Richard F. Collins

Sept. 11, 1930 – March 18, 2024

 

Richard F. Collins, “Dick” or “Dad,” died in his home on Monday, March 18. He was 93.

Dad’s mom’s name was Alemedia Penelope. She adopted the name Catherine because she liked it and, let’s face it, even back then – Alemedia? All her friends and her husband Francis “Bud” Collins honored her wishes. And on the outskirts of Biloxi, Mississippi on Sept. 11, 1930, it was into their world that Dad was born.

The family didn’t have much. Dad just said, “I never knew we were poor because we were just like everyone else.” But Dad was smart and resourceful, and his mom was a teacher who encouraged his curiosity. Grades and ROTC got him into the University of Mississippi where he completed his undergrad before heading off to Korea.

“It was cold. We knew where they were and they knew where we were and it was the time of the war when we all just wanted to go home,” he’d say. Pretty much sums up everything Dad ever said about the Army (though he was proud to have served). The GI Bill got him into graduate school in physics back at Ole Miss. That’s where one spring day he met a music teacher named Claire Williamson.

For their first date he took her to Alabama for a stock car race.

“He was fun,” Mom said.

When he graduated he was offered a job at Hughes Aerospace in Torrance and one weekend he called up Claire (“The only person I knew in California!”). He drove his Nash Metropolitan up to Santa Barbara and for the next 63 years there would “never be a dull moment.”

Their two kids, Allison and Jim, were born in the ’60s and on a fateful day in 1962 Dad went for an interview at the rapidly growing Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. He spent 37 years at The Lab, nearly all in the Spacecraft Assembly Facility or “High Bay.” He loved the work, but he loved the people more.

“Back then everything we did was something no one had ever done before,” he’d say, “So we just figured it out.” He enjoyed meeting with old friends from The Lab at the 3rd Thursdays Club until just a few years ago.

His grandsons, Mitchell and Matthew, were born in the ’90s and along with Jim’s spouse Angela and Allison’s husband Walt, Dad found plenty of reasons to be proud.

The family was close and the grandsons enjoyed Papa’s high praise. When Dad retired, he needed something to do, so Mom made him an unofficial part of the Assistance League of Glendale. He spent the rest of his life as a very happy and useful man helping the ladies by fixing this or that or finding someone who could.

Mom died in 2020 at 91. We worried about Dad, but we needn’t have. The spark in his eye and his good nature won out. Dad would often say that he wasn’t sad that Claire was gone; he was happy that he got to spend 63 years with her. We are glad that we got to spend almost as much time with you, Dad. We’ll miss you, but we will also carry the memories and the dad-isms with us along the way.

At his direction, there will be no services. Should anyone care to donate in his memory, contributions to the Assistance League of Glendale would be most appropriate.