Here follow thoughts and remembrances from people who admired and respected Dr. Collins.

MARTHA GATES ’78

For me, there is no memory of life BC (before Collins). From an early age, summers meant Oak Grove with Fletch and Margaret and Christmases meant Twelfth Night at The Oaks with Fletch and Margaret. All of my theatrical experience was under Fletch’s watchful eye and with his unflagging support. Fletch was not just a teacher or friend, he was a model of humility, genius and love. I shall miss him so much.

KRISTEN BARNER ’90

Let me tell you something about my friends, Fletcher and Margaret Collins. Fletcher and I loved one another as a grandfather and granddaughter love one another. Margaret and I love one another as a grandmother and granddaughter love one another. I am one of their closest friends. Me, and about 300 others. I might be underestimating. I’m not kidding. There is a wide community in their net and every one of us will sincerely tell you that he or she has a special relationship with Fletcher and Margaret.

Fletcher died on Friday morning at 6:00 AM. He was 98. (Margaret is 96.) He was 98 and still working. A couple of years ago, when he finally had a little free time, he published a book and produced a CD and a DVD. I have a copy of each. He’s brilliant. Only a couple of weeks ago he was working on a manuscript. Then Fletcher’s 98 year old body couldn’t keep up with his sharp mind and he finally allowed his body to rest.

People who don’t know Fletcher tell me that 98 is a good long life and we should be happy we had him that long. Right. It doesn’t mean we don’t grieve. There are about 300 of us who don’t know the world without Fletcher. So we have to adjust ourselves to a different kind of world. Yesterday, we discovered that it may not be as hard as we think. Fletcher has made each of us accessible to one another and so through one another, we can continue to have his goodness, his creativity and, his love.

Fletcher’s funeral was yesterday. About 250 people made it on such short notice. Following the funeral, which Fletcher had organized years ago, we were invited back to the house to eat, drink, and be merry. Fletcher’s instructions were very clear that we were to enjoy one another in his absence. We did just that.

It occurred to me, standing outside their home, surrounded by all the other “children” and “grandchildren,” as well as the real children and grandchildren, that Fletcher’s parting gift to us was the pinnacle of his kindness, generosity, and vision. We truly experienced a taste of what God’ Kingdom, and heaven, is all about. We got a preview of everlasting life.

We ate, we drank and, we were merry. We visited with one another basking in the radiance and love that Fletcher bestowed on each of us. Part of that basking was the knowledge that Fletcher and Margaret had chosen each one of us. They chose us, individually and by name.

During visits in the last week of Fletcher’s life, Fletcher and Margaret were able to talk with us, remembering various important – and sometimes rather unimportant- events. They told us we were special and that they loved us. They called us by name and let us know how very important each one of us is to them. We believe every word with great joy. Fletcher was collecting friends every year of his life. There was no hierarchy. The newest friends were as welcomed and loved as the oldest friends. “How many friends is too many?” I heard someone ask. Fletcher and Margaret would tell you that “too many” is ridiculous. They valued each of us as a blessing in their own lives.

I stood outside, on the terrace, and looked around at the beauty of the landscape and the vast and various group of people. It clicked! If we stand together and celebrate the fact that Fletcher, a mere mortal, had chosen and loved each of us, unconditionally, then what have we got to look forward to in heaven? We are, each of us, chosen. There is no hierarchy. There is no competition. There is no end to the boundless love and joy. There is no end to the creativity encouraged and influenced by God. If Fletcher can pull forth the very best from us, then think of the work God can do – does do – with us.

Yesterday was my dear friend’s funeral. We sob at our loss. We readjust ourselves to life without Fletcher. And yet, we laugh and dance and sing and love because we had a life with Fletcher. If what we do with one another is indicative of what we do with God, yesterday I was at the mountain top and it was glorious! We’re in for some good things ahead of us. If we can believe Fletcher, certainly we can believe Christ.

PATTY PARKE GIBIAN ’56

Well, where to begin? Maybe in Drama Class which happened just before lunch and Dr. Collins was trying,at one point to stop smoking. He ate life savers and I was so hungry that listening to him eat and talk, was quite a feat.

