Two days before Christmas, I logged into the Taxidermy.Net Forum and was met with horrible news. One of our own—a popular, happy, helpful, generous member from Texas—had lost his life in a tragic house fire. I immediately went to Donnie Collier’s account activity and saw where only a few hours before, he had been hanging out on the Forum, interacting with friends in the Taxi.Net Bar & Lounge and discussing Christmas presents for wives in the Current Events Forum.
All of the Forum community was stunned by this sad news. Apparently, the fire started shortly before 4:00 a.m. from a heat lamp which had been placed under the house for the past few weeks to prevent pipes from freezing in the extreme cold. Donnie’s wife and kids were alerted to the fire by smoke alarms and escaped the blaze. When they gathered outside, they realized Donnie was missing. They broke open the windows of the master bedroom in an attempt to rescue Donnie, but the smoke and flames were too intense.
One of the Forum’s most prolific members, Bob Peltier of Texas, was a friend of Donnie’s and wondered if there was something we as a community could do to let Donnie’s family know the depth of friendship and respect that we all felt for him. Bob is our resident long-suffering liberal who has posted under several pseudo names throughout his many years on the Forum, annoying Republicans and conservatives with glee, but Bob has a heart of gold and is generous to a fault. On Christmas Eve, he made a post suggesting that we present a memorial plaque to Donnie’s family inscribed with the names of his friends from the Taxidermy Net.
I wanted to be a part of this memorial, so I offered to create the pen-and-ink drawing of Donnie based upon his Taxidermy.Net avatar and design the plaque. Bob agreed, and we started gathering names of friends and well-wishers to be added to the plaque.
Chad Davis at McKenzie was helpful in choosing a beautiful piece of mahogany and setting up the laser engraving in their wood shop in North Carolina. McKenzie technicians imported the artwork into their computerized laser system and burned the names and drawing into the wood. It took about 30 minutes for the laser to finish the job. Then, the engraved sections were airbrushed with black paint and the panel was hand sanded. The wood shop manager Jimmy Robinson suggested using a Taylor Brown stain which really brought out the golden and red hues of the wood grain. A final gloss coat finished the process. I found the entire procedure fascinating, so I made a short one-minute movie showing the steps in how the plaque was manufactured:
Lots of members wanted to be listed on the plaque and offered to help pay for the expenses of production. In the end, the plaque was donated by McKenzie and all of the proposed donations were directed to the family. A trust fund has been set up at the First Financial Bank of Brock, Texas. Donations can be made to the Marsha Collier Benefit Account, First Financial Bank of Brock, Texas, 1100 Farm to Market 1189, Brock, TX 76066, (817) 598-2650.
The finished plaque was delivered to Donnie’s widow. It is our hope that Donnie’s family will appreciate how he affected others beyond their local circle of friends.
In the few months since this tragedy, Donnie’s insurance has paid off the note on the old house and property. The local community pitched in and is building a new home for Marsha and the kids where the old house was located. The slab is already poured and framing will start soon. Through donations when the home is completed it will be hers free and clear of any debt. I’m sure that Donnie’s plaque will be a special part of their new home.