Wallace H. Collier was a three-time war veteran, a black belt in taekwondo and a boxer who fought Rocky Marciano. He was not one to boast about his feats of strength. And he didn't have to.
His strength was not only reflected in his muscular build but in his commitments: in the line of duty, to his wife of 62 years, as a dad to his two sons and a father figure to the students at North High School who called him Mr. Wally.
On July 24, Collier, who survived colon cancer and served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, died at 92.
First Sgt. Collier was a well-respected man's man and a pillar in the north Minneapolis community in the 1970s.
"Every time we went to the store as a kid, everyone would know who he was," Collier's son Mathew, 43, of Eagan said.
For more than 20 years, Collier and his family lived on Vincent Avenue in north Minneapolis.
Collier represents a lighter time in north Minneapolis' history that former neighbors like Shannon Cepeda remember with fondness. A time, she said, when the neighborhood was a family. Collier was the dad who helped the students get on the bus to school.
"I can't remember a time when I didn't see him on the block," said Cepeda, 45, of Camden.
Collier's garage door was never closed to the neighborhood. Children would often stop in to hit his punching bag or ask Collier to fix their Rollerblades. Talking through a cigar, Collier would teach them how to throw jabs and perfect their stance. While the children knew he was a boxer, they didn't know that Collier had fought Rocky Marciano three times before Marciano turned pro and beat him once.
With Collier's help, Cornell Richardson, who lived down the block, became a junior Golden Gloves boxer.
"He always had time for the kids," said Richardson, 44, of Brooklyn Park. "He stood for respect and integrity. He had such strong values, and it rubbed off on a lot of young men."
At North High School, Collier taught weightlifting and patrolled the school halls. Collier would get to know each of the students who would pass through year after year. Though all of the children have grown up now, they all still hold loving memories of Mr. Wally.
For Pastor McKinley Moore, Collier was the father figure he did not have at home. Collier taught Moore boxing at North High in the mid-1970s.
"He had a gentle spirit, yet you didn't want to rile him," Moore said. " He would take time to get to know us and build relationships with us."
Moore passed Collier's lessons on to his students as coach and teacher at North High School.
Mathew Collier remembers his dad chasing a student who had a gun at North High School and getting the gun out of his hands.
Following in his father's shoes, Mathew became a teacher at Elizabeth Hall International Elementary School in north Minneapolis. Mathew also serves as the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers second vice president.
"He steered me toward being a teacher," he said. "I try to help people just like he tried to help people."
In his final months, Wallace Collier needed some help from others. He lost his bulging muscles and his ability to walk, and Mathew said it was hard seeing the change in his father.
"He used to be able to carry me," he said. Collier's strength will now carry on through the lessons he instilled in the children of north Minneapolis.