Collins, Dr. John Richard

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The grateful family of Dr. John Richard Collins will host a service celebrating his life on Saturday, April 14, at 11 a.m. at the Baylor School chapel in Chattanooga.

It will be followed by a reception on campus at the Headmaster's House.  

 Dr. 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). 

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. 


Combs, James Calvin

Blevins, Edith Michelle

Moore, James "Pete" L.


James Calvin Combs, 90, of Chattanooga, passed away Monday, February 18, 2019. He had lived in the Chattanooga area for most of his life, and was of the Baptist faith. He served his country in ... (click for more)

Edith Michelle Blevins, 56, of Rossville, went home to be with the Lord on Wednesday, February 20, 2019. Born July 21, 1962, she was the daughter of Thomas Gerald and Norma Jean Crook. Michelle ... (click for more)

James “Pete” L. Moore, 79, of Rossville, passed away on Wednesday, February 20, 2019. Arrangements will be announced by Heritage Funeral Home & Crematory, Battlefield Parkway. (click for more)


Obituaries

Combs, James Calvin

James Calvin Combs, 90, of Chattanooga, passed away Monday, February 18, 2019. He had lived in the Chattanooga area for most of his life, and was of the Baptist faith. He served his country in the Navy before retiring in 1965, and was then employed with American National Insurance Company as a district manager before retiring in 1991, after more than 20 years of service. He was ... (click for more)

Blevins, Edith Michelle

Edith Michelle Blevins, 56, of Rossville, went home to be with the Lord on Wednesday, February 20, 2019. Born July 21, 1962, she was the daughter of Thomas Gerald and Norma Jean Crook. Michelle graduated from Lookout Valley School. She was an employee at Orange Grove. She was of the Baptist faith, and was raised in Highland Park Baptist Church. Michelle was preceded in death ... (click for more)

Area Obituaries

Skelton, Evelyn (Chickamauga)

Evelyn Skelton, 87, of Chickamauga, went home to be with the Lord on Wednesday, February 20, 2019, at her residence. Evelyn had lived most of her life in Chickamauga. She was a homemaker who took pride in her hard work. She loved her family, working in the yard, mowing the lawn, gardening, and enjoying what the outdoors had to offer. She was preceded in death by her husband, ... (click for more)

Peters, Vernie (Dalton)

Vernie Peters, age 74, of Dalton, Georgia, departed this life Thursday February 21, 2019 at her residence surrounded by her loving family. Arrangements are by locally owned and operated Ponders Melrose Chapel, Dalton, GA. (706) 226-4002. (click for more)

Breaking News

Hamilton County Schools Closed On Friday; Other Schools Announce Closings Or Delays

Hamilton County Schools will be closed on Friday due to the amount of rain that has fallen in the last few hours and the amount expected between now and tomorrow. School-age child care will be open at seven locations from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. to assist parents. The locations for child care are: Battle Academy, East Brainerd Elementary, East Ridge Elementary, Harrison Elementary, ... (click for more)

City Report Says Ballard Had Pattern Of Sexual Harassment Over Female Trainees; Attorney Says He Looks Forward To Returning To Work

A city report says an instructor over police academies had a pattern of sexual harassment against female cadets. Two female trainees initially filed the complaint against instructor Ricky Ballard. Ballard was suspended earlier this month for 160 hours without pay over the sexual allegations. Four female cadets said they received unwanted hugs from Ballard. They said Ballard ... (click for more)