Kind and selfless, Cam Collins left a legacy with all who knew him
Plattsburg community leader Cam Collins passed away recently at the age of 73.
Cam Collins made a career and a good living figuring out board feet during his lengthy, respected calling in the lumber business. Of far more importance is the significant legacy he leaves behind in the community of Plattsburg, and his influence and guidance with his family.
Cam passed away Thursday, March 26. He was 73 years old.
In today’s world, where volunteers are harder to find than hen’s teeth, consider these groups where he volunteered and left his mark: Plattsburg Booster Club, Methodist Men’s Fellowship Group, Plattsburg Volunteer Fire Department, and the PHS football chain gang. He put his hat in the ring to serve as Plattsburg City Councilman in Ward III, where he served for 30 years. The terms were for two-years, so he sought successful reelection 15 times. And surely one must consider the fact that his last four terms were after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.
Cam put his best effort forth no matter what the work might require, and the examples are endless.
He served our country in the United States Army beginning in 1965 when he was drafted. Cam was assigned to Germany as a dispatcher. On three different occasions, he was scheduled to travel to Vietnam for duty. Each time his orders were canceled. His military service paved the way for a special meeting with the late Charlie Hoskins, a veteran of World War II. Their relationship turned into what his family claimed was a father and son relationship, with Cam’s dad passing away when Cam was only six.
It was a kinship that guided Collins in the right path through the example lived by the World War II veteran.
For those who aren’t familiar with Charlie Hoskins, during his distinguished career as a State Farm Insurance agent, he earned numerous company awards recognizing his outstanding sales ability. However, just as important to Hoskins was making sure business owners and the city worked together to make the town a better place to live and work. When Hoskins showed up at a business, he was there to get the financial support of the business owner. When he crossed the doorstep to the business, he never left empty handed. It was important to the town and always a worthwhile endeavor.
Steve Sypkens, current quartermaster of the VFW Post 4428 in Plattsburg, said that Charlie Hoskins served as quartermaster for the post for decades. Cam followed in Charlie’s footsteps at that position. Collins held that esteemed position for at least 20 years.
Hoskins served as the master of ceremonies for the Memorial Day services for decades. Collins would also take part in the ceremonies with the rifle unit or in displaying the colors. According to his family, Collins spent every Memorial Day placing flags on the graves of servicemen. If they needed a grave marker, he constructed one using PVC pipe to construct a cross to mark the grave.
Collins was a faithful member of the Broadway United Methodist Church in Plattsburg. His faith grew stronger as a result of his relationship with Hoskins, even though Charlie was a devout member of the First Christian Church in Plattsburg. He taught Cam a prayer - one that is known at the American Legion and VFW as Charlie’s prayer. There is a copy hanging on the wall of the post. According to his family, Cam would recite the prayer before large family meals. It’s a simple but spiritual prayer that is recited at the proper occasion.
No one has ever seen the wind, neither you or I,
But when the tall trees bend their bows, We know the wind is passing by.
No one has ever seen God,
neither you or I,
But when we bow our heads in prayer, We know that God is standing by.
Some might call it fate when he met Connie Lowrance at a high school dance in Maitland. Connie recalled how her future husband had a date with another girl but she stood him up. Cam went to the dance and connected with Connie that night.
He claimed the marriage began almost as soon as his feet hit the ground after he was honorably discharged from the service in 1968, but Connie corrected him – she gave him three weeks before they were married.
During his high school days, Cam’s height at 6’3” and athletic ability helped him play a vital role on the basketball team. He would later attend St. Joseph Junior College where he played on their team before the service called him. His athletic ability and competitive spirit stayed with him throughout his adult life.
He took up the game of golf and became an avid golfer. So enthralled with the game, he would buy Connie a golf cart as a Christmas gift. Given the fact Connie didn’t play golf, it’s obvious who the golf cart was for. They would build a new home on the third hole on the new nine-hole expansion of the Plattsburg Country Club. The home was built before the green was positioned, and the green was built close to their home – so close that even a slightly off-line shot would head toward their home. Most found their front yard, but some found the siding or roof of their house. The good news is that they never had to buy golf balls, and no windows have been broken – yet.
During his golfing days, he would twice record a hole in one, a rare occurrence for even the best golfers. It was apparent he loved the game, and more so the social aspects that is an integral part of the sport. He enjoyed competing in golf tournaments as part of the lumber business. One such outing in Clinton, Mo., led to his recording one of his perfect tee shots. The hole-in-one resulted in his winning a cruise. The cruise proved to be a fateful one, with the ship breaking down. As a result, all of the ports they were scheduled to visit were bypassed.
