BRIDGTON – Sandra Joan Collins, 86, of Bridgton, died on Saturday, October 30, 2021 of complications from metastatic lung cancer.
She was born September 7, 1935 in Rising Sun, Pa., The eldest of three daughters of Frederick Yost and Agnes (DeSordi) Yost Earley. She grew up in Allentown, PA, and graduated from Fountain Hill High School and Moravian College (now Moravian University), both in Bethlehem, PA.
After earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and becoming a registered nurse, she taught medical-surgical nursing at St. Luke’s School of Nursing in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
On her forays into the local beatnik scene, she would go out with a friend or two to jazz clubs and attend a reading by Allen Ginsberg of his poem “Howl”. She also bought an Austin-Healey Sprite and joined a sports car club that eventually brought someone new to town: a mechanical engineer who drove an MG with Louisiana plates and challenged it to immediately suggesting how the group could do things differently. She and D. Stephen “Steve” Collins were married on May 2, 1964 at St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
She continued to teach at St. Luke’s until a student reported being offended by an obviously pregnant teacher. So, for the next 10 years, Sandra was a stay-at-home mom to her two daughters, first in the suburb of Emmaus, Pennsylvania, then in Bridgton, where the young family moved in 1969 for Steve’s job. with Howell Laboratories (now Howell Laboratories / Shively Laboratories).
She sewed many of the clothes she and her daughters wore and helped plant, maintain and harvest the organic garden that she and her husband would have for several decades. Community-minded, Sandra has also represented Bridgton for several terms on the Board of Directors for School Administrative District 61.
In the mid-1970s, she took steps to pursue her own education, receiving a scholarship to attend the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center in Massachusetts and earn a certificate in early childhood development. This prepared Sandra for what she saw as the culmination of her nursing career: running wellness clinics for families in Oxford County and parts of Cumberland and York counties. Regardless of their income, parents could bring their children for routine physical exams, milestone assessments and vaccinations, and ask questions about their children’s health, all at no cost.
Between 1978 and 1986, Community Health Services, Inc. clinics were held in the basements of churches, town halls, and any other suitable space nurses could find. Sandra, according to her husband, used the distance from the CHS hierarchy to make decisions that the nonprofit would not approve of. She carefully washed and folded baby’s clothes at home, for example, and donated them to clinics, “which wasn’t done at all,” recalls Steve.
She stayed with the CHS to work as a visiting nurse, traveling to southern and western Maine to care for older patients at home. They appreciated not only her nursing skills, but also her outfits in the coordinating Bridgton Renys colors. “Look at her, all dressed for us!” Said a patient who lived with her two sisters. Another longtime patient asked Sandra for advice on when to go from a felt hat to a straw Panama in the spring.
Her employment with the CHS was followed by several years at Northern Cumberland Memorial Hospital (now Bridgton Hospital) as Deputy Director of Nursing and, briefly, Director of Nursing. Prior to retiring in 2000, she worked in the Medicare eligibility area for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.
Sandra found plenty to do after her retirement, getting involved with Friends of the Bridgton Library and the Literary Club and helping organize regattas on nearby Highland Lake when Steve was active in Maine Rowing. She and Steve have also traveled, including to Puerto Rico and Breda di Piave, the village in northern Italy where Sandra’s mother was born. A practicing Lutheran, she was active in the community of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church.
She was delighted to become a grandmother, in 2004 with the birth of India Sarah Siecke and again in 2006, with the birth of Celeste Cécile Siecke. She liked to read to them; take them to the movies and Renys, and have marathon conversations with them during the girls’ week-long visits to Nonni and Poppi’s. Several days before her death, she said how proud she was that Celeste was setting her own path in high school; on the last day, she was happy to learn that India had made her request for an advance ruling at the university. Her granddaughters represented the world to her.
Sandra Joan Collins was predeceased by her parents; and by a sister and brother-in-law, Frederica R. and Steven D. Mull of Ruscombmanor Township, Pa.
She is survived by a sister and brother-in-law, Carol A. and Kenneth L. Weir of Blue Bell, Pennsylvania; her husband, D. Stephen of Bridgton; daughter, Sarah E. of Portland; and daughter and son-in-law Caroline R. and Warren W. Siecke and granddaughters India S. and Celeste C. Siecke, all from Exeter, NH
A memorial service will be held at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, 42 Sweden Rd., Bridgton, on Saturday, November 20 at 11 a.m. Arrangements are the responsibility of Hall Funeral Home, Casco. http://www.hallfuneralhome.net.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in her memory at
Environmental Association of Lakes
230 Main Street
Bridgton, ME 04009