He never achieved his childhood wish of being a professional ice hockey player, but William “Bill” Collier’s lifelong interest in the sport helped inspire a facility that’s given thousands of Klamath Basin people a chance to learn and improve their on-ice skills.
Collier, whose efforts in developing a first-class venue for ice skating and hockey resulted in the Bill Collier Community Ice Arena, died Friday.
Collier, 85, grew up loving ice skating and hockey as a young boy in Canada. He was born March 14, 1928, when his family, who lived in Lethbridge, Alberta, was on vacation in Sanilac County, Michigan. He grew up during a time when there were only six teams in the National Hockey League.
“I was intending to be a goalie,” Collier said in a 2008 interview. “I’ve still got a few scars from that, so I changed to a line position.”
His hockey dreams ended when his family moved to Grants Pass during his senior year of high school, graduating in 1946. Because he was born in the U.S., he was able to enlist in the Marine Corps and served until being honorably discharged in 1949. His family moved to Klamath Falls in 1947 and bought Chapman Cleaners, which they renamed Collier’s Cleaners. Collier joined the business with his father after completing dry cleaner’s school in Maryland.
While in Klamath Falls, he met his wife-to-be, Maxine “Mickey” Pugh, in 1951. They were married May 10, 1952, at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. The couple has two daughters, Karen Strickland and Gloria Henneman.
Collier and his brother, Doug, became partners at their business. He retired in 1990 and sold the business to Steve Lowell.
He enjoyed many hobbies, including fishing, woodworking and his Rocky Point cabin. He coached Pee-Wee and Babe Ruth baseball, was a member of the Klamath Falls Rotary Club and 20-30 Club, was active with St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, and helped bring the 1968 Babe Ruth League World Series to Kiger Stadium.
“Most of all he loved the ice rink,” said his wife, Mickey.
Suzette Machado, volunteer ice arena director, said the Klamath Ice Sports board of directors decided to name the arena after Collier because he had led efforts to create ice at the original dirt patch ice rink in Moore Park along Lakeshore Drive. She said the city of Klamath Falls had referred to the ice rink as the Bill Collier Ice Arena; “so when we built the new one, it just made sense” to name it for Collier.
Until this year, Machado said Collier always sprayed on the first layer of ice at the arena, which opened in 2002. Although unable to attend this year’s ice laying, he visited the arena to see the ready-to-skate arena with his wife before his death.
“Bill was incredibly humble. It took a lot of convincing to let us use his name, but we felt it was the right thing to do,” Machado said.
“Bill was a great role model for young and old alike,” she remembers. “When Bill said, ‘How are you,’ he really meant it. He was a tremendous gentleman.”
“He is a man who defined integrity,” echoed Paula Brown, who became close to the Collier family while attending school with his daughter Gloria. “He was like a father to me.”
She and her husband, Roger, spent many nights at the Moore Park ice arena laying ice. After spraying the area and allowing it to freeze, they would spend time with the Colliers playing cribbage, then spray another layer.
“He was always so positive,” Brown said. “He was always a gentleman.”
Collier is survived by his wife, Maxine “Mickey” Pugh Collier; brothers, Ernest and Ruth Collier of Mapleridge, British Columbia, and Doug and Barb Collier of Klamath Falls; daughters, Gloria Henneman of Medford and Karen (Stan) Strickland of Klamath Falls; sisters, Dorothy Lowell of Klamath Falls, and Connie and John Breazeale of Bonanza; grandchildren, Cari and Matt Strickland, and David, Mike and Eric Henneman; and two great-granddaughters, Victoria and Ellie Henneman.
He was preceded in death by his parents.
Cremation and inurnment was done at Eternal Hills Funeral Home, which is in charge of arrangements.