Colette Fleming, 1951—2002

Beloved member of WHEEL, Women in Black, DESC. Her remains are buried in a common grave in Des Moines, Washington.

Colette Fleming (far left) standing with Women in Black
Colette (left) at the Women in Black “Cleansing Ritual” for Nicholas “Rooster” Helhowski.

Colette Fleming, age 51, was a charming, childlike woman who was often a leader in homeless women’s organizing efforts through the Women’s Housing, Equality, and Enhancement League (WHEEL). In some ways, Colette saw herself as one of WHEEL’s soldiers.Whenever Colette found out WHEEL was planning an action, she would say, decisively, “I’ll be there!” and she’d always show up. Just days before she died at the Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC), Colette was one of a handful of women who conducted a memorial cleansing for Nicholas “Rooster” Helhowski, a 20-year-old formerly homeless youth and activist whose beating death is still unsolved. She felt, very keenly, the abuses and deprivations of her homeless comrades — more so, perhaps, than she felt her own. She never complained about her situation. She did, sometimes, disappear.

On the night she died, she took ill early and was taken by ambulance to the hospital. Staff there observed her for several hours, and then she was released back to her shelter. Her fellow shelter residents tried to awaken her the next morning, and couldn’t.

~by Michele Marchand, from the article“Dulce et Decorum Est” originally published in Real Change 7/10/2002

Colette’s Leaf is installed at the Seattle Justice Center.  If you have stories or memories to share about Colette, please post in the comments.

One Comment

  • shawn matthews

    Hi everyone my name is shawn matthews I am collettes son so I just want to say I LOVE YOU MOMA11111 I MISS YOU ,YOUR LOVE YOUR SMILE THAT LIT UP THE ROOM MISS YOU MOMA11111111

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