Walter M. Collins, 99, died August 22, 2017 at McLean in Simsbury, CT. Walter was born at the family farm in Hazardville (Enfield), CT on November 6, 1917 to Marshall and Jennie Haigh Collins. He grew up with the day-to-day challenges and hard work of a dairy and poultry farm. These experiences shaped the direction of his life and future career. Walter was a proud veteran who served in the Quartermaster Corps of the U.S. Army for five years, including time in the European Theater during World War II, and rising to the rank of Captain. During this time he married Charlotte Merriam Cook of West Hartford, CT, whom he first met at a Grange meeting while both were students at UConn.
He earned B.S. and M.S. degrees in Poultry Husbandry from the University of Connecticut and a Ph.D. in Animal Genetics from Iowa State University. In 1951 Walter joined the faculty of the College of Agriculture of the University of New Hampshire in Durham, NH to begin his 32-year career as teacher, researcher, and mentor (known as “Doc”) for 24 graduate students. He and Charlotte welcomed students from a number of countries to join their family for meals, games, and hikes with the hope that the students would enjoy their time in New Hampshire and the U.S. He was the author or co-author of more than 50 peer-reviewed scientific papers in fields that included the genetic aspects of meat quality in poultry and the genetics of cancer susceptibility and cancer regression. Never content to stop learning, Walter attended several summer short courses on animal and medical genetics held in Bar Harbor, ME at the Jackson Laboratory. He was instrumental in helping to establish the first university-wide graduate program in genetics at UNH. Walter was named a Fellow of the Poultry Science Association and was honored with that organization’s prestigious Merck Award for Distinguished Research. After his retirement, he authored “A History of the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station: 1887 - 1987” and was the recipient of a Distinguished Alumnus Award from the UConn College of Agriculture.
His devotion to his work was matched only by his devotion to his family, whom he regularly encouraged to join him (and to try to keep up with him) on New Hampshire’s ski slopes and hiking trails, including many “4,000 Footers” in the White Mountains. In the 1970s Walt and Charlotte built a cabin in the Eastman community in Grantham, NH. Children, grandchildren, and friends spent treasured time at The Barn enjoying the quiet woods, nearby frog pond, and still lake waters for canoeing. He brought precision and attention to detail to much of his life whether analyzing his latest research data, planting and tending his vegetable garden, stacking firewood, or building a stone wall in the backyard. He and Charlotte were long-time active members of the Durham Community Church and he volunteered many hours to Boy Scout Troop 154. He was a dedicated fan of the Boston Red Sox and UNH hockey. Walt maintained his boyhood skill and enthusiasm for the harmonica throughout his life and entertained four generations of family and friends with favorite children’s songs and simple folk melodies.
Walter was pre-deceased by his brothers David, Warren, and Ned Collins and by his sister Marie Graham. He is survived by his wife of 74 years, Charlotte M. Collins of Simsbury, CT; his sister, Frances Whitehead of Washington Depot, CT; and his sister-in-law Elva Collins of Shapleigh, ME. Walter is also survived by his children and their spouses Barbara (Charles) Goodwin of West Hartford, CT; Richard Collins of Lorton, VA; Marilyn (Daniel) Rachlin of Clarksville, TN; and Jerry (Lin) Collins of Evergreen, CO; grandchildren Beth Rachlin; Tyler and Drew Collins; Christopher, Kenneth, and Peter Collins; Deborah, Katy (Alex) and Andrew (Heather) Goodwin; and three great-grandchildren. He is also survived by many nieces and nephews and their families.
The family is deeply grateful that Walt and Charlotte have been embraced with warmth and caring by the McLean community, their home for the past 15 years. The Vincent Funeral Home of Simsbury, CT is handling arrangements. A memorial service will be held at the First Church of Christ in Simsbury, CT on Friday, September 8, 2017 at 10:00 AM. Burial with military honors will take place in the Durham (NH) Cemetery.