Willis Collins, accomplished violinist

Willis (Bill) Nelson Collins, born Jan. 17, 1917, died May 28, 2012.

He was born in Palermo to Harlan D. and Lillian B. Collins. He went to school in Fulton, graduating in 1935. He began playing violin at age 11 and played in his high school orchestra as first chair violinist.

He continued his violin as a member of the Skagit Valley Symphony.

After high school, he worked for Oswego Falls Corporation while attending Syracuse University. In June 1941. he joined the U.S. Army Air Corp at Fort Niagara. He got his first taste of this wide open country when he was transferred to Geiger Field in Spokane, Wash. to begin work for the Air Corp Weather Service. Subsequent transfers led him to Seattle, where he spent time at Snoqualmie Pass reporting weather conditions, then back to Spokane to establish a weather history for the base.

He met Betty Jean at a USO dance and was married in Colville July 4, 1943.

He received his orders for the South Pacific Theater in 1943. While in the war, he was stationed in New Guinea, the Philippines and Okinawa. He was discharged at Fort Lewis, Wash. in December 1945. He worked for the U.S. Weather Bureau at Boeing field from 1946 to 1948.

In September of 1948, they established Collins Office Supply serving Skagit and Island Counties. He was a member of Mount Baker Masonic Lodge, Moose Lodge, Elks Lodge, Chamber of Commerce, Merchants Association, Mount Vernon Library Board and Kiwanis International.

He was proud of the work he did helping to start the Kiwanis Salmon Barbecue, which supports the Kiwanis playground and ball fields.

He was as a member of the First United Methodist Church of Mount Vernon. Previously, he belonged to the Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church where he served as a church deacon and sang in the choir for 56 years.

He was preceded by his son, Kevin R Collins; parents, Harlan and Lillian Collins; his sister, Marian; and brothers Frank and Harlan.

He is survived by his wife, Betty Jean; daughter-in-law, Joan Collins; granddaughters, Meredith Anne and Cheryl Elise Collins; and several nieces and nephews.

A celebration of his life was held Friday at the First United Methodist Church, Mount Vernon.

Contributions may be made to the Kiwanis Club of Mount Vernon, the Skagit Valley College Foundation, or the First United Methodist Church Children’s Music Fund.

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