Donald Eugene Collins died on Nov. 30, 2022, at age 85, after a gradual decline following challenges with chronic kidney disease. Don was born in Del Norte, Colo., on April 11, 1937, and was the son of Thomas (T.A.) Collins and Loretta (Mabry) Collins, and grew up in Monte Vista, Colo. Don was class president at Monte Vista High School, where he met his future wife, Edith McFadden.
Don joined Edith at the University of Denver, and the two were married in December of 1958. After graduation, Don obtained his M.Div. degree from Iliff School of Theology in Denver and accepted his first position as a campus minister at Bemidji State College in Bemidji, Minn. Following that job, he moved to the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, working in campus ministry there from 1966-1987. Don then served as pastor of Church of the Good Hope United Methodist Church in Milwaukee, Wis., until his retirement in 1994.
Throughout his life, Don was an activist for social justice. In 1963, he went with a group of colleagues to the March on Washington, where he heard Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Don’s calming nature helped defuse tensions between students and police at UW-Oshkosh during protests against the U.S. war in Vietnam. In 1968, Don was an alternate delegate for presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. While in Oshkosh, Don was also very engaged in local community politics, serving on the Winnebago County Board.
Don’s passion for spirituality evolved over time and led him to write two books: “Like Trees That Grow Beside a Stream: Praying through the Psalms” (1991) and “The Reign of God Is In Your Midst: Praying the Gospel of Luke” (1993). Don also had a life-long passion for history that manifested in genealogical research, with a primary focus on the Mabry family. This research resulted in three highly detailed books on the Mabrys: “The Mabry Family” (1987), “American Journeys: Stories of Our Ancestors” (2001), and “The Mayburys” (2011). He also maintained a regular newsletter, website, and extensive correspondence with other researchers.
Following Don’s retirement, he and Edith moved back to Colorado, building a home that Don designed in the mountains near Bailey. After 10 years there, they moved to the Wind Crest Senior Living Community in Highlands Ranch, Colo., where Don taught classes on genealogy and progressive Christian theology. Don’s family is especially grateful for the compassion and dedication of the continuing care staff at Wind Crest during the last months of his life.
Don is survived by his wife of 63 years, Edith (McFadden) Collins, son Dave (Woodbury, Minn.), daughter Sara (Woodbury, Minn.), son John (Canton, N.Y.), and five grandchildren.
A celebration of Don’s life is pending. Memorial gifts are welcome in Don’s name to The Nature Conservancy in Colorado.