Clanton man celebrates 95th birthdayBy Emily Etheredge Published 4:47pm Wednesday, July 3, 2013
As Clanton resident “Rip” Collins celebrated his 95th birthday on Tuesday, he couldn’t help but reflect that life has been good.
“I never would have thought that life would have been so good to a person like me,” Collins said. “When you are young, you don’t really think about getting older but when you get older you can’t help but be thankful you are still alive.”
Collins was born in 1918 to Sam and Rosa Collins who were both from Thorsby. Rosa Collins passed away when Rip was 7 from a rare skin condition so Rip as a child often stayed with some of his aunts and uncles who lived throughout Chilton County.
“I didn’t grow up with a mother but I had wonderful aunts and uncles who took good care of me,” Collins said. “I didn’t have any siblings so it was just me but I had a lot of cousins who treated me like a sibling.”
When he was 19, Collins decided to join the United States Navy where he served during World War II.
“It was a different time back then,” Collins said. “I don’t think anyone understands what we went through during that war.”
Collins was on the U.S.S. Richmond ship after serving in Hawaii for a year. Several of Collins’ buddies who were also from Chilton County were trying to get Collins to join them on the U.S.S. Arizona but Collins declined after finding out the U.S.S. Richmond would be sailing back toward his home.
As Collins was headed back home, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor a week later and he learned that his three friends on the U.S.S. Arizona had been killed.
“We had to turn our ship back around because a war was declared and serve as a flagship,” Collins said. “If I had been on the boat with my friends I would have died. I was very fortunate.”
After the war ended, Collins returned to Alabama after serving from 1941-1945, and got a job working for Liberty National selling life insurance. Collins got married during the war to Hazel Young who was from Birmingham and the two had two daughters, Jane and Phyllis.
Collins returned to Chilton County from living in Birmingham in 1974 where he became manager of Liberty National in Clanton and worked there for more than 25 years.