Lieutenant Commander Daniel Sayre “Steely Dan” Collier, USN, 72, of Kiowa, Colorado, died September 4th, 2020 in Colorado. A Navy enlisted veteran of the Vietnam War, he went on to earn a commission and his Wings of Gold, flying the CH-46 Sea Knight, UH-1N, and several other aircraft.
He was born to Robert P. and Constance Sayre Collier in Portland, Oregon on November 25, 1947. He spent most of his childhood in Logan, Utah, and first joined the Navy in 1967, training as an Aviation Electronics Technician (AT). Before deploying to Vietnam, though, he met Marsha Andersen through a friend of his who managed the Utah State bowling alley where Marsha’s team practiced. Marsha wasn’t sure she could date a guy with a mustache, but since she decided to marry him after the first date, she got over it. After a chance encounter seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey separately, he asked her to the best (that is to say, only good) Italian restaurant in Logan, where he pulled her chair out ostensibly to seat her, but in reality to dump her on the floor to gauge her reaction. Her reaction was to kick him hard enough to leave a dent for years, which was the right reaction. They saw each other daily for a week, talking of running a horse ranch for pack trips, rodeo, hunting, and Outward Bound outings. They were the loves of each others lives.
Dan had to leave for Vietnam, though. While there he performed a wide variety of duties, including both ground security and hauling duffel bags of huge wrenches from site to site. On his return to the US, he worked to finish his degree at Utah State University. In one of the more surprising events of a surprising life, while Dan was loading horses in a trailer near the family home, a passing motorist honked, and the horse that Dan was leaning over to replace a bridle reared, slamming his head into the roof of the trailer. He received a 6 inch eggshell fracture, un-diagnosed until several days later by Howard Hughes personal physician, and over the next two weeks he both grew two inches and discovered that his eyesight had changed from 20/30 to 20/15. This enabled him to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a Naval Aviator.
Dan and Marsha married in January of 1971, and while after he finished his degree they lived in the Idaho Primitive Area for a while, they decided that he should re-dedicate his career to service, and he went to Pensacola for Aviation Officer Candidate School, where he was commissioned, and moved on through the helicopter syllabus. This was also where Christine was born. From there came orders to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which Dan left for early. Marsha moved back to Salt Lake City, where Andy was born. She then proceeded to Cuba. The tour at Guantanamo presented opportunities professional (training Q Company, the NAS security force) and personal (leave in Haiti and discovering sauce rouge). From there, to NAS Oceana, near Norfolk VA. The weather was a big change: Dan found himself taking the duty during blizzards because he had a Jeep and could get in, and not being relieved for days, because the other duty sections could not get in.
Dan’s first bout with cancer came at Oceana. He was told in no uncertain terms that he would die. He begged to differ, however, and it proved not to be the case. Health problems stemming from his cancer treatment made continuing to fly an extreme challenge, though, so he was re-designation as an Aeronautical Engineering Duty Officer, the field in which he spent the rest of his naval career. This was still a great loss to the flying Navy: when a UH-1N Dan was co-piloting suffered a tail rotor transmission failure in a high hover, Dan took control of the aircraft instinctively and managed to land it without fatalities, despite that failure at altitude being considered non-survivable according to the tech manuals.
He moved on to Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 135 in Washington State, near where his parents had moved. But the move was swiftly followed by a deployment to the Far East on USS KITTY HAWK (CV63), where he made several life-long friends, but still worked to maintain contact with his family through another deployment.
In 1984 came orders to Naval Air Station Cubi Point in the Phillippines, where Dan showed forth in additional ways his call to service, resurrecting the Subic Bay Scouting program, acting as both Troop Committee Chair and Scoutmaster at various times. They also took family trips around the Far East, but did get one just for the two of them.
Return to the United States brought a shore assignment at NAS Alameda, where Dan’s superb leadership and managerial skills took the Air Intermediate Maintenance Department from a grade of Unsatisfactory in Occupational Safety to “best program I’ve seen” in 13 months. He also provided coordinating support to Bay Area communities affected by the Oakland Earthquake while acting as Commanding Officer of the NAS when all his seniors were stranded on the other side of downed bridges.
After retiring, Dan moved from selling cars to stockbroker, always keeping the goal of his own ranch with Marsha in sight. He retired from Charles Schwab to Kiowa to operate the Collier Carriage Company, which offered horse-drawn carriage services, hayrides, and wedding horses. Dan also enjoyed continuing to provide a Christmas Santa, but now with a full natural beard.
Dan was preceded in death by his father, Robert P. Collier of Bellingham, WA. He is survived by his mother, Constance, of Bellingham WA; wife, Marsha Andersen Collier, daughter Christine Lux (Christopher), son Andrew (Sheri), grandsons Evan Bryce Lux, 16, Cadet 4th Class Robert Collier, USMA, 18, Connor Collier, 15, and mother-in-law, Kathleen Olsen of Scipio, UT.
In LIEU of flowers, the family requests that you donate to the Go Fund Me account. http://gf.me/u/yw92q3 Raising Hay and Fences
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