William G. Collins, 97, passed in his sleep at Country View Senior Residence, North Liberty, on Sunday, Aug. 14, 2016. Born in Roxbury, Mass., in 1918, he graduated from Medford (Mass.) High School and a obtained a degree in animal husbandry from the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at the University of Massachusetts. Before the war, he was employed as a milk tester, traveling to farms throughout southern New England. After entering the Army Air Corps during World War II, he was trained for and flew 55 missions in the Pacific Theater as a navigator, mostly aboard a B24 bomber nicknamed "Pappy's Passion," part of the Jolly Rogers Heavy Bomb Group, seeing action in New Guinea, Luzon, Borneo, the Western Pacific, the Bismark Archipelago, China, the Southern Philippines, and in the air offensive over Japan. Just prior to going overseas, he married his sweetheart, Eleanor Harrington, in Tonopah, Nev.
After the war, he was employed for a time as herd master at Eolia-the-Edward and Mary Harkness Estate, located on Connecticut's Long Island Sound (now the Harkness Memorial State Park). Subsequently, after a brief foray into produce cartage, he went to work for the USDA Farmers Home Administration, serving as county supervisor in Windham County, Connecticut, and then, in 1958, transferring to the same position in Addison County, Vermont, taking up residence in Middlebury. In that capacity, during the early-1960s, he facilitated financing for the Tri-Town Water District, the first USDA-financed rural water district in the country. Upon completion, he led a helicopter tour of the project for President Lyndon Johnson and the ranking members of the Congressional and Senate Agriculture committees. Subsequently, the Tri-Town project served as a model for the financing of hundreds of Rural Water Districts throughout the United States. During the early 1970s, he was promoted by the Farmers Home Administration to the position of chief of farmer programs for the New England states, in which capacity he served the rest of his career, retiring in 1976.
In retirement, he was elected and re-elected several times to the position of side judge in Addison County Superior Court, serving in that role for a dozen years. Also in retirement, he served as a board member and treasurer of Elderly Services of Addison County, an organization dear to his heart, and one that he helped build from inception into a major community asset. He was a life member of the Knights of Columbus, the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
In his immediate family, he was preceded in death by his parents, William and Lillian; his brother, Fred; his wife of 64 years, Eleanor; a daughter, Eleanor Lea Collins; and a daughter-in-law, Mary Aye Collins.
He is survived by a son, William of Vero Beach, Fla.; and son, James, daughter-in-law, Susan, and two grandchildren, Kathleen and Virginia, of Coralville.
To the end, he was a cherished uncle to many nieces and nephews and held dear by others in his extended family. He leaves many friends in New England and in Coralville, where he spent the last five years of his life.
A service will be scheduled in Middlebury, Vt., at a later time. Memorials may be directed to Elderly Services Inc., 112 Exchange St., P.O. Box 581, Middlebury, VT 05753; or Iowa City Hospice, 1025 Wade St., Iowa City, IA 52240.
Online condolences may be directed to the family at www.iowacremation.com under Obituaries.
Posted on Tuesday, 16 August 2016