John Ellsworth Collins, 93, of Parker, Colorado passed away on May 2, 2021, in Denver, Colorado. He was born in Onalaska, Wisconsin on June 18, 1927 to Ellsworth E. “Todgie” and Helen Mary Collins (née Brooks). The second eldest of 4 brothers, John was 8 years old when his mother died. His father later married Gertrude Hodgdon Goodenough and John gained a stepbrother.
In 1944, John enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps by lying about his age - he was only 16 years old. He traveled by train to California to report to Camp Pendleton. In August 1944 he was posted to E Company, 2nd Battalion, 23rd Marines, 4th Marine Division and shipped out to Hawaii. On February 19, 1945, John and his fellow Marines of “Easy” Company hit the black sands on the island of Iwo Jima. John was awarded the Purple Heart for wounds received on March 6, 1945. The words on the Marine Corps War Memorial are “Uncommon Valor was a Common Virtue”. A proud Marine all his life, John displayed that common virtue before Iwo Jima, on Iwo Jima and for the rest of his long life.
After discharge, John returned to Onalaska to complete high school in October 1945. Later, he joined a Navy buddy in Kingsville, Texas where he worked a variety of jobs at the Celanese chemical plant. There he met Josephine Keepers and they married July 12, 1952. John and Jo moved to Austin, Texas where John enrolled at the University of Texas and graduated in 1956 with a Bachelor of Science in Petroleum Engineering.
Joining Standard Oil of Texas, which became Chevron Oil, John and Jo lived in Monahans, Texas and Farmington, New Mexico. Their daughter, Margaret “Meg” Collins was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1958. As John worked in the “oil patch”, the family moved to Houston and later Snyder, Texas. Always fascinated with flight, John learned to fly in Snyder and briefly owned a single engine Piper airplane. When he was promoted to sales and utilization, he was transferred to Houston, Texas, Denver, Colorado and New Orleans, Louisiana.
After 30 years with Chevron Oil, John and Jo moved to San Antonio, Texas where in retirement, John continued to consult for the industry. He and Jo traveled to visit Meg in England. On May 8, 1989, John’s wife of 37 years passed away from cancer. John continued to travel to England and Alaska and often returned to visit Denver.
In 1991, a mutual neighbor introduced John to Bonnie Winters and as they embraced life anew, they began traveling together. Often, they traveled to conferences for Bonnie’s profession as Chief Nurse Anesthetist VA Health. While traveling on the Orient Express train to Venice, John proposed to Bonnie and they married April 24, 1993 in San Antonio, Texas.
John became more active in the USMC Association and joined the Iwo Jima 50th Anniversary Reunion of Honor tour to the island on March 14, 1995. He went up Mt. Suribachi, attended the ceremonies, met up with buddies and honored his fallen comrades on the black sands. He continued to keep in touch with his fellow 4th Division Marines until recently. John also participated and contributed his story to recorded archival interviews, as well as “American’s Youngest Warriors”, a book about underage veterans.
In 2000, John and Bonnie moved to the Denver area to be near Bonnie’s daughter and her husband and later, 2 grandchildren. Meg and her husband returned to the Denver area and there were many happy years of fun family gatherings with the extended family. John caringly helped friends and family make sound decisions to prevent heartache. He was always curious, saved helpful clippings and taught his daughter well.
On April 10, 2020, Bonnie, John’s wife of 27 years, passed away after a long illness. For a time, he lived with daughter Meg and her husband, before moving to assisted living at Lincoln Meadows, Parker, Colorado.
John is preceded in death by his parents; his brothers Edward, Robert, Richard Collins and Chester Goodenough; two wives and many valiant veterans from World War II. John is survived by his daughter Margaret “Meg” Collins (Richard Pegg) of Highlands Ranch, Colorado; step granddaughter Katy Pegg of London, England; stepdaughter Amma Winters Rios (Albert) and grandchildren Alex and Abby Rios of Centennial, Colorado; stepsons Timothy D. Winters (Elaine) of Kentucky; and Craig Iain D. Winters (Diana) of Texas.
Internment will take place at a later date.
The family suggests sending memorial donations to:
The Denver Hospice
8289 E. Lowry Blvd,
Denver, CO 80230
Marine Toys for Tots Foundation
18251 Quantico Gateway Drive
Triangle, VA 22172
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