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Voyageur's Best Features of 2005

Laura Collman

Spunk and determination
Laura Collman died recently in an automobile accident
by John Grones  |  April 12, 2005

If there was one phrase to describe Laura Lea Collman, it would have to be ‘spunk and determination’. Several family members and friends filled the Bethany Lutheran Church in Cromwell on Sunday, April 3 to pay their respects to a woman who positively affected the lives of those she encountered.

Laura Lea died Sunday, March 13, 2005 as a result of injuries sustained in an automobile accident. Her nine-year-old daughter Lenore was also in the car at the time and received multiple injuries.

The families were heartbroken over the news and they are doing their best to get through this difficult time. Walter Collman, Laura’s husband was the first to share at the Memorial Service.

“I’m very glad I met Laura,” said a very emotional Walter. “She was the best friend I ever had. I am so very proud of Laura for the many things she accomplished, her writing and her cooking...”

Walter also thanked Laura for bringing Lenore into his life. Lenore has miraculously recovered from the numerous injuries she received in the accident. Following the accident, she was transported to St. Mary’s in Duluth where she was treated for multiple fractures in both arms, left leg and pelvis; a cracked vertebrae in her neck; a mild brain injury; nerve damage to her hand and a collapsed lung.

Lenore was able to attend the service. Her father looked over at her as he continued... “Lenore reminds me so much of Laura, her spunk and determination, her optimism, passion and generosity.”

Walter concluded by saying that he married Laura for all of her traits and that she was a spark in his life. “She lived life the way she wanted and after all our years together, she still gave my heart a lift when we were together,” he said. “Remember what Laura lived, appearances don’t matter, friends and family do.”

Walter’s father, Arnold Collman, shared his fondest memories of Laura. He noted that when Laura first came into the family, she would request a family meeting. “We knew one thing could have happened. Walt and her had a disagreement,” said Arnold. “Things always worked out.”

Arnold concluded by stating that he always knew where Laura stood and he appreciated that. “We loved her a lot,” he said. “The overriding thing is that we know she is with the Lord today.”

Walter’s sister Julie Collman spoke on behalf of Laura’s brother Ross and his wife Jan. They could not attend but noted that Laura’s dreams of a husband and children began when she married Walter in 1989. “Her fondest wish was fulfilled when Lenore was born in 1996,” Julie read. “Laura would always talk about her ‘pretty little girl’ and she was so right. Lenore was her pride and joy.”

Julie also shared that Laura loved Jan’s nut goody bars and that she submitted a story to the Duluth News Tribune about her family’s Christmas celebrations. The paper published the story on December 12, 1999 and Laura’s was one of the few selected. “Wasn’t it a ‘hoot’, as Laura would often say, when the family opened the paper and there was a picture of ma and grandma,” Julie continued. A copy of her story is reprinted below.

It wouldn’t be Christmas without...

My oldest sister showing up at the folks’ with all her presents bought, but nothing wrapped. Singing “The Twelve Days of Christmas” but never quite getting all the days’ gifts right. Grandma making many trips to Miller Hill Mall. A phone call to or from my sister’s family in Littleton; the weather’s usually warmer there.

“Turn off the TV while we’re opening presents, will ya?” Trying to coax our (now four-year-old) daughter into talking with Santa. She might this year. Ma debating what to make for Christmas Eve dinner. “If I make a roast, that involves gravy, vegetables, salad. One year, I made lasagna and all I got was complaints.” My brother calling. “What’s happenin’? When’s dinner?”

My sister-in-law’s to-die-for homemade nut goodie bars. I made them recently. Can you spell c-o-m-p-l-i-c-a-t-e-d? Grandma wearing grandpa’s red and green bow tie, in his memory. The Hubster asking, “And what am I going to get for Yo-Yo this year?”

Writing out cards. I do them late at night, with a glass of milk and a stack of cookies at arm’s length. My dad’s last-minute run to the grocery store. Christmas tunes on B105 when going home late on the 24th. Wanting snow on the 24th or 25th, wishing it would disappear on the 26th.

