Walter Francis Collins, a former accountant/auditor and a resident of Studio City, CA, died peacefully at home July 15. The cause was complications from cancer. He was 85.
Born Dec 5, 1936 and raised in Boston, MA, he attended local schools there, excelling in math and athletics and also holding an assortment of jobs as a teenager.
Among cherished memories of his New England childhood were sledding on the snow-covered hills of Bartlett Street in Boston, fishing and playing chess with his uncle Tad in the New Hampshire countryside, cheering Ted Williams and the Red Sox from the stands at Fenway Park, and dancing at church basement socials under the (usually watchful) eye of parish priests.
Eventually, Walter enlisted in the Army and was picked for the Signal Corps, spending two years of service in 1959-1961 at the key U.S military base at Tachikawa Airfield outside Tokyo. For the rest of his life he enjoyed engaging in small talk in Japanese whenever he met visitors from that country.
Once returned from abroad, Walter moved to New York City where he studied at Adelphi College and subsequently became an accountant/auditor for various hotels in Manhattan, including the famed Commodore, the Taft and the Gotham. He also found time to take up ballroom dancing, at which he excelled so well that he and a partner won a city-wide competition and was featured on local television.
During that period, he married Patricia Oddo of Long Island and together they had two chiildren, Kathleen and Kenneth. Decades after the couple’s divorce in the 1970s, Walter met Variety journalist Elizabeth Guider in NYC and eventually settled in Los Angeles where she had been transferred by her newspaper.
In addition to their joint discovery of the city’s pleasures, especially the Hollywood Bowl and the Norton Simon Museum, the two enjoyed numerous jaunts along the Central Coast of California. They also frequented all the iconic ballrooms in Southern California, he in particular often mistaken for a professional dancer. Mostly, they just loved Big Band music and the fun of it all, “burning” many a floor in the process.
There were few who encountered
Walter over the years who were not won over by his infectious smile, quick wit and generous spirit. A gentle, unassuming soul, he was unimpressed by the pretentious and the puffed-up—never putting worldly possessions or social position above people.
As one of his longtime friends, Dennis, observed, “Walter marched to his own drum, but never beat it so loudly as to be off-putting.” Above all, he cherished his friends and his family, including Elizabeth’s five siblings and their progeny—and was ever ready to lend a hand to anyone in need.
Later in life, Walter became an avid reader of historical novels about World War II, a connoisseur of film noir, and an astute follower of the stock market.
Perhaps because he spent his youth in another historic American city, Walter grew fond of Elizabeth’s hometown of Vicksburg, MS and its absorbing past. Several years ago, he helped uncover at the town’s Cedar Hill Cemetery the “lost” headstone of a long-rumored great aunt who had purportedly died as a child right after the Civil War. (Indeed, she was interred there!)
Walter was predeceased by his parents, Walter Ernest Collins and Mary Ellen Kelleher Collins, as well as by a nephew, Scott Collins. He is survived by his wife Elizabeth, of both Vicksburg and Los Angeles, as well as by his brother Richard (Mary) Collins of Chesapeake, VA, his son Ken, a senior structural analyst for the U.S. Navy in San Diego, his daughter Kathy (Dr Ron) Benz of Boston and grandson Ron Benz Jr of Dallas, Texas, nephew Keith Collins, niece Sheryl (Bret) Steele and great nephews Ryan Collins, and Patrick and Nathan Steele.
During the two and a half years of Walter’s treatments for cancer, he and Elizabeth were helped by a number of caring people—doctors, nurses, family members, friends and neighbors.
Principal among them, his oncologist at UCLA in Burbank, Dr Karo Arzoo (and his team of top-tier nurses), his long-time primary physician, Dr Michael Marsh, home health professionals at Arpi Therapy (especially Vilbert, Ellen, Julian, Ethel and Armand).
Far-flung friends who went out of their way to keep in constant contact with both Walter and Elizabeth include Giovanni Troianiello and Eileen Tasca of Rome, Italy; Kenith Trodd, Suzy Arthur and Wendy Oberman of London, England; Marlene Edmunds of Amsterdam, Holland; Fred Pajerski of New York City, Donald Patrick of Seattle, Wash; and Dr Monica Petith of Orlando, Fla.
Locally in Vicksburg, Elizabeth would like to thank Virginia Steen Miller, Linda Teller Parker and Pam Jabour Mayfield for their abiding friendship and good advice.
And in Los Angeles, their Studio City neighborhood “family”: Judi Dickerson and Neil Gader, Jodi Rosenbloom and Diana Missadin, Frank and Joan Rauso, Brian and Lisa Richardson, and Dr Ron and Sheri Schott performed countless tasks for them, while longtime friends and associates around SOCAL—Sylvia Tancredi, Gordon Steel, Patricia Frith, Raul and Michelle Garza, and Farrell and Vered Meisel—kept them both on a positive track throughout Walter’s illness.
After a celebration of life in Studio City July 17, Walter will be buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery in Vicksburg. Angeleno Funeral Home in North Hollywood is handling logistics in Los Angeles and Riles Funeral Home is in charge of final rites in Vicksburg. A graveside service is planned for family and friends, the date still pending.
Because Walter believed that cancer is a scourge that needs to be defeated, his family encourages a donation to the American Cancer Society or to any other more targeted entity fighting this disease.
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