Editor’s note: This story is part of a series about Oklahomans who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read the stories of other Oklahomans here. Have you lost a loved one to COVID-19? Help us tell their story.
Christopher Owen was good friends with Tim Colwell, but he knew Colwell also had plenty of other close relationships.
“There were probably 100 people who thought of Tim as a close friend,” Owen said. “And I think that’s very unusual. He just made it his business to be closely connected with people and be very interested in being involved in people’s lives. He was giving of himself, which is a remarkable trait.”
This was evident from Owen’s first interaction with Colwell, a Tulsa public relations professional, about 20 years ago, when Owen said he was first entering a position as the communications director of a church in downtown Tulsa. Owen said he found a piece in a local newspaper listing recipients of local awards. Colwell’s name was part of the list, identified as PR director of Parker Drilling — which Owen said was a fairly large company in Tulsa at the time.
Owen also worked in public relations, so he reached out to Colwell for professional advice. Colwell invited Owen to lunch and soon became a mentor to him.
“Later, particularly after he died, I found that that was just a common thing, that he would just take on friendships and relationships like that,” Owen said. “He was very generous with his time in that way.”
Colwell was born in Fort Dodge, Iowa in 1952, according to his obituary. His father died in a car accident before his birth. His mother raised him on her own while working as town postmaster in Livermore, Iowa.
Colwell also became a single parent in 2000 after his first wife Debbie died one week before their son Matthew turned 15.
He married his second wife Patty in 2010 and the two built a “great, little empty-nest family,” Owen said.
As a longtime resident of Tulsa, Colwell worked tirelessly for the community.
He became the first and only public relations director for the City of Faith at Oral Roberts University in 1982, then began working for Parker Drilling Company in 1985.
When Parker Drilling relocated to Houston, Colwell and Debbie started their own company — Colwell and Colwell, PR and Marketing. The couple also started a greeting card company called The Queen of Cards, which was distributed nationally.
Colwell started a new job in public relations for The Williams Companies Inc. in 2007, where he worked until his retirement in 2018.
He also served as the president of the Downtown Tulsa Rotary Club in 2007. During his tenure there, he had a goal of growing the group to 500 members, which he was able to accomplish.
Colwell had a good sense of humor and was rarely seen without a smile. Owen attended First Methodist Church with Colwell for a number of years, and said Colwell’s faith was extremely important to him.
“If you were out to lunch with Tim, you’re always going to have a blessing before the meal,” Owen said. “But he would say ‘let’s have an open-eyed prayer’ because he didn’t want to embarrass anybody.”
Colwell was grilling steaks for his family on Christmas Eve 2020 but had to go to the emergency room later that day, sick with COVID-19.
Colwell died Jan. 14 at age 68. His family arranged a funeral for him on Jan. 21.
“I felt like in the time of year that he died, the fact that hardly anyone could go to his funeral when they finally had one,” Colwell said, “I’m not sure that he really got the kind of memorial that he would have gotten, had he died at another time.”