”
A big wave of grief hit Becky, she said, but she quickly went into crisis mode. Realizing the loss of enormity — not just for her, but for their extended society — she ran to inform people before learning the news in a different, less personal way.
She called family members and close friends in the local baseball community, she recalled. She also called Chick-fil-A on North Academy Boulevard, where Mason and Josh had worked and built robust personal relationships.
“They closed immediately after I called,” she said.
While Becky spent most of her time thinking of others, her family and community began to form a protective circle around her and her daughter Emily, 24.
The outpouring of support – an “immense amount”, Becky said – has included countless friends, colleagues, coaches, teachers and administrators, as well as former teammates and opponents.
A “celebration of life” ceremony, held at Sunnyside Christian Church on October 30, was limited to 100 participants due to COVID-19 restrictions. But it was broadcast live and made available on YouTube, where Becky said it has received more than 700 views.
Chick-fil-A, where Mason and Josh worked, changed store hours Oct. 30 to allow colleagues to participate in the service, she said.
Speaking to the ceremony attendees, Becky fought back tears as she talked about the men she likes to call “my guys.” She described Steve as a kind and generous man who loved intensely and was a “believer in very, very firm lines of right and wrong.” She remembered Mason as “the big-hearted” and Josh as “lively and charismatic.”
The video shows a service that contained more laughter than tears while mourners and benefactors talked about deceased Colliers. They talked about love, joy, gratitude – and of course baseball.
While still dealing with the implications of a future without her high school boyfriend and her two sons, Becky said she is determined not to focus on the whimsical injustice of losing her husband and sons at once. Instead, she will focus on the fun, touching and gripping memories she can never lose, the loving embrace of the man she calls “the love of my life.” Also laughs and jokes with Mason, sings and cooks with Josh. And many fun days spent engaged in the Collier family’s pastime: baseball.
“They are gone,” said Becky, who shares a deep sense of faith with her family. “But it is not peace.”
The best way to keep your memory alive is to try to emulate them in a small way, she said. Try to do the right thing, like Steve. Be generous, like Mason. Be a ray of sunshine in the lives of others, like Josh.
But most importantly, she said, “Love each other.”