Paul Everett Collins, 95, died Sunday, September 30, 2012, at Brookview Manor in Brookings, South Dakota.
Paul was born on February 22, 1917 on a farm near White Rock to Eric and Mary (Wiberg) Collins. He attended Goodhue County rural school through the 8th grade and graduated from Cannon Falls High School in 1934. He was captain of the football team and senior class president in 1933-1934. He received American Legion medals for leadership and scholastic achievement. He enrolled in Gustavus Adolphus College in 1935 and graduated magna cum laude in 1939 with educational degrees in history, social science, and chemistry. He taught high school at Bigfork, MN in 1940.
Paul enlisted in the US Army Air Corps in 1941 and graduated from Photo School. He was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in December 1941. He served at Salt Lake City Air Force Base, Geiger Field (Spokane), Davis-Monthan Air Force Base (Tucson), Alamogordo (NM) Air Field, Ephrata (WA) Army Air Base, and Great Falls Air Force Base. He was deployed to North Africa with the 2nd Bomb Group in April 1943 as group Photo Officer. He later served in Foggia, Italy until the end of the war. For meritorious service, he was awarded the Air and Bronze Star Medals. He returned to the States in September 1945 and separated from the Air Corps in January 1946. He stayed in the Air Force Reserve until 1972, retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel.
In 1946, Paul returned to college at the University of Minnesota and studied forestry, earning a BS degree in 1948, MS in 1949, and PhD in 1967. He worked at Kansas State University as an extension forester from 1949-1951. He moved to Brookings in 1951 and joined the faculty of the Horticulture, Forestry, Landscape and Parks Department at South Dakota State University. He taught and conducted research in forestry until retiring in 1983 with Emeritus status. While at SDSU, he received such honors as the John Robertson Memorial Award in Horticulture, Friend of Trees Award, and Award of Merit from the Great Plains Forestry Committee.
Paul married Mildred (Mickey) Johnson on September 4, 1948. They had two children, Patricia and Michael. They were married for 48 years until Mickey's death in 1997.
Paul was a charter member of Ascension Lutheran Church and served as its first president from 1962-1966. He later served as church secretary and on many church boards. He enjoyed singing and was a choir member at Vasa Lutheran Church in Vasa; First Lutheran Church in Brookings; and Ascension Lutheran Church, until age 90. He was also a soloist and sang in a men's quartet at the church.
Paul was a pivotal member of the Brookings Lions Club for 55 years, serving as its president in 1965-1966, leading the club in singing until age 93, and participating in many service activities. He was also a member of Sigma Xi scientific research society and Gamma Sigma Delta (honor society of agriculture). In addition, he remained active as a volunteer driver for the Brookings Volunteer Service Bank and Meals on Wheels, logging more than 500 service hours over 25 years.
Paul was an avid early morning long distance walker. He enjoyed photography, gardening, and crossword puzzles. Until late in life, he took pride in maintaining an impeccable lawn. He loved history. His children struggled to keep him in stock with fresh history books. He and Mickey liked to travel, especially to Civil War sites, and in the process managed to visit every state except Hawaii.
Paul was preceded in death by his parents, wife Mickey, and two sisters, Mildred and Ethel Collins.
He is survived by his children Patricia Collins (Dan Cherryhomes) of Minneapolis and Michael (Isabel) Collins of Elm Grove, WI.
Funeral services will be held 10:30 a.m. Thursday, October 4, at Ascension Lutheran Church in Brookings. Burial is at First Lutheran Cemetery in Brookings. Visitations will be from 5-8 p.m. on Wednesday at Eidsness Funeral Home in Brookings.
Memorials may be directed to Ascension Lutheran Church or to the Collins Scholarship in HFLP administered by the SDSU Foundation.