Prime Time profile: Remodeling benefits Bellingham widower after wife’s death

FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMarch 17, 2014 

3 14 Prime Collins

Brad and Elisa Collins remodeled their Bellingham home a few years ago to accommodate her disabilities caused by her cancer. Elisa died in 2011.

PHILIP A. DWYER — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

Name: Brad Collins.

Age: 61.

Hometown: Bellingham.

Family: Stepsons Olin Landrum, 33, Bellingham; and Ari Landrum, 35, Seattle.

Remodeling worthwhile: Collins lost his wife, Elisa — who was 55 when she died on May 15, 2011 — to colon cancer after being together for 27 years. He still lives in the house they shared in Cornwall Park neighborhood.

He’s grateful they were both enthusiastic about remodeling their home, which they bought eight years ago.

“We remodeled the kitchen before Elisa was diagnosed in 2007, and we decided to remodel the bathroom after she was diagnosed, with the idea of helping her function better in the shower and with the hope she would recover,” Collins says. “The bathroom remodel helped her when she began to have limited mobility.”

Bathroom makeover: The bathroom is the only one in the home, as was typical of most homes built in the immediate post-war era. Collins and his wife were pleased with how the 1950s-style tub, with an inconvenient shower setup in the wall, was taken out and replaced by a large, sit-down shower area with a swinging showerhead, which helped Elisa.

“She was very happy with the remodel and so am I,” Collins says.

The remodeling was done by Rose Construction, in Bellingham.

“Pat Rose had become a friend before we bought the house,” Collins says.

No second bathroom: Collins says he and his wife decided against putting a second bathroom in the home, which is a rambler of about 1,400 square feet, because of the expense.

“Elisa and I agreed that we would always live financially below our means,” Collins says. “Now, I’ll never do something I can’t really afford to do. I don’t ever want to be upside down (owing more than the house is worth).”

More remodeling: “After Elisa passed away, I continued to do some remodeling we had talked about,” Collins says. “I’ve had a new gas fireplace put in and remodeled the deck.”

He says the remodeling projects have added at least 15 to 20 percent to the value of the house, although he doesn’t plan to move because he likes it there. Even so, he says it’s nice to realize the value of the house has been enhanced.

“I love to show the home to friends and family,” he says. “They love the remodel. Pride of ownership feels wonderful.”

Free and clear: Collins recently paid off the house, no small feat in only eight years.

“Because we did not live beyond our means, I was able to cope with the loss of Elisa’s income,” Collins says.

His wife worked in the dental industry.

“I also realized how important life insurance was,” he says, “even though I had hoped we would never have to use it.”

Long commute: Collins especially enjoys the time he spends at home, because he commutes at least an hour to Mukilteo four days a week, eight months a year, to his job as a terminal manager with Washington State Ferries, for which he has worked 21 years. He works in Anacortes during the summer.

Collins graduated from Ohio’s Bowling Green State University with a degree in photojournalism and earned a living in a variety of fields, including a stint with Ford Motor Co. before he and Elisa moved to Bellingham in 1992.

“Get screened:” In addition to talking about the fun of remodeling a home, Collins urges everyone to establish a fitness regimen and to get screened for colon cancer, especially if they are older than 50 and have not yet been screened.

“Hard-core recreational runner:” That’s how Collins describes how much Elisa loved to run. She participated in numerous Olympic-distance triathlons and ran marathons.

“I had become a runner when Elisa and I met,” Collins says. “She and I ran together all the time. I still enjoy running. I run 18 to 20 miles each week, on the days I don’t work, and I work out on a stationary bike, rowing machine and treadmill at home.”

Michelle Nolan is a Bellingham freelance writer.

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