Collins, Dr. John Richard

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Dr. John Richard Collins, Signal Mountain, Tenn., died unexpectedly and peacefully in his sleep on January 26, 2018, after 85+ years of tummy doctoring, worm farming, bargain hunting, finding imaginative new ways to use duct tape, and setting the bar high as a true Renaissance man.

 John (aka Dad, Big John, Gunga) was born during a total eclipse in Nashville, Tennessee at Vanderbilt Hospital on August 31, 1932, to Dr. Claude A. Collins (Doc Collins/Gran Gran) and Winifred Poindexter Collins (Sug), joining older brother Robert Deaver Collins (Bob) in their loving care.

Claiming not to be an enthusiastic student, John often recounted that he “muddled” through Junior Military Academy in Cookeville, Tennessee (learned how to use slingshots to shoot stuff), the McCallie School (Class of ’49) in Chattanooga (learned how to play pranks and complained about the lousy food, while playing guard on the football team and throwing the shot put), Vanderbilt University ’53 (claims of athletic prowess? – see below), and Vanderbilt Medical School ’56 (learned how to draw blood on himself, and other med students too). 

John’s many varied interests included periodically writing and refining his own obituary.  Never mind the fact that he was always in impeccable fitness and health, even as he “went to sleep on his side and woke up in Glory” [his words].  He directed that his obituary “use active verbs” and “avoid those self-serving gross extravaganzas that are 3-column treatises.”  He also railed on obituaries in his local paper that included lengthy recitations of degrees and professional accomplishments, since it’s “too late to impress anyone but the totally gullible and mentally challenged.”  (You be the judge of whether his survivors have failed him here.) 

Though largely unsubstantiated, he claimed a number of “firsts” – “first person in Chattanooga (possibly in Tenn.) to wear clogs without embarrassment,” “first 5-sport athlete in history of Vanderbilt University” [counting intramurals and frat teams?], “first (almost) gastroenterologist in Chattanooga,” and “first person to expand David Ledbetter’s pre-swing golf checkpoints to 12” [this later crept up to 20].

Having dedicated his professional life to identifying and solving spastic colons, John settled into private practice in Chattanooga in 1969, while living on Signal Mtn. since 1972.  Sons Lewis and Rob (and a long line of lazy, coddled golden retrievers) were raised on a diet of Vienna Sausages and Deviled Ham, forced marches called “family hikes,” and whitewater canoe trips down frigid and un-scouted rivers throughout the Southeast.  John sometimes even remembered to bring the paddles.

At Erlanger Hospital and as a founder of the Gastroenterology Lab in Chattanooga, where he performed something like 10 million colonoscopies, John’s patients recall his remarkable empathy for them as human beings, and his genuine interest in them and their families (“you have to be an advocate for your own health, don’t trust the system”).  In addition to his extraordinary bedside manner, his patients, fellow physicians and family members recall a level of old-school care that is not commonly seen.  He frequently gave out his home number, and free care for those who couldn’t afford it.

He enjoyed crossword puzzles, SEC football, opera music, bacon, picking up pieces of trash “to do my part,” boxed wine, fishnet undershirts, planting flower bulbs for other people, Charles Barkley, chopping wood, FreeCell, the annual family March Madness pool, and Demi Moore.  But he mostly liked teasing his grandchildren, while simultaneously spoiling them with small bills and a bottomless supply of free candy (often delivered by the “trail bunny”).

He disliked managed care, the Atlanta airport, call waiting, and school reunions (since his classmates were “old”), and never wanted to be a burden.  Though he once owned a cell phone, his lifetime total of text messages and social media postings is 0.

Family and friends describe him as kind, fit, patient, compassionate, optimistic, frugal, generous, wise, and funny.  One patient reportedly described him as “statuesque.”

