Ben’s favorite homily was “I’ve gone to look for myself. If I should return before I get back, keep me here.”
Ben Collins took a fascinating path through life. Born 1940 in Chattanooga, Tenn., to Benjamin, a Baptist minister, and Nancy Jones, an educator who shared a love of learning with Ben and his younger brother, Jim. Ben learned to approach life as an adventurer, explorer and seeker of knowledge and to share what he knew. He graduated from Carson Newman College with a degree in history, which became a lifelong passion. He headed east to teach junior/senior high school history in Prince Georges County, Md., where he met his wife and partner, Judy. Together, the couple joined the Peace Corps and were assigned to Turkey, where they became immersed in the fascinating history and culture of Turkey and surrounding countries.
Upon their return, Ben joined the teaching staff of Surrattsville High School, where he was awarded the Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher Award given by the Washington Post. Ben became the father of Chris and David and shared his love of travel with them. Among our best memories are trips to the Capitols and Bullets games accompanied by our favorite friends and our father. Who else would take a bunch of elementary kids to a game alone? Along the way, he received a master’s degree in area studies from Georgetown University and enjoyed all that Washington, D.C., had to offer. Many summers, he escorted groups of high school students to various foreign destinations, sharing with them his immense knowledge of the history and culture and imparting to them his inquisitive desire to learn. He truly believed and taught that “for our day and our children’s day, education must become a continuing adventure in human understanding, shared by all” quote of Harry S. Truman, one of Ben’s favorites.
When retirement time arrived, they chose Pagosa Springs as their home while keeping touch with the many friends and students who have crossed their paths. His life was a tapestry of people from all walks of life with whom he always treated with dignity while accepting individual differences. Ben had lots of time to read and continue his search of knowledge and enjoy new friends he made here.
Ben leaves behind his wife, Judy; son Chris and his wife, Maria; and son David and his wife, Sandi; and granddaughters Christina and Damia, as well as his brother, Jim. He will be dearly missed by all of those who called him Mr. Collins, Dad, Grand Daddy and Gentle Ben. As the sign on his desk says, “keep smiling, it makes people wonder what you are up to.”