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Remembering an indomitable spirit

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Community Voices

By Ryan Ward
As I stand fly-fishing in the South Platte River, I feel a spirit come upon me.
At that very moment, Collin Backowski of Pine Junction was buried beneath a block of ice on Mount Hood that was as deadly as it was emblematic of the beauty that life has to offer. What I felt while standing in the river had to have been the light that sustained his being. His desire to explore the unknown took him to that fatal moment, one that literally took his breath away.
Collin achieved more in a shorter amount of time than most. He was a star for the Gold Rush soccer team as a child and traveled to Europe when he played for the USA youth soccer team. He accepted the job over the summer at Mount Hood and was teaching young people how to ride a snowboard. He loved to surf in Costa Rica and was a whiz on a skateboard. He forsook college to pursue his dreams of one day being a professional rider.
On that unforgettable day, he saw something no human on Earth had ever seen, and it was likely the most intense episode of his life. I stand here today telling you about a man who lived life to the fullest. He was fearless. And many believe there is no other way to live.
“Collin would never take no as an answer. He would always push the limit, making himself better and, in turn, everyone one else around him,” said high school classmate Eric Danks.
He was loved by so many people and disliked by few. His smile was contagious, and his ambition educated hundreds in how to approach life.
“He never gave up. His strive was unbelievable. He always wanted to go big in life,” said childhood friend James Jewkes. “He was always really happy and had his own language (and) his own style. No one else was like him.”
As his friend and follower, I received from Collin the ambition to reach for the stars. Many of us are now feeling the same intense pain, but we stand above the water level. We will continue on without the fear of regretting something left undone. Collin lived for that.
We will not move forward until we understand the past. As we heal, and find a way to celebrate Collin’s life, we must think that Collin would not have had it any other way. As devastated as I am by the passing of a companion, I understand that life works in mysterious ways. I truly believe he lived for that breathtaking moment — but it’s heartbreaking that it turned out to be his last among us.

Ryan Ward, a freelance writer for Evergreen Newspapers, penned this tribute to his friend Collin Backowski, who died this month while snowboarding on Mount Hood in Oregon.