SANTEE, SC- Tom Humphrey Collins, a Presbyterian minister and husband of Leslie Collins, died on January 26 at McLeod Regional Hospital Medical Center in Florence, South Carolina. He was 74.
Mr. Collins had suffered ill health for the past year due to Wegener’s disease, a rare auto-immune disorder, coupled with cardiovascular disease in the final months of his life.
Tom Collins frequently expressed that he had found three great loves in his life: his wife, Leslie, the Christian church, and Rutgers University, his alma mater. He was a joyful man who found satisfaction serving his parishioners, laughing with his friends and family, and fishing for bass in any lake or pond where he was permitted.
Tom Collins was born in 1943, in Morristown, N.J., to Harry Benjamin Collins and Meredith Mable Collins. As a boy, Tom loved the outdoors around his rural New Jersey home - trapping, fishing, and horseback riding - and became one of the youngest Eagle Scouts in his home state’s history.
He attended Rutgers College where he earned a B.A. in 1966. He often recounted his experience at Rutgers as a tremendous challenge, but he credited it with instilling in him a love of education which he carried for the remainder of his life. He was a passionate fan of the school’s football team whose home games he often attended. Win or lose, Tom stayed until the end of the game to proudly sing his school’s alma mater.
After a few years of teaching, Tom Collins felt his call to the ministry and attended Princeton Theological Seminary where he earned a Master of Divinity in 1975. He was ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1976 and later earned a Doctor of Ministry from Drew University.
Around the same time that he was beginning seminary, he was reunited with Leslie Mullen who he had known since childhood at their home church in New Vernon, N.J. They were married in 1973, and he spent the next 44 years by her side. Tom often said that Leslie was the best thing that had happened in his life.
After his ordination, Mr. Collins served jointly as the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church and the Second Presbyterian Church of Oxford, N.J. where his first son, Eli, was born in 1979.
In 1981, Tom moved to Scranton, PA with his young family to become pastor of the Hickory Street Presbyterian Church. His second son, Levi, was born soon after, and Mr. Collins would remain at Hickory Street for 32 years. In 2015, Mr. Collins was recognized as Pastor Emeritus at the Hickory Street Presbyterian Church in honor of his three decades of service and stewardship.
During his time in Scranton, Mr. Collins ministered not only to his loving congregation, but also to the poor, the outcast, and the forgotten through his founding of the Bread Basket of Northeast Pennsylvania, his work in prison ministry, and his organization of the annual CROP walk for hunger among countless other acts of compassion, charity, and outreach.
Mr. Collins was a devoted pastor, an erudite preacher, and a joyful presence in his community. He organized ecumenical worship services with other Christian congregations and cherished his many friendships in the church and in the ministry.
In 2011, Tom and Leslie moved to South Carolina where he became pastor of the Santee Presbyterian Church. There they found another loving and open-hearted community. They enjoyed walking their dogs by the pond near their house, improving their beautiful home, and spending time with their new friends and neighbors.
Tom was also blessed with the birth of two adorable grandsons, Colman and Noah, who he cherished visiting at their home in Philadelphia.
Tom Collins is survived by his loving wife Leslie, his sons Eli and Levi Collins, and daughter-in-law Elizabeth Collins, Eli’s wife. He also is survived by his grandchildren, Colman and Noah Collins. He is survived by his brothers, Harry and Raymond Collins, and his sister, Meredith Applegate.
A funeral is to be held at 2 pm on February 3nd at the Santee Presbyterian Church with the Rev. Dr. George Chorba, Rev. Lisa Hermon, and the Rev. Dr. Donnie Woods officiating. The family will receive friends after the service. A memorial service will be held in Scranton, PA later this year at a date to be decided.
Memorial Gifts are to be sent to Santee Presbyterian Church at P.O Box 649, Santee, S.C. 29142; Hickory Street Presbyterian Church at 435 Hickory St, Scranton, PA; or, The Breadbasket of NEPA at 550 Madison Ave, Scranton, PA 18510.