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Lasting regional legacy of Maurice Collins

The Grinch hands a cheque off to Maurice Collins (inset: without mask) on behalf of Wreckhouse Press in Dec. 2020. The independent book publishing company released a cookbook called Traditions in partnership with Collins, that eventually raised over $1000 to support the Salvation Army’s food bank. – © File photo

By Jaymie White Local Journalism Initiative Reporter – with files from René J. Roy

MARYSTOWN — On Thursday, Nov. 3, the sudden passing of a true pillar of the community, Salvation Army Corps Officer (Pastor) Captain Maurice Collins, reached local and provincial social media. Collins impact on the Southwest Coast is testament to his hard work for this region, and the news of his passing resulted in a rapid outpouring of condolences and shared grief.

The affection was mutual. Before relocating to the East Coast of the province, in Clarenville, Collins spent four years as Ministry Unit Leader for the Salvation Army church in Port aux Basques, something that he looked back on with fondness in a previous interview he had with Wreckhouse Press in 2021, shortly prior to his relocation.

“I cannot stress enough how much I’ve enjoyed ministering to this community. The people have been fantastic, very sociable, and very courteous. One of the things that has been really nice is that the community has backed the work of the Salvation Army. They really backed the work of the Salvation Army, and we’ve been able to do things because of that support.”

Collins said there was so much he would miss about the community he served so well.

“I’m going to miss the people. I’ve developed some really nice relationships with people here. I mean, I’ve developed a nice relationship with the mayor, and with Andrew Parsons. I mean, they were even up on the road serving. And that says a lot about your community, when your mayor and your MHA are willing to get in the trenches and help out as well. It says a lot about it to me.”

Among the good work and acts of kindness undertaken by Collins was ensuring the truckers were kept fed during lock down in the midst of COVID-19. Later he would help ensure that the province would have its own food truck to serve during emergencies to feed those in need, and that proved important when the Southwest Coast was battered by Hurricane Fiona and volunteers leapt into action.

Collins applied for and received financial backing for the industrial kitchen for the Salvation Army building, oversaw the region’s food bank, relocated and reorganized the Salvation Army thrift shop, and he built up the reach of the Salvation Army in Clarenville before moving on to Marystown where he was currently serving.

To say the communities he served and the Salvation Army itself lost a great man seems like somewhat of an understatement.

David Harvey, who took over the post when Collins relocated, said his acts of generosity for the truckers during lock down is one of many moments that people will truly remember him for.

“The fact that the truckers coming across were unable to stop at restaurants because they were all closed, so they weren’t able to get meals, they only had what was in their truck on the way through. Maurice obviously jumped into gear and said, ‘we can do something for these folks,’ and started cooking meals and provided them to the truckers up at the tourist chalet,” said Harvey.

Harvey may not have met Collins in person, but he still has fond memories just the same.

“Him and I never met face to face. We’ve had a lot of conversations, a lot of email and texts back and forth and it’s the strangest thing because this week, four or five times, I just wanted to pick up the phone and say, ‘hey, how’s it going,” said Harvey. “It’s just like, wow. He’s not there.”

Long time Salvation Army volunteer Bert Osmond worked very closely with Collins during his time in Port aux Basques.

“I got to know him really well with the food bank and helping him with anything he needed done around the quarters or whatever,” said Osmond. “You couldn’t ask for a better guy than what Maurice was.”

Like many, Osmond wasn’t really prepared for the news of Collins’ passing.

“It was devastating, something that I wasn’t expecting. We talked to him every week or every two weeks. He would call us – me and the wife – to see how everything was going,” shared Osmond. “We would get him on the phone, and he’d talk to us for an hour, sometimes more than an hour. He really liked to chat, Maurice did. He did a lot for the community. Even though he couldn’t do any physical work, he did the work behind the scenes.”

Osmond said there are things that the Port aux Basques branch has now because of the hard work done by Collins.

“We wouldn’t have our kitchen up to the church if it weren’t for Maurice,” said Osmond. “Maurice got all the balls rolling. When the grants came out, he was on top of them, and he was excellent at that kind of stuff.”

Harvey agreed wholeheartedly.

“Maurice had a heart for people,” said Harvey. “He had a heart for the community. People knew him. He spent time getting coffees and meeting people, saying hello, and if there was a need he jumped in and made sure it was looked after. It was one of these situations where, from what I’ve learned of him, if you had a need, he got the need taken care of and moved on to the next one.”

Osmond said that losing such a good friend was a bad blow that won’t be easy to recover from.

“Me and the wife just sat and cried. He was a great guy and a great friend,” said Osmond. “I like to remember him as he was, the stuff that he did, and if you had a problem you would go to Maurice and he would be there to sit down, talk to you, listen to your troubles. That was the kind of guy he was. He was a good ear, and if you weren’t feeling well, if you were down or something like that, and I’ve been down a few times like that, I would go home and the next thing I know, it’s Maurice calling, wanting to know how it’s going and how you’re feeling now. That’s the kind of fellow he was, an excellent, excellent man.”

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