Stealing a few minutes of peace and quiet amidst the chaos. Being thankful for all the craziness, highs and lows, ups and downs. Having loved ones to share them with. Hoping I’ll be around to do exactly the same next year. - Laura Collmam, Cromwell

Kathy Collman, who introduced herself as Eric’s wife, had a humorous story to tell about Laura. She told about the time that Laura was doing laundry and she saw this white thing moving behind the washing machine. “Laura screamed, ‘Oh eek, it’s a rat,’” said Kathy. She runs into the kitchen, has a hissy fit, and all of a sudden the transformation took place. ‘I’m a country girl now and I’m going to have to do something about this. So she grabbed a broom, continued to bludgeon it literally to exhaustion. She took a breath and regained her composure, gave it a few more whacks, only to find out it was a white sock that had fallen behind the washing machine.”

Kathy concluded by saying that Laura had a remarkable spirit of giving. “Even after a hard day, she would always send me home with a loaf of bread, a pan of cookies... she was so giving.”

On that March 13 day, Elaine Kneeland of Deerwood, Minnesota was one of the first to arrive at the scene of the car accident. Elaine did not know Laura, but she considers it a privilege and blessing that she was there when Laura took her last breath. “I know I was there to comfort her with peace and love,” said Elaine. “I am very humbled that I was there at that moment.”

Laura’s oldest sister was very brief. “I miss her terribly,” said Kristine Loubert. “I’ll always love her and I’ll always miss her.”

John Schifsky, a professor from the College of St. Scholastica, said that he was Laura’s advisor and he recalled that she graduated with a degree in English and Communications. “It was very clear from the beginning,” said John, “who was going to run the show between the two of us. I enjoyed her because she called a spade a spade.”

Friend and neighbor Liz (Mowers) Aho wanted everybody to know that she and Laura had great conversations about their husbands. “Laura always got a tear in her eye when talking about Walter,” said Liz. “That is how much she loved him and I am very happy that I could witness that.”

Laura is survived by her husband, Walter of Cromwell; daughter Lenore; parents, James and Patricia Nelson of Cloquet; brother Ross (Janis) Nelson of Esko; sisters, Kristine (Keith Norton) Loubert of Edina and Susan (Stephen) Knoll of Omaha, NE; nieces and nephews, Andrea Loubert, Lindsey Knoll, Luke Knoll, Ashley Collman, Ann Collman, Jessica Berg Collman, Amber Collman and Brandi Collman.

A visit with Lenore this past week revealed that she is recovering quite well. She does need full-time care and Walter has taken off work for a few months to attend to his daughter. “Lenore is expected to have a good recovery at the very least,” said Walter. “The only concern is her hand function, but it is getting better every day.”

Lenore had a visit from a tutor provided by the school and she is already in the process of catching up on her reading and math. Lenore is expecting to visit the school in the near future. She thanks her friends and all those people that sent cards or gifts.
When Lenore recovers, she would like to get back to her eight chickens that she began raising a little over a year and half ago. “I was jealous of my cousins Ann and Ashley,” she said. “They bring chickens to the fair.”

It wasn’t long after the Carlton County Fair that banty chickens showed up at the Collmans’ and the next project was to build a coop. Walter took an old ice house and converted it into a coop, but the biggest challenge has been getting the chickens in at night. “Sometimes they fly into the trees to roost,” said Lenore. “I get a long stick to poke at them and then they fly up higher and I have to get a longer stick.”

“It’s a hassle trying to get them out of the trees,” Walter added.

Walter and Lenore would have shared more, but it was discovered that Lenore has a cracked tooth to go with her long list of injuries. Fortunately, this one is pretty minor compared to the others.

Walter wanted to share just a few more thoughts about his wife Laura before they left for the dentist office, Her love of camping and snowmobiling... her ability to overcome severe health problems as a baby... giving away all her baking... a fridge littered with bible verses, quotes, pictures, newspaper articles, recipes and Lenore’s artwork.

Memories everywhere of a loving mom and a special woman who will be remembered for her spunk and determination.

This article first appeared in the April 12, 2005 issue of the Voyageur Press.