Once, a friend asked Darwin Hindman how he tolerated Columbia City Council meetings that stretched past midnight.
“I’m really interested to hear what people have to say,” the friend, Chip Cooper, recalled him saying.
Hindman, Columbia’s longest-serving mayor, died early Monday at 86. He’d suffered from pulmonary fibrosis for the past couple of years, carrying around an oxygen tank, his wife, Axie, said.
A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday at Calvary Episcopal Church, 123 S. Ninth St., with the Rev. Janet Schisser officiating.
Hindman was remembered for his perseverance, his sense of adventure and his thoughtfulness. And there was no difference between his private personality and his public persona, son-in-law Ian Thomas said.
“He was just one guy,” said Thomas, Fourth Ward Councilman.
Hindman served as mayor from 1995 to 2010.
Under his stewardship, Columbia was a “full-service city,” said Ray Beck, who was city manager for most of Hindman’s 15 years as mayor. The city didn’t just build roads, Beck said; it focused on making citizens’ quality of life better.
“He had a real vision for what Columbia could be,” said Chris Janku, who served on the City Council from 1991 to 2008.
“He thought people’s goal in life should be to have a productive, happy, satisfactory life,” Axie said. “As a member of the City Council, he felt that should be one of the goals of the city.”
Hindman was also a creative thinker, Axie said.
“He would come up with ideas that other people would think were maybe not worth pursuing, and they might not be adopted right away,” she said, “but he would keep working year after year to see the things he thought were important happen.”
One example of that creativity and persistence was the Activity and Recreation Center, 1701 W. Ash St.
Initially, people were opposed to building a new recreation center, Beck said. The old one had closed in the 1980s, and many didn’t want to fund a new one, he said.
But Hindman had a “great working relationship with the city,” which allowed him to communicate the value of projects such as the ARC and the MKT Trail, Beck said.
Hindman was also instrumental in creating Stephens Lake Park, and he pushed to establish the statewide Katy Trail — so much so the Boone County Historical Society called him “The Father of the Katy Trail.”
As mayor, one of Hindman’s best qualities was fostering open discussions on policy issues, Janku said. People felt free to speak their opinions because Hindman respected different ideas, he said.
He also took time to make sure people knew he was listening to them, even if he didn’t ultimately agree with them, Janku said.
Cooper, who worked closely with Hindman to help secure funding for parks and trails, agreed.
“Even if you called him a horrible name in the course of politics,” Cooper said, “he would thank you and tell you he hoped to change your mind in the future.”
Hindman was a “perennial optimist,” said Jim Loveless, who served on the council from 2001 to 2006. He said Hindman’s mindset was, “Things are great, but we can make them better.”
Hindman implemented the countdowns at crosswalks and being able to pay for parking on an app, Loveless said.
An avid bicyclist, he helped Sen. Christopher “Kit” Bond secure $22 million in federal grants to promote cycling and walking. He served as a chairman for a foundation dedicated to extending the Katy Trail to Kansas City.
He remained active to the end, said his son, Skip Hindman.
The lung disease slowed him down, but it didn’t prevent him from doing what he wanted to do, such as camping.
“You would see the oxygen tank outside the tent,” Skip said, adding the family called the tank his constant companion or his pet.
“You could never bring him down,” he said of his father.
Before his public life, he worked as a lawyer.
“I don’t really know why I wanted to be a lawyer,” Hindman told the Missourian for its “100 Ages” project. “People thought I argued a lot, so that might be something do with it.”
About a month after joining a law firm, however, the Air Force called him back into service. He was given a choice: finish law school and become a lawyer in the Air Force or enter flight school.
“I would have to commit myself for three years at a lower rank and lower pay,” he said, “but I chose to (become a pilot). I thought that would be a more interesting life. I figured I’d practice law the rest of my life. I might not be able to be a pilot for the rest of my life.”
In 2017, Darwin and Axie were inducted into the Boone County Hall of Fame for their nearly four decades of service to the Columbia community.
On July 23, the Hindmans would have celebrated 59 years of marriage, Axie said. It all started on a blind date while they were at MU. They attended a Shakespeare play at the Stephens College Playhouse.
“His mother told me before we were married it would be an adventure,” she said. “He was someone who was willing to try anything, who had creative ideas. I learned to try things that I would never have done without him. I’m the conservative one, and he was the adventurous one.”
On their honeymoon, they took a canoe trip in Minnesota. At one point, Axie went ahead, and Hindman was a long time coming. When he finally arrived, she asked what happened.
“He said a mother bear had gotten into our backpack, where I had mistakenly packed all the candy bars and the nuts and raisins,” she said.
Hindman got the bear to abandon the backpack by throwing rocks at the animal, she said.
“He got the backpack with almost nothing left in it,” she said, “and for all these 58 years we still have this pack, which is kind of held together with safety pins. It is known as the bear pack.”
Whether fighting off bears, dealing with city policy or handling things at his law office, he remained calm, Axie said.
“He just had this amazing levelheadedness.”
Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.