Then of course there was the Oak Grove Summer Theatre where along with all the lessons about acting, producing, prop hunting, set design, carpentry, haymaking, square dancing, and music making, went making a food budget. shopping and feeding numerous people on $25.00 a week. That has been a VERY useful life lesson.

Of course it didn’t stop with college. Over the years I have felt so lucky to have been a member of the Collins/Oak Grove family. Numerous reunions and happy occasions over the years have added to such memories. Fletch and Margaret, “the boys”, the friends made during those will be with me always as well as the mental pictures that, as I write this, are flooding into my head. I am a Quaker by faith and it was always marvelous to have Margaret and Fletch “Quaker Lover” for me

We cannot really mourn him but can be so very thankful that he had such a rich full life, gave so much to so many and therefore I can only say, Godspeed dear Fletch.

DAVYNE VERSTANDIG ’66

I have just received the email telling me “Fletch” died peacefully at The Oaks with his family around him. Tears stream down my face. I look up at the two photos above my desk. They have been pinned there for years. One is of “Fletch” . I don’t know when the picture was taken but it is the man I knew when I was a Drama and English major at Mary Baldwin from 1962-66. The other is a picture of Margaret and Fletch years later, a bald Fletch. I think the last time I saw them was sometime after a reunion….maybe 1991, I’m not sure.

All I know is Fletch changed my life when I first sat in his class as a freshmen -Oral Interpretation of Literature. I had never heard of such a course. I was transfixed. I watched the way he spoke, crossed his long legs, held his hands, smoke his cigarettes. There was such integrity and kindness about him. I decided to major in Drama. My parents weren’t supportive. I should say my father wasn’t. He said only whores and homosexuals were in the theatre. If I wanted to major in Drama I’d have to have a double major…carry English as well. It was a fine fit. I have taught both at various schools and colleges since 1968.Fot the last ten years I have a professor at UConn teaching Literature and including Drama, of course. I am a performance poet and I’m sure it came from working with Fletch in class and at least two summers at Oak Grove Theatre, traveling to Holiday Inns and to Greenwich Mews Theatre in NYC with Theatre Wagon.

I’m going to call Stuffy Weekly, Glenda (Pearson ) Anderson and Roberta Penn…these were my friends there who loved Fletch and Margaret. I remember Francis and Fletcher Jr. as very young kids working around the lighting booth or the sound booth. I know they have found important work in the world!

I will sit down and write a note to Margaret. How I remember being in her plays, “The Lady and the Unicorn,” and ” 3 Philosophers in a Fire Tower” and others I can’t remember at this moment.

Fletch and Margaret taught me not only about theatre but about community and attention to others, to discipline, practice and the love of literature and writing.
It is with gratitude that I look up at their pictures each day. They changed my life and helped me to become the person I am.

Sadness for our loss but joy for his life.

STUFFY

Davyne Verstandig e-mailed me about Fletcher (“Fletch”) Collins death. I am both saddened and filled with good memories of him, Margaret and many of the same things Davey listed in her note. She forgot, however, “The Motel and the Chicken Coop,” another of Margaret’s splendid plays. I can remember trying to create a piece of sculpture, maybe a bust, from plaster for this and it kept falling apart as we traveled the play.

I was enormously influenced by Fletch, although he probably never knew it. I had no interest in acting, but loved theatre and its endless exploration of human experience. I spend much of my time on the sets covered in paint.

The Oaks and Oak Grove were always special environments – theater rehearsals in the basement, evenings of food and music…..Fletch and Margaret and others singing/playing German Leider, American folk songs.
These things were of interest on many levels, including intellectual; this was a culture filled with creative persons.

Fletch and Margaret were always generous with their time, knowledge, and their home. I cherish the memories of being with them and having learned from them. Mostly, I am grateful for their belief and support of students who were creative, who were challenging and often needed to be challenged.

I don’t know how to reach Margaret, but if she reads this she will know that I’ve mourned her loss as well.