Collier impacted everyone

Published 9:41 am Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Some people accumulate natural enemies based solely on their profession.

But truly great individuals, those who are remembered long after they are gone, are respected and loved because their lives had a positive impact on others.

Thursday, May 30, the former Lawrence County Prosecutor, J.B. Collier, shifted off this mortal coil. I’m sure he had a few adversaries who couldn’t have cared less.

Email newsletter signup

But for all the enemies he might have accumulated (simply by doing his job), he had many more admirers who thoroughly enjoyed being in his presence.

Count me in the admirers group.

I met J.B. six years ago as a stroke of luck because of his friendship with my stepfather, Charlie Frazer.

I recall being intimidated in his presence, due to his position and intelligence, the first few times I was around him. I don’t think I spoke the first two times I was in his company.

But once I overcame my anxiety issues, I not only got to know him, but looked up to him and relished any opportunity to be in his presence. After that, any time I drove by my mother (Mary Jo) and Charlie’s Lawco Lake home on my way to my own home and noticed J.B.’s truck in their parking space, I parked my car, bounced up the stairs and put myself in listen-mode.

Although J.B. served our community as an enforcer of the law, he was also an excellent teacher, even in off-the-cuff conversations about seemingly trivial matters. And I was a student very willing to absorb his vast knowledge.

Gregarious, patient, hilarious, insightful and eloquent are just a few adjectives that describe this man. When J.B. was in a room, he commanded the room….and it wasn’t out of false deference on the part of his peers. His affable demeanor and magnetic personality always put his stories and opinions in demand.

And, just to stress his impact on me, I wasn’t a close confidant of his. I admired him for his bounteous life experiences, his unruffled calm in the face of any adversity, and, most especially, his attitude, but he and I were never close friends – only a step or two above acquaintances.

We simply shared a common environment (Lawco), and a common individual (Charlie) – and one of us held a deep admiration for the varied accomplishments and knowledge of the other.

As he began slipping away, I went to see him and gave him the half-finished manuscript of a book I began writing at his urging (in which I, of course, made him a main character).

A few years ago, when he challenged me with the idea of writing a fictional book about Lawco Lake, he told me, “You write and I’ll edit.” Encouraged by his vote of confidence, I wrote and emailed chapter after chapter to him, but his response was always, “Keep writing.”

Looking back, I don’t think he planned on helping me write at all. I think he recognized how much I admired him and used that influence to motivate me to do something he knew I loved to do.

Now that he’s gone, I’m more motivated than ever to finish that book.

Why did this man I moderately knew have such an impact on me?

Your guess is as good as mine, but if you knew J.B., you probably understand.

He was the kind of guy everyone loved to be around…and I’m not ashamed to say I’ll miss him.

Someday, I hope my life encourages somebody else as much as his did mine.


Billy Bruce is a freelance writer who lives in Pedro. He can be contacted at