SANTA FE – Former state Rep. Max Coll was remembered at a memorial service on Monday as a “man of New Mexico,” a social liberal and fiscal conservative defined as much by his passion for rivers and canyons as his three decades in elective office.
Relatives, friends and former colleagues jammed the rotunda of the state Capitol to honor Coll, a Santa Fe Democrat who died March 27 at age 82.
House Speaker Ken Martinez, D-Grants, said Coll was “the perfect example of a life well-lived.”
Coll, who was in the oil and gas business, began his legislative career in 1967 as a Republican from Roswell. After eight years, he went to law school, moved to Santa Fe, switched parties and spent 24 years representing a Santa Fe district. He retired in 2004.
He was an expert on state finances and the longtime chairman of the House Appropriations and Finance Committee.
Rep. Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque, remembered him as “formidable, powerful, wise and witty.”
He supported health care reform – advocating a single-payer system – as well as civil rights, protection of the environment and animals, and arts education, speakers recalled.
The home he shared with his wife, Catherine Joyce-Coll, was “a menagerie of poker players, dogs, cats, birds, river rafters and artists,” Chasey said.
New Mexico Court of Appeals Chief Judge Roderick Kennedy called Coll – whose family has been in Roswell for generations and whose grandfather, James Hinkle, was governor in 1923-24 – “a man who is of this place.” His leadership transcended political party affiliations, Kennedy said.
Coll also was remembered as an avid rafter.
“Max was a cool customer. Calm under pressure. Strong as an ox on the oars when rowing against the current,” said Associated Press reporter Barry Massey, who rafted with Coll.
Massey recalled this lesson from Coll in navigating life, as well as rivers: “In trying to pick a line of travel, he said, look where the current wants to take you and figure out how to make it better.”