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Ute Pass flash flood victim remembered

John Collins, 53, of Teller County, was popular at area coffee shop

Ute Pass Flood Victim Remembered

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The staff of a downtown Colorado Springs coffee shop responded Saturday to the death of a popular customer, John Collins, in Friday's flash flood.

Collins, 53, was a Teller County resident whose body was found covered in debris near his battered vehicle on U.S. 24, west of Manitou Springs in Ute Pass.  Authorities have ruled his death a drowning, but said they may never know if he tried to abandon his vehicle or was torn from it by the raging floodwaters.

Collins was a regular at Gold Hill Java, at the intersection of Boulder and Tejon Streets.  Word of his death surprised and saddened the staff.

"He always got a big mocha with five shots of expresso," said employee Dylan McClintock.  "He rarely sat.  He'd be walking back and forth, or standing in a corner, talking to us.  And he'd always start ordering with a joke.  He loved to tell jokes."

Paul Clarkson, the store's co-owner, said he'd known Collins for a decade and will remember him as being friendly, helpful and generous.

"My wife and I knew him because he also visited our coffee shop in Woodland Park," said Clarkson.  "He was a concrete contractor and helped us redesign the shop when we opened two years ago."

McClintock said the shop may hold a private memorial service for Collins, and is considering naming a drink after him.

"It was a shock, to say the least, to hear that he died," said McClintock.

Clarkson said he last saw Collins several weeks ago.

"He was a very big man -- in stature and in heart," said Clarkson.

Collins leaves his wife, Dana.

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