May 31, 1930 – July 27, 2022

Russell A. Collins died peacefully in his sleep the morning of July 27, 2022, age 92. Russell was a smart, hardworking man who desired to make a difference with his work and in his church. A child of the Great Depression, Russell and his loving wife Dorothy most certainly made a difference in their two son’s lives by being supportive of their youthful passions and adult professional pursuits.

Russell Arthur Collins was born May 31, 1930, in North Loup, Nebraska. As a child of the Great Depression, like the Joad family in The Grapes of Wrath, Russell, his mother, Esther Portis Collins (1900–1999), and father, Arthur A. Collins (1902–1982), were, for a time, Dustbowl emigrants to California, where they waited in Los Angeles for Russell’s sibling Deane (1926–2020) to return from his Naval service in WWII. However, the primary home of Russell’s youth was the southern Missouri town of Ozark. He was acclaimed by his classmates as the “Best Citizen” and graduated from Ozark High School in 1948. It was in Ozark where he met his soulmate, Dorothy Lee Hanks; they married on August 30, 1950. She was his partner in life and business for nearly 72 years.

Soon after high school, Russell found a profession at which he excelled—Dental Laboratory Technician. In 1950, with his brother Deane, he established a dental lab in West Plains, Missouri. However, just a few months after starting the business, Russell was compelled to join the Air Force during the Korean War. After additional training at the Air Force Dental Laboratory School in San Antonio, Texas, Russell served at the Châteauroux Air Depot in France, located 166 miles south of Paris. 

During their time in France, Russell and Dorothy extensively toured Western Europe, taking beautiful Kodachrome slides of the places they visited—experiences they enjoyed, shared and remembered for the rest of their lives. It was at the Châteauroux Air Base that Russell met a dentist, trained at the University of Michigan, who influenced the direction of the rest of his life. John A. (Jack) Bartlett, DDS, was a Detroit dentist who specialized in restorative dentistry—the practice of the dental arts which shaped Russell’s professional life. 

Russell mustered out of the Air Force in 1955; soon after he and Dorothy settled in Detroit and established the Collins Dental Lab, specializing in crown and bridge restorative dentistry. Son Russell B. Collins was born in Detroit in 1956. In 1958, Russell and Dorothy moved the lab into the basement of their new home in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In 1959, son Douglas A. Collins was born. 

Russell and Dorothy built a successful business out of their home—so successful, in fact, that in 1962 Russell moved the Collins Dental Lab into The Professional Building, a medical facility he, with five partners, developed in downtown Ann Arbor. As a highly respected dental lab technician, Russell worked with some of the most well-known restorative dentists in the country, especially Hugh Cooper, DDS. Russell was the first Dental Laboratory Technician admitted into the esteemed Vedder Society for restorative dentistry.

In the late 1960s, Russell and Dorothy played key leadership roles in the Packard Road Baptist Church, which at the time was located, ironically, on Church Street.  Like their fellow congregants, they were steeped in southern Bible Belt Christianity and encouraged the growth of the church. Russell was instrumental in organizing the financing and building of a new facility, now called Crossroads Community Baptist Church, on Packard Road. He and Dorothy remained deeply involved in this church for many years.

Russell was a supportive parent to Russell B. (Rusty) and Douglas as they actively participated in many after-school sports, arts and science programs and passions. Russell and Dorothy encouraged their sons to pursue their academic and professional dreams.  Doug became an MD and serves as a radiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Rusty, now known as Russ, became an arts organization executive and serves as the CEO of the Michigan Theater Foundation in Ann Arbor. 

Russell was an enthusiastic fan of University of Michigan sports, college sports in