Ruth Eileen Collins, 97, of Fitchburg, Mass., died in the home in which she lived for more than 75 years. Raised on a farm near Mt. Gilead, Ohio, she moved at age 12 with her family to Fitchburg where she graduated Fitchburg High School in 1939 with a “Gold F” (4.0 GPA), became a hairdresser, and met a young Army soldier from Ohio at a dance in the Whalom Park Ballroom for soldiers from Fort Devens. Shortly after their wedding in 1942, Fred A. Collins Jr., shipped out to World War II, sending lovely letters to his bride every day, which Eileen spent much of her time rereading after his death in 2004 until hers on November 19, 2019.
When her husband returned to Officer Candidate School, the couple lived in Rockford, Ill., where Eileen worked in an aircraft parts plant in support of the war effort, then New Jersey and New York before making their post-war home in Fitchburg, where Eileen, an only child, looked after her now-single mother, while raising a family of five children, and working as a hairdresser out of her home.
She gardened like a competitor, and could keep a grudge over the outcome of judging at county and grange fairs. She played a decent piano, even though her husband – for reasons never fully explained – painted it pink. She loved the ocean and infrequent trips to the horse track where she handicapped horses by picking the one with a nice name.
She would not allow alcohol in her house, a rule so important that even well into adulthood, her children would sneak to the family’s nearby barn to enjoy an occasional brew with their dad.
In recent years she volunteered at Sunrise Assisted Living Center, playing Rummikub with residents as a grand master, although her consistent victories may have something to do with the fact her family and friends had been warned about the perils of beating her at any game.
A stubborn yankee with great humor and a laugh to die for, she vowed to stay in her home full of memories long after experts said she should. So an inexhaustible and wonderful group of helpers, friends, and neighbors rallied to make her last wish possible. At the time of her death, she maintained her faculties enough to be disgusted with the Boston Red Sox.
In addition to her husband, her mother, Helen McFarland, and father Harley McFarland, she was predeceased by her oldest son, Michael Lee Collins, and her granddaughter, Jennifer Collins.
She is survived by her daughter Cheryl Collins and her husband, William Bain of Stow, Maine; daughter Wendy Collins of Brattleboro, Vermont; son William and his wife Felice, of Princeton, Massachusetts; son Robert and his wife Carolie, of Woodbury, Minnesota, and grandchildren Ben Stickney of San Diego; Sara Stickney Hanken and her husband Jeremy, of Gorham, Maine; William Collins Jr. of Fitchburg ; Dan Collins, of Oakland, California; Erik Collins, of Philadelphia; Sean Collins and his wife Ashley, of St. Paul, Minnesota; Patrick Collins and his wife Mindy, of Oakdale, Minnesota; Helen Suntag of Philadelphia; Isaac Suntag, of Oakland, California; and great grandchildren Benjamin Stickney, Jack Stickney, and Aubrey Stickney, of Lexington, South Carolina; and Philip Jeremy of Gorham, Maine.
A Celebration of Life will be held at the Rollstone Congregational Church in Fitchburg on April 4, 2020 at 11:00 AM. Eileen loved flowers so in her memory we ask that you make someone's day today by giving a bouquet or just a blossom.
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