Paul Franklin Collins (1918-2011)
SK1, USCGR (577-720) SEBAGO Plank Owner Has Crossed Over The Bar...
With sadness I inform all of you that Mr. Paul F. Collins crossed over the bar on July 15. I never had the opportunity to meet him in person, but we corresponded and talked on the phone several times about SEBAGO, SUPCEN Brooklyn, and the men that followed Cdr Evor Kerr from Brooklyn to assignments on Owasco Class cutters.
Plank Owner Certificate One of our oldest shipmates crossed over the bar on Wednesday, July 13. Although I never had the opportunity to meet with Paul Collins in person I did talk with him several times while planning the 2009 reunion. He sent me several photos and artifacts that helped describe the life of a Coastie toward the end of World War II.
One of those items was a copy of a Western Union telegram sent by Paul back to his wife on May 1, 1945. It announced his safe arrival in California for assignment, along with several other elisted men from SUPCEN Brookyln, to Owasco Class cutters, including SEBAGO. The text of the message reads; "Just arrived now the excitement starts. Will write today all my love Paul."
Paul related to me in one conversation how Cdr Kerr, SEBAGO's first Commanding Officer, pulling about 20 men from SUPCEN Brooklyn to California to man the Owasco Class cutters. He explained that many of the men wanted to have some sea duty in the records before the end of the war and that Kerr's fine reputation as a sailor made them want to follow him to the 255's.
Collins and seven other men had been traveling by train from Brooklyn to Alameda since April 27th with SEBAGO plankowner BMC Victor Suchocki the senior elisted of the group. Chief Richard Riggs, SK1 Walter Kelly, BM1 Raymond White, and CM2 Clinton Veale were the other SEBAGO plankowners of that group. Their travel orders were very specific about security measures and "further warned agains the intemperate use of intoxicants" while under travel orders.
So, many men that began their CG Reservist careers as supply clerks went to Californa and learned how to be seaborne warriors. Unfortunately, it appears that SEBAGO never even sailed with all of the plank owners aboard. Collins and his group spent their first weeks at Alameda training on various pieces of equipment and then were dispersed to pre-commissioning duties. SEBAGO's crew officially manned her in September of '45. But ALCOAST 120 of 11 October 1945 directed an expedited release of non-essential personnel based upon a 'points' program, and when Collins was discharged on January 28, 1946, SEBAGO was still in drydock awaiting final equipment installations.
At this point I believe only two of SEBAGO's plankowners remain with us; Lester Sanderson, and Bainbridge Leland. The burden now really does shift to the youngest Sebago Sailors to keep the heritage alive.
Paul was educated in the Delmar public schools, earning varsity letters in basketball, and graduated in 1936. He continued his education in Goldey College in Wilmington, from which he was a member of the Phi Theta Pi International Commerce Fraternity. He graduated in the Class of 1939.
Upon graduation, he went to work with Hercules Powder Co. in Wilmington. In October 1940, he was transferred to Belvidere, N.J., where Hercules was building a smokeless powder plant for the British government. He was the shipping clerk at the plant when he entered the U.S. Coast Guard in August 1942. He served his country until January 1946. During this period, he was on the precommissioning detail of the ship USCGC Sebago and, thereby, became a "plank owner" of that ship. These ships were built to be used to invade Japan, which never happened due to Japan's surrender. The "plank owner" distinction was historical since it dated back to the times when ships were constructed of wood.
After returning from the service, he joined his father-in-law in the operation of Hazletts' Hatchery, a combination of chicken hatchery and farm store, becoming manager of the business. Along with his wife, they purchased the business and operated it as a family business for 38 years.
Paul's interests revolved around his family, church and community. He served the United Methodist Church in Belvidere for more than 50 years in many capacities. Notably at one time or another he was lay leader, president of the Board of Trustees, chairman of the Finance Committee, pastor Parish Committee and for many years was the financial secretary of the church.
In the community he was a Cub Scout and Boy Scout committee leader for many years and was a member of the American Legion Post 131, charter member of the Belvidere Ambulance Corps, served on the Belvidere Board of Education and on the town Shade Tree Commission. He helped to form the Meals On Wheels program in Belvidere and, along with his wife, volunteered with the program until her passing. He was presented with the Rotary Club's Service Above Self award in 1972 and the Lion's Club's Community Service Award in 1986.
After his wife passed away, Mr. Collins moved back to the Eastern Shore in 1997 to be closer to his family. He was a member of St. Stephen's United Methodist Church in Delmar, where he volunteered with the Christian Kitchen. He was also an active member of the Mason Dixon Woodworkers Club, making toys for needy children and volunteered with Meals On Wheels for Shore Up! and MAC Inc., delivering meals in Delmar and Salisbury.
In addition to his beloved wife, Irene Hazlett Collins, who passed away in 1995, he was preceded in death by his brothers, John A., William S. and Walter Collins; and sisters, Dorothy Collins and Virginia Collins Hastings.
Paul is survived by his son, Paul Edward Collins and wife, Donna; and his daughter, June Collins Brittingham and husband, Henry. He is also survived by three grandchildren, Shawn, Leah and Evan Collins. In addition to his children, Paul is survived by several nieces and nephews and cousins.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to either Belvidere United Methodist Church, 219 Hardwick St., Belvidere, N.J. 07823; St. Stephen's United Methodist Church, 101 E. State St., Delmar, Del. 19940; or Coastal Hospice, PO Box 1733, Salisbury, Md. 21802.