Many knew her as “the Safeway lady.” Some knew her first name—Anita. She had been a regular presence in the North Central area, her walking beat stretching from 7th Avenue to 16th Street, mostly along Glendale Avenue.
People often saw her on the Murphy Bridle Path, or in front of the Safeway at 7th Street and Glendale. Sometimes she had her shopping cart with her, sometimes she just had her signature black-on-black clothing, long dark dreadlocks bouncing and electric blue eyes blazing as she shook her fists in the air, arguing with someone who wasn’t there—except in her head.
In her clearer moments, she admitted she had schizophrenia, but preferred to be on the street rather than in an institution or shelter. She had been married, but was divorced and had no children. Her mother had died more than 10 years ago; her father had reportedly also died many years ago. She was, seemingly, alone.
But the hundreds upon hundreds of loving memories shared online about Anita J. Collins, 52, after her tragic and sudden death on Oct. 13 would seem to belie that statement. Anita was having one of her episodes again, and had thrown much of her possessions into the street near 2nd Place and Glendale Avenue. It was just before 10 p.m., so when she stepped into the street to begin picking her things back up, the car didn’t see her in her all-black apparel until it was too late. She was transported to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
Almost instantly, a small memorial of candles and a cross with “Anita” on it popped up near the scene of the accident. Soon, hundreds of people on the Nextdoor.com app had heard about her death, and started sharing their memories—how they tried to give her clothes or shoes, but she often refused. Sometimes she’d take the money offered and share it with other homeless in the neighborhood. In her clear moments, she was softly spoken and could converse for long periods of time. She was kind and had a wickedly funny sense of humor.
As of press time it was unclear whether any family would be claiming the body and burying her privately. More than 40 members of the community who knew Anita gathered together the morning of Oct. 21 at Scott’s Generations to plan a public memorial service for her.
A non-denominational service is set for 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 4, at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church, 1212 E. Glendale Ave. Local businesses, including Scott’s Generations, Safeway and Sprouts, will provide refreshments and other items for the service. In addition, those wishing to make a tax-deductible donation to pay for a commemorative marker in her honor (location TBD) and to create a fund in her memory to benefit I-Help, the Interfaith Homeless Emergency Lodging Program, can visit www.livingstreams.org, scroll down to the bottom of the home page and click on “Giving,” then click the “I want to give now” button. It will take you to a page with a box with a login, but below the gray box is a link that says, “Give without an account.” Click on that (if you don’t want to create an account), and on the next page, place your donation amount in the Anita Collins Memorial section.
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