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Harlan Earl (Zeke) Collins

Staff Writer
The Daily Ardmoreite
Harlan Earl (Zeke) Collins

Services for Harlan Collins will be 10 a.m. Monday, Feb. 24, 2020, in Ardmore at the Solid Rock Church. 3946 SE Carter Street.

On July 31, 1916, Harlan Earl Collins was born in Grandview, Ark., to Daniel Bowen Collins and Minnie E. Wood Collins. The sixth of eight children, the family moved to Stroud where he attended school graduating a straight A student. His father died when Harlan was 5 leaving seven children and a pregnant wife to make a life for themselves. His mother never remarried. Upon graduation from Stroud High School, Harlan worked for the CCCs, first at Chandler, then a camp in Wyoming before ending his tenure at Buck Meadows in California where they worked at Yosemite Park.

After the start of WWII Harlan entered the Navy where he received training as a machinist at the Henry Ford trade school in Dearborn, Mich. After training he was assigned to the USS San Francisco which became one of the most highly decorated ships of the war. Four crew members received the Medal of Honor and the ship was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation along with 17 battle stars. The Frisco saw action from Guadalcanal to the Aleutian Islands and numerous island landings in between, supporting Marine and Army units. At Guadalcanal the Frisco received 45 hits loosing 77 men and 105 wounded. A major caliber shell from a Japanese battleship tore through the bridge killing the captain, the fleet Admiral and others, but failing to explode, the ship survived.

1947 found Harlan in Healdton working in a new career and meeting the love of his life, Birdie Lou Newman. They were married Dec. 25, 1948 and to that union two children were born, Harlan Earl Collins II and Lorna Gail Collins. He was proceeded in death by all seven of his siblings, his wife of 57 years on October 2006 and a great-granddaughter. He is survived by Earl and wife Cricket of Ardmore and Lorna Gail Lemon of Healdton, four grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.

After the war Harlan was hired by US Steel Oilwell division at Healdton where he worked for about twenty years. He worked for the Healdton School system, other supply stores and then worked until he was 94 at Lewis Magneto with an old friend from Oilwell, Otis Blakemore. The Blakemore family was more than just an employer for Harlan they were true friends helping him survive the loss of his wife and were like family.

Harlan made friends and was acquainted with many people in and around Healdton. He was awarded the Healdton Oilman of the year in 2003 and also received membership in the Centenarians of Oklahoma. In 2018 at the age of 101 he enjoyed an airplane ride courtesy of Ageless Aviation Dreams. He was a member of the Healdton Pentecostal Holiness Church, holding several positions, including secretary of Sunday School and treasurer. He, along with his wife, served as Cub Scout leader and was active in many of his children’s school activities. He spent many a day working in his woodworking shop and loved to read. Even after loosing most of his eyesight he amazed most people with how up to date he kept himself of current events. He was able to continue reading thanks to the Oklahoma Institute for the Blind. He held a vast collection of books and the National Geographic magazine which vexed him because “it is mostly pictures and not enough to read,” he would say.

Harlan enriched the lives of people throughout his life and while at the Ardmore VA he continued to show a very gentle spirit to the caregivers, nurses, housekeepers, staff and other veterans. He will be greatly missed by his family, friends and others that came to know him. He passed this life at the Ardmore Veterans Center on February 13 at the age of 103 years. He was ready to see his mother, wife and so very many people that went before him and no doubt they were happy to see him again too.