Charles Rawson Collier, a long time resident of Berkeley, passed away on September 6,2011, just days before his 76th birthday. Charles came to Berkeley in 1964 with his first family to work as a visual artist, producing acrylics, etchings and prints. He soon became involved with the Free Speech Movement, participating in demonstrations and rallies at the Peoples’ Park and elsewhere in Berkeley. He with his wife Corlu founded the Committee for the Rights of the Disabled (CRT), a precursor of the Center for Independent Living in the Berkeley area. Charles advocated for handicapped accessibility on San Francisco transport and many other issues. He himself fought lifelong adversity and disability to live independently in his own home until his recent illness.
Charles had a mischievous enjoyment and childlike enthusiasm for inventions, creations, and disruptions of the norm. He delighted in the kites flown at the Marina Park and the anonymous sculptures that appeared on the Bay shores. He spent months planning for his perfect photo of a solar eclipse. He was proud of his ability to solve all kinds of problems, including building of his own leg brace. He reinvented himself as new interests came into his life. He became well known for his Renaissance Woodwind Instruments (Collier Instruments) which he fashioned in his shop at the back of his house – recorders, shawms, flutes, and cornettini. His instruments are still played by early music groups in concert. When the business lost ground, he developed linotype equipment which allowed for greatly expanded printing capacity, As the industry moved to new technology. Charles became a recording engineer. He recorded student concerts for the Berkeley Public Schools and the Cazadero Music Camp, giving students, parents and teachers the joy of savoring student performances with his professional recordings.
Charles will be remembered by neighbors and friends for his insistence on doing things for himself despite impediments. He loved zipping around Berkeley from his Grant Street home on his electric scooter, visiting his favorite coffee shop and Thai restaurant on Shattuck Avenue, or traveling as far as BART would take him to new destinations. He documented accessibility on BART with the hope of producing a publication.
Charles was born in Washington, D.C. on September 10, 1935 to Nina Perera Collier and Charles Wood Collier. He grew up on Indian Spring Farm in Darlington, Md. He attended the Friends School in Baltimore, then Swarthmore College, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Art Students League in NYC. He moved to Berkeley after exploring life in Taos, NM; Oaxaca, Mexico; and Portland, OR. He is survived by his two families, Melinda Collier and daughter Nina Collier; Corlu Collier, daughter Liz Collier, and son Richard Mulders; siblings, Leo, George, Lucy Collier and Monica Schmidt; nephews David John, Nicholas and Patrick Collier; niece Lucy Jane Collier; and extended family. A memorial event will be scheduled at a future time.