On May 21, 2021 at 8:58 PM, surrounded by his family, Wilbert “Tom” Collins, Jr. age 84 of Cypress, Texas, drew his last labored breath and assumed his rightful place around the throne of Jesus.
Just like a story from an old-time picture show, Tom’s life was built from hard times and tempered by love. He was born to Wilbert Thomas and Letha Alford Collins on August 27, 1936 in Galivants Ferry, South Carolina. From a very young age Tom worked alongside his Daddy as a sharecropper in the tobacco fields to help support his family, which included his 6 brothers and sisters. There was no shortage of toughness when it came to Tom who at the age of 10 had to be held down by his father while having his appendix removed without being put to sleep!
As so many men did in those days, Tom dropped out of school during his 6th grade to take on more responsibilities on the farm. At the age of 18, he joined the U.S. Navy and served 8 years, 6 aboard the U.S.S. Bremerton working in the engine room and 2 on shore duty in Bainbridge, Maryland. His service included time during the Korean War. Still remembering and using those early life lessons, Tom sent much of his money home to his parents.
On July 4, 1959 shockwaves were felt by young ladies in every Port as Tom who was attending the wedding of his shipmate would meet the love of his life, Mary Lou Lederer. They wed on January 14th, 1961 and celebrated their 60th anniversary this year.
Accustomed to hard work, he completed a correspondence course and became an Air Conditioning Technician. With his new trade he left the Navy to spend more time with his young family, which at that time included two sons who would become his best friends. Not long afterward the crickets chirped, and a baby girl was born and she would quickly became the sparkle in her daddy’s eyes.
Over the span of Toms career, he had the opportunity to work at Nasa, started his own air conditioning and plumbing business and after years of hard physical labor became an analyst for Lockheed Martin.
As the years went on, that undying devotion to family continued to be ever present in Tom’s life.
He and Mary Lou agreed to retire early and return to Montana where they would be with Mary Lou’s mother until her passing in 2013.
Tom is survived by his loving wife of 60 years, Mary Lou Lederer Collins; three children, Dwayne (Lawana), Steve (Vivian) and Letha (Wayne); twin brothers, Leslie and Wesley; sister, Linda; 6 grandchildren, Krystin (Paul), Nick (Mylien), Ashley (Jose), Amber, Josh, Katie (Bobby), Courtney (Cory) and Ashley Rose; 10 great grandchildren, Madelynn, Cameron, Ally, Gabriel, Evelyn, Greyson, Cody, Casey, Ciara and a new baby girl later this year; many nieces, nephews and close friends.
Tom was greeted in Heaven by his Mom and Dad; sisters, Ruby Jane, Jackie, Joyce and Jewel; brother, David; in addition to several old friends that went on to Glory first.
Tom will and should be best remembered as a kind and gentle man, excellent husband, father, Grandpa, Pepop and Grampy. A man who never met a stranger, called everyone Babe and had many lifelong friends. Tom seemed to effortlessly make everyone around him feel special.
Toms’ hobbies, aside from being a constant flirt, included but were not limited to… reading, fishing, reading, camping and did I mention reading? Tom was an excellent artist who loved to draw. Tom, as you know from early in this writing was nothing if not persistent! The best example of this was the hours upon hours he tortured his kids & neighbors while learning to play the guitar (in the front yard) with MANY renditions of, for some, what used to be a coveted favorite, Skip to My Lou.
Tom was a member of the Knights of Columbus and a former Commander for the VFW.
Tom, you will be missed by all of us… See ya later Babe!...
Vigil services will be held Wednesday, June 2, at 7pm at the Pondera/Asper Funeral Home. Funeral mass will be Thursday, June 3, at 10am at St. Michael's Catholic Church.