By TOM FINK



As friends and family of Autumn Collins gathered for a benefit concert, they preferred not to remember how she died so much as how she lived.

“She was the most understanding, loving person I’ve ever met in my life,” said Mequette “Mac” Johnston, who refers to herself as Collins’ best friend of three years. “We met through mutual friends and we lived in the same apartment complex together. She was the most loyal friend you could ever ask for.”

Twenty-one-year old Collins died Monday, June 25, the victim of a domestic assault. She was remembered Saturday with a benefit concert to raise money for her 18-month-old daughter, currently in DHS custody.

“A lot of Autumn’s friends were musicians, so they got together to do this (concert) for her and her little girl, Lucy. Her daughter was her world,” Johnston said. “Those performing will be performing their regular songs, but also some original ones written about Autumn and her little girl.”

Collins was the mother of 18-month-old Lucia Rosette (called Lucy Rose).

When asked which memories of Collins most stood out her in mind, Johnston said there were too many to select only one.

“Oh, wow, there are a thousand different things I could say about her,” Johnston said of her late friend. “She loved to read everything, especially Stephen King’s books — she probably read everything he wrote twice.

“She enjoyed crocheting, too,” she said. “Last Christmas, she made scarves for everyone as Christmas presents.

Collins’ father, Shawn Collins, also remembers his daughter as a generous, independent spirit.

“She had a good heart. She was very, very forgiving soul, and she loved her baby — she was an amazing mother,” Collins said. “She did extremely well when she was in school and got lots of awards for reading. She wrote a lot of poetry, too, and was even working on a book. She really had an imagination.”

Even those who hadn’t known Collins for long still were affected by her personality.

“She had been with us about a month or so,” said Debby Blair, general manager of Days Inn, where Collins was employed. “She was a very sweet girl — we all loved her and understood she was coming to us to overcome some very difficult (domestic) circumstances.”

Saturday’s benefit will help raise money for Collins’ daughter’s needs, while allowing those who knew Collins the chance to share memories with others who knew her.

“I’ll never forget her,” Johnston said. “I talked to her the day before she died and she was excited about the good things that were going on in her life — I still can’t believe she’s gone.

“She’ll always have a place in my heart, where I cherish her memory in a way that words can’t describe,” she said.

Donations in memory of Autumn Collins and for the benefit of Lucy Rose can be made to a Memorial Fund at RCB Bank.