Another golf tournament in Clinton proved to be even more eventful than a hole-in-one. During an unapproved group photo session on top of a fire truck, Collins suffered broken bones in both of his feet. The phone call to Connie was a painful one trying to explain the circumstances of breaking his heel in one foot and the ankle in the other.
Nonetheless, it may have seemed even more painful for his daughter, Cami and son, Clint. The kids labeled that season “the longest summer ever.” For the six to eight weeks required for his healing, their dad directed them through the insulation projects he had scheduled. The insulation side-jobs were what Cam used to pay for educational expenses. Both Cami and Clint said that their dad, positioned from his wheelchair, provided the instructions for installing the insulation. Clint said his dad could tell you where everybody in Plattsburg lived because they installed insulation in most of them.
The homeowners in Plattsburg respected Cam’s abilities, which were always on display at the lumberyard and as a result, he loved his work.
In 2003, Collins left his job at Plattsburg Lumber, a job he began in 1978. At Schutte Lumber Company in Kansas City, he took over the roll of head purchasing agent. He continued to work there until his diagnosis with Parkinson’s Disease. The diagnosis came after his heart doctor referred him to a neurologist where the disease was confirmed. At that time, Cam also suffered from an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia).
When one door closes, another one opens, so working together as a family, Cam became a constant figure and inspiration at sporting events. In spite of his physical limitations, he was able to attend most of the sporting events. Thanks to the extra effort and assistance of Greg Stahl of MSHSAA, Cam was able to attend the Missouri State Wrestling Championships. While there, he was able to cheer on his grandson Coby Aebersold (Kearney) to two-consecutive state championships.
His early retirement also provided him and Connie extra time for some traveling. They often did so with Ron and Helen Whiteley of Plattsburg. Like Connie, Helen was a teacher and performed her student-teaching duties with Connie before entering the field. Their trips to Tennessee and the Smoky Mountains were joyful escapes from the grind of medical visits and daily chores. Cam served as the co-pilot, scouting for quilt shops or flea markets along the way. Connie is an accomplished quilter and Cam possessed what seemed to be a quenchless desire to buy crockpots.
Crockpots, you say?
Yes, Connie, Cami and Clint all said that Cam liked to cook and loved to buy crockpots and skillets. He was a fixture cooking at VFW and Masonic Lodge breakfast fundraisers. He loved crockpots so much they had to stop him from buying them. At family dinners, he prepared what was called ‘papa’s noodles,’ a homemade dish, or the best biscuits and gravy, a sure crowd-pleaser at breakfast. One time, Cami wanted fried chicken and sure enough Cam fried chicken for her. No one knew where this love of crockpots came from. But his cooking expertise might have passed down from his mother, Gladys, who was employed as a baker at Squaw Creek in Mound City, Mo.
As trying as the insulation jobs were that ‘special’ summer, it provided Clint and Cami a valuable lesson – the value of doing a job and doing it well – learned from their dad from his wheelchair. The money was used to further their education and also helped build a bond that carries on today and into the future.
Cami remembered a time when they had to unload semi-trailers of peat moss. The job was a dirty one, and even required her then-boyfriend’s help.
“We had to work to get money, even hard work,” Cami said.
Clint continues to use the lessons learned by watching and working with his dad. Often times, he helped fix a screen or repair a faucet for the older ladies in Plattsburg. When Clint asked how much to charge for the repairs, Cam would tell him not to charge. “It’s not all about money,” Cam would say.
There were other times when Cam would buy a meal for a complete stranger as they were leaving a diner. He had a sense of what a good person should do.
If caring about strangers and little old ladies who could not pay their bills meant that much to Cam, one can imagine how much he cared for the people he knew well – his family. Connie became his care-giving partner when the health issues of Parkinson’s came their way. She said he never complained about his circumstances and tried to do his best when he could. He was religious about riding his stationary bike in an effort to maintain his strength. When the tragic accident happened recently at their home, Cam kept a positive attitude as he was treated in the hospital. One time, he joked with the nurses, asking for a cold beer.
Cam succumbed to his injuries from the burns, but only after waging what his family would expect – a battle until he could battle no more. For those who profess the Christian faith, the end is only here on planet earth. With Cam’s passing, Christians like his wife, Connie, believe that life begins a new, a life in Heaven – life where surely he and Charlie will see first hand the blessings of God.
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