“I’se The B’y that sails her”
On January 24, 2022, John Collins passed away peacefully at the University of Alberta Hospital at the age of 86. Born in Lamaline, Newfoundland and Labrador, he was the seventh of fourteen children of Michael and Bridget Collins.
John was predeceased in 2018 by the love of his life and wife of 60 years, Rena Mae. He is survived by his cherished children: Peggi (Tom), Kathy, Linda (Rui), and Sean; ten grandchildren: Chris (Gillian), Dan (Margot), Matthew (Laurel), Michele (CK), Joseph, Aria (Steve), Kai (Emily), Koji, Jonah and Elliot, and seven great grandchildren: Simon, Jeremy, Natalie, Mary, Harvey, James, and Teo.
Jack (as he was known by his family) was predeceased by siblings Mary, Tom, Andrew, Carmel, Mike, Bill, Peter, Bernie, Joan, and Marjorie. He is survived by sister Elizabeth and brothers Max and Paul.
Growing up in Lamaline provided a foundation for an enduring love of Newfoundland. John would regale any who would listen of childhood memories of rowing the family to church in a dory, accompanying his fiddle-playing father on his accordion at many Saturday night affairs along the Burin Peninsula, the annual capelin roll, lobster, fishing, and swimming in the pristine waters of Piercy’s Brook.
John left his job as the manager of the Co-op in Point May (and a side-hustle as a bootlegger) and moved to Edmonton in 1954, he was among the first generation of Newfoundlanders that made the move out west, a pioneer of sorts. A self-made man, his first jobs included delivering milk by horse and carriage and working as a journeyman welder on the Trans Mountain Pipeline. After completing his time with the pipeline, John returned to Edmonton and worked for a brief spell before breaking out on his own, initially fabricating ornamental railings in a small welding shop and selling them door to door. That enterprise grew, joist by joist, and ultimately became Collins Steel Products, which, at the time of its sale to Consolidated New Pacific in the early 1970’s, was one of Edmonton’s then most successful steel fabrication and erection
enterprises, having a work force of over 200 that left its mark on Edmonton’s skyline and industrial areas. Many prominent steel fabrication businessmen began their careers with Collins Steel. Following the sale, John remained with the company for a while before moving on to new things including continuing in business with his brother Mike in a successful land development company. Mike and John complemented each other perfectly in their many business ventures. More importantly, they and their families were and remain the best of friends.
John was the embodiment of working to live and he eschewed many business opportunities in favour of enjoying and living life to the fullest which involved spending time with Rena Mae, their children, relatives near and far and forging deep and enduring friendships. Friends will recall annual sailing, hunting and fishing trips where John would often bring along his concertina accordion and play jigs into the early morning. Much time was spent at the family cabin on Pigeon Lake, respite from the harsh Alberta winters was found in Maui, and later in Mexico. Scarcely a year passed without an extended annual pilgrimage to his sacred homeland of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Nothing was more important to John than family. Despite not being the eldest, John was the patriarch of his family. He was a constant mentor and companion to his brothers, sisters and their children.
John and Rena Mae met on a sunny Sunday night in Edmonton having been invited to Rena Mae’s rooming house at her aunt Martha’s to watch Ed Sullivan. Their relationship flourished quickly and they were wed shortly thereafter. They moved to St Albert in 1963, were active and respected members of the community and made many life-long friends along the way. Their family grew with the arrival of three daughters and a son. John was a loving and generous father. Poppa, as he is known to his grandchildren and great grandchildren, occupied a special and unique place in each and every one of their lives; most of whom spent long summers at the lake learning to sail, waterski and swim with their Poppa on many a splendid and endless summer day.
John was a principled man; a man of faith whose word was his bond. Our loss is indescribable but John’s legacy and Spirit lives on in his family and friends.
A Private Funeral Mass will be held on Saturday, February 5, 2022 at 1:00 pm at the St. Albert Catholic Parish. Interment to follow at the Holy Cross Mausoleum. Extended family and friends who are unable to join in person at the Funeral Mass due to capacity restrictions, are welcome to attend and view the live stream at St. Albert Inn (#156 St.Albert Trail) including a reception. St. Albert Inn is participating in the Restriction Exemption Program. A valid QR Code Proof of Vaccination or a negative COVID 19 test within 72 hours and Photo Identification are required to gain entry.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to a charity of one’s choice.