John’s survivors include his “patient” wife Susan, “loyal” sons and their “wonder women” wives, Lewis and Cary Collins of Wellesley, Mass. and Rob and Denise Collins of Chattanooga, and four grandchildren -- Taylor Collins (“a vision of fashion”), Luke Collins (“gentleman chicken farmer”), Mae Collins (“world’s greatest reader”) and Ambrose Collins (“best ballerina in the Nutcracker”).  Survivors also include his sister-in-law Elizabeth Cate “Boo” Collins of Nashville; his beloved nephews, nieces and their families -- Deaver and Rebecca Collins (Nashville), Richard and Margit Roos-Collins (Berkeley, CA), Elizabeth Collins and Steve Webster (Lincoln, MA) and William and Jan Collins (Berkeley, CA)); and Susan’s “girls” (each of whom John instructed how to change a flat tire before she was allowed to drive), and their growing families -- Kelly and Bart Dyer (Canton, GA); Beth and Ben Aplin (Nashville); and Anne Louise and Chris Wooster (Nashville). 

John’s grateful family will host a service celebrating his life on April 14, 2018 in Chattanooga (time/location TBD).

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to John’s favorite local organization, Signal Mountain Library, 1114 James Blvd., Signal Mtn., TN 37377. 

For today, please just raise a glass of your choosing – Gunga, you will be missed. 

 

 



McCorkle, Thelma Louise Langston

Thelma Louise Langston McCorkle, 75, of Ooltewah, passed away Monday February 19, 2018. A lifelong resident of the North Georgia Chattanooga area, she was a former employee of Dixie Industries, where she worked for nine years. She is preceded in death by her husband, James L. McCorkle; parents, Clarence Edward and Vertle Lee Land Langston; and brother, Howard Langston. She ... (click for more)

Thacker, Pamela Denise

Pamela Denise Hannah Thacker passed away on Monday, February 19, 2018. She was born in LaFayette, Ga., on Dec. 21, 1953. Denise was preceded in death by her parents, Reverend Dennis and Dorothy Hannah, and her brothers, Ronald, Donald, and Carl Hannah.  Survivors include her son, Eric Thacker; brother, Jim Hannah; granddaughter, Xoe Thacker; several nieces ... (click for more)

Lewis, Melody (Dalton)

Melody Lewis, 47, of Dalton, Georgia, departed this life February 14, 2018 at a local hospital. She was born Sept. 1, 1970 in Masawa, Japan, a daughter of the late Eddie James and Mary Burnita Fulmer.  She is survived by her sons, Travis Beck, Rocky Lee Beck of Dalton, Xavier Lewis of Anderson, S.C.; daughter, Christian Anglea Maria Lewis; brother and sister-in-law, ... (click for more)

Henderson, Gail Renee (Cleveland)

Gail Renee Henderson, 55, of Cleveland, Tennessee, passed away on February 20, 2018. She was born on June 15, 1962, in Pontiac, Mi. Renee has been a resident of Cleveland for 31 years, after moving here from Drayton Plains, Mi. to attend Lee University. She was an employee of Lee University, where she worked for the Office of Admissions. Those who knew Renee were very fond of ... (click for more)

Witness Says Christopher Turner Shot Jamichael Eddins Multiple Times After He Was Already Down At Carousel Road

Police said Christopher Lashawn Turner stood over 24-year-old Jamichael Eddins on Carousel Road late Tuesday afternoon and fired multiple shots into him after shooting him moments before.   Turner, 26, of 1203 Sholar Ave., was charged with criminal homicide, aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and possession of a firearm.   Randall Davenport, 28, was ... (click for more)

County Commission Approves Sizable Pay Increase For Magistrates

The County Commission has approved a sizable pay raise for its four magistrates, taking them from the current $66,000 per year to $92,000 by 2021. The raises will take effect beginning with new terms for magistrates. Two of the current magistrates are up for re-appointment in May. Their pay level will become $80,000. It will rise by $4,000 per year until reaching the $92,000. ... (click for more)