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MEEKER I Dual commitments to ranching and public service are a way of life for Meeker’s Joe Collins. Recently Joe was honored for serving 10 years on the Habitat Partnership Program. This recognition marks more than 40 years of public service in some capacity in Meeker and on the Eastern slope in Simla, Colo.
Joe was born in Meeker in 1938 to Dick and Anna (Burke) Collins. Joe’s mother Anna was one of the 15 Burke children born on Piceance Creek. His grandmother was said to have been the second white child born in the county. They were a ranching family, working on the infamous Bar Bell ranch from 1953 to 1978. The entire family worked on the ranch during those years. Joe has a silver pitcher that belonged to Franklin Roosevelt with an inscription from the former president’s sister. Joe knew Eleanor Roosevelt and Minewa Bell, wife of Elliot Roosevelt and owner of the Bar Bell ranch.
The ranch was a fun place to be with many social events, known for Anna’s cooking and hospitality.
Joe married Donna (D.C.) in 1959. They moved to the Eastern slope soon after and stayed nearly 20 years. Joe was a member of the school board and the soil conservation committee. D.C. taught and coached for Simla schools. Joe and Donna’s two daughters Lisa (Pakuer) and Lori (Chintala) both were graduated from Simla High School and their son Lex was in seventh grade when they moved to Meeker.
D.C. continued her teaching and coaching career in Meeker. She taught everything from high school science to middle school history to elementary physical education. She coached middle school sports for many years, loading the high school programs with undefeated, fundamentally sound teams.
A former teacher and coach in Meeker said, “D.C. was without a doubt one of the best coaches around.” She taught for 35 years and her passion and gift for coaching has been handed down two generations. Lori’s coaching in Simla helped that school capture a state championship. She has also coached at Barone Middle School and Meeker High School.
D.C.’s granddaughter Jamie helped the Meeker High School girls to their final four appearance in 2009 and has coached junior high volleyball and basketball as well.
Joe began working for the Wakara Ranch in 1981 and continues to go to work every day after 31 years. Joe said ranch owner Richard Bachmann “has been very good to us.” He and Bachmann have weathered a great deal of change in the economy and dynamics of the ranch. When Joe began, the ranch was known for its horses. They had approximately 100 head of brood mares and a stud horse, JJ Judd, who still has first generation offspring in the area. In the mid ‘80s the ranch began to shift out of the horse business and more into the cattle business. Currently the ranch is permitted for approximately 380 head of cattle.
Collins has received recognition for his cooperation with the Division of Wildlife and Forest Service in their grazing projects designed to maximize the environment for wildlife by moving the cattle frequently and working around elk calving times and areas. He served on the fair board for approximately eight years, the town council for three years, and was elected as a Rio Blanco County commissioner for three terms (12 years). He was a member of the fairgrounds management board, the town planning commission, and most recently resigned from the Habitat Partnership Program, on which he had served since 2002. He has enjoyed working on the different boards and said, “I just did the very best I could.”
When asked what he has enjoyed the most about working in Meeker, Joe said, “I have enjoyed my family the most, I have been very lucky to have my family.” He added, “I would retire tomorrow if it weren’t for my family, having them there every day.”
He lights up when he talks about four out of five grandchildren born while living on the ranch: Levi and Lance Pakuer, sons of Buddy and Lisa, as well as J.C. and Jamie (Rogers), children of Mike and Lori Chintala.
Joe and Donna have five grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and one more on the way. Currently J.C. is working for the ranch along with his parents and grandfather, representing three generations, and the tradition may not stop there. Great-granddaughter Charlie (Rogers) spends a great deal of time “working” with her uncle and grandparents.
Six generations of the Collins family have lived in Meeker.
Joe and Donna have been examples of loyalty, of family strength and of giving. Their core values are apparent in their kids and grandkids. From D.C.’s coaching and teaching to Joe’s service on community boards and communities, they have truly lived a life of family, service and consistency. After more than 40 years of service in some capacity, it is certainly appropriate to say thanks, and offer a hearty congratulations for all they have done.