Wal­ter Paul Collins

Suc­cess­ful in­sur­ance agent also en­joyed writ­ing po­etry and own­ing and train­ing thor­ough­bred race­horses

Baltimore Sun - - OBITUARIES NATION - By Tim Pru­dente tpru­dente@balt­sun.com

Wal­ter Paul Collins, who col­lected bot­tles in Baltimore to help his fam­ily through the De­pres­sion, and later owned thor­ough­bred race­horses, pub­lished po­etry and earned dis­tinc­tion as an in­sur­ance agent, died Oct. 31 at his daugh­ter’s Cock­eysville home of com­pli­ca­tions from a bro­ken hip. He was 92.

Mr. Collins was most proud, as he would tell his three chil­dren, as well as friends and neigh­bors, of mar­ry­ing Doris Anne Cop­ple­man in 1952, who died in 2001. Even when his health de­te­ri­o­rated, he re­mained in their home in Ste­wart­stown, Pa., to be near her grave, fam­ily mem­bers said.

“For a num­ber of years, we asked him to come down and live with one of us. He wanted to stay. He would not leave her,” said a son, Ti­mothy Collins of Baltimore.

“He couldn’t talk enough about his wife. He just praised her and gave her many ac­co­lades. His love for her was pretty much — I can’t ex­plain it,” said Denny Cooper, his neigh­bor in Ste­wart­stown since the late 1980s.

Mr. Collins was born in Baltimore, one of eight chil­dren, to Fletcher and Marie Collins. Fletcher Collins, a grad­u­ate of the Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy, per­formed metal work be­fore a de­bil­i­tat­ing eye in­jury.

The De­pres­sion hit the fam­ily hard. As a boy, Mr. Collins col­lected and washed glass bot­tles for money and sold mag­a­zines door-to-door. As a teenager, he worked as a soda jerk at Lem­ler’s phar­macy. He grad­u­ated from Baltimore’s St. Martin Catholic High School in 1942, where in his se­nior year he coached the ju­nior var­sity base­ball team to a cham­pi­onship sea­son. He would re­main a base­ball fan, par­tic­u­larly of the Baltimore Ori­oles, through­out his life.

The day he met Doris Anne Cop­ple­man be­came fam­ily leg­end.

Dur­ing World War II, she worked at a ware­house in down­town Baltimore. Mr. Collins worked for Gen­eral Mills Inc. and no­ticed her across the floor.

“Dad told the story ev­ery time you met him,” Ti­mothy Collins said. “Dad says, ‘Who is that girl?’ The guys told him, ‘That’s Doris. Do you know her?’ ‘No, but that’s the girl I’m go­ing to marry.”

She was a singer who gave recitals at the Pe­abody In­sti­tute and made her own records. She was also fa­mil­iar with wouldbe suit­ors.

“My mother didn’t want any­thing to do with my fa­ther,” said an­other son, Daniel Collins of Tow­son.

Mr. Collins re­cited Shake­speare to her; she es­caped to the bath­room. He knocked on the door. For weeks, he would bring her bags of black licorice. When a snow­storm trapped her at the ware­house, he drove her home, then car­ried her through the drifts to her door.

Their mar­riage in 1952 lasted un­til her death at 77 from Alzheimer’s dis­ease. He bought her a mar­ble grave­stone two inches wider than any other in the ceme­tery, Ti­mothy Collins said.

The cou­ple raised their two sons and a daugh­ter, Kelly Collins of Cock­eysville, in the Ram­ble­wood neigh­bor­hood of Northeast Baltimore. Ti­mothy Collins re­mem­bers how anx­ious he felt await­ing re­sults of his test for pro­mo­tion in the U.S. Mer­chant Ma­rine in the early 1980s.

“Dad had come out of the house and he had this fierce look in his face. ‘Well, you did it. You re­ally did it.’ ” Ti­mothy Collins said. “I said, ‘What’s the mat­ter?’ He grabbed me by the shoul­ders hugged me and said, ‘You passed that exam, Of­fi­cer Collins.’ ”

Mr. Collins worked from the late 1960s to the early 1980s as an in­sur­ance agent and man­ager at Mon­u­men­tal Life In­sur­ance Co. and MetLife. He re­tired at 62 from Philadel­phia United Life In­sur­ance Co., then taught cour­ses for agents. He earned the Char­tered Life Un­der­writer des­ig­na­tion.

“My fa­ther was a very in­tel­li­gent man, but he grew up in a time that he didn’t have a lot of op­por­tu­nity,” Daniel Collins said.

Mr. Collins owned and trained thor­ough­bred race­horses in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He raced them at tracks in Mary­land and West Vir­ginia. His most suc­cess­ful horse was Tarry Not, a stakes win­ner on the West Vir­ginia rac­ing cir­cuit. Mr. Collins also ran un­suc­cess­fully as a Demo­crat for the Mary­land House of Del­e­gates in 1974.

Through­out his life, he wrote po­ems, and he gath­ered them in a book pub­lished in 2005, “Psalm of a City, Saratoga, and Other Po­ems.” In his poem “In­ter­lude,” he be­gins: “The sky, all thun­dered out, lies wid­owed to the sun. Soft rain’s fin­gers stroke a part­ing ges­ture on my face. I stand as a child watch­ing the day be­gin.”

In 1988, he and his wife moved to Ste­wart­stown, where Mr. Collins grew toma­toes, corn and zuc­chini.

After his wife died, he planted around their house rose­bushes bloom­ing in pink and red; he would pick the roses and place them at his wife’s grave.

Ser­vices will be held at 11 a.m. to­day at J.J. Harten­stein Mor­tu­ary, 19 S. Main St. in Ste­wart­stown. He will be buried be­side his wife. Wal­ter Paul Collins was de­voted to his wife, who died in 2001.

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