Elizabeth B. Collins, 92

PUNTA GORDA, FL - Elizabeth (Betty) Beehler Collins passed away on February 4, 2011 at Sterling House assisted living facility in Punta Gorda, Florida where she had resided for the past 3 years.

She was born on July 18, 1918 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Howard L. and Mildred Lawrence Beehler.  She grew up in Lancaster where she graduated from Steven High School for Girls.  She was also a graduate of Millersville State College, and was the Librarian at the Public Library of Shippensburg, PA and a librarian at the Chambersburg Pennsylvania High School. 

In 1943 she graduated from the US Navel Reserve Midshipmen’s School in Northampton, Massachusetts and received a commission as an Ensign.  She reported for active duty at the Norfolk Navy Yard where she was to meet and marry her first husband, Joel Black.  Betty and Joel were both transferred for duty in Pearl Harbor where they served until the end of the war.  Betty served as a “Custodian of Registered Publications” and was frequently seen delivering sensitive material with her .38 cal. Colt revolver strapped to her side, earning her the title as a “pistol pack ‘in mama”.  By the end of the war she had attained the rank of Lieutenant Jg.

Following the war Betty and Joel lived for a short time in Staunton, Virginia, where their oldest son James was born, before moving to Chebeague Island, Maine.  While on Chebeague, Betty’s father Howard and Joel founded the Beehler and Black School of Watchmaking, a watch making school for disabled veterans, which later became the Beehler and Black Clock Co.  Some of Betty’s fondest memories and greatest friendships were fostered while they lived on Chebeague, with her mother and father and two sisters Phyllis Beehler Moynihan and Ruth Beehler Dyer also living on the island.  Betty was active in island life and she and her mother prepared school lunches at the island school.  Summers were full of family “lobster feeds”, mackerel fishing, and blueberry picking.  The long cold winters were times for card playing and the end of winter was marked by gathering maple sap and boiling it down into syrup.  Her second son, William was born in Portland shortly before they moved to Connecticut in 1951 where Joel was employed as an engineer with the US Time Corporation.

Betty raised her family in Watertown, Connecticut where she lived before moving to Florida in 2008.  She was an active member of the United Methodist Church where she taught Sunday School, worked on the Christmas pageants, helped with the annual rummage sales, and taught summer bible school.  She was also a member of the Mattatuck Unitarian/Universalist Society in Woodbury, Connecticut.  Betty was also active in “Friends of The Library” and worked for several years as a librarian at the Watertown Public Library.  She was a member of the Visiting Nurse Association and volunteered in Hospice in the 1960’s.  Following Joel’s passing in 1968, Betty went to work as a librarian at Westover Academy in Middlebury, CT.

Betty married her second husband, Commander Omer Collins USNR of Marion, Indiana in 1972, and they lived together in Watertown until his passing in 1989.  During their time together they traveled frequently and spent much of their summers in Port Clyde, Maine and their winters in Florida.  After Omer’s passing, Betty bought a home in Ellenton, Florida and became a “snow bird”, spending summers in Watertown and winters in Florida before moving there full time in 2008.  

Betty was an accomplished artist, working in several mediums including oils, water colors, and pastels.  Her artwork spanned her life time from her early days in Maine to her later years in Florida and she shared her works of art with family and friends.

Betty was predeceased by her husbands Joel and Omer and her two sisters Ruth and Phyllis.  She is survived by her two sons James Black and his wife Diana of Punta Gorda, Florida and William Black and his wife Sharon of Newington, New Hampshire.  She also leaves her granddaughter Melani Pauly and her husband Clemens Pauly and three great grandsons, twins Alexander and Nicolas Pauly and Maximilan Pauly all of Miami, Florida, and her dear friend Edward S. Atwood of Bradenton, Florida.

Betty’s entire family would like to thank all the wonderful care givers at Sterling House and the support and care provided by Tidewell Hospice.  Their loving and benevolent care was truly extraordinary and greatly appreciated.

A memorial service will be held in the spring in Watertown, Connecticut at the convenience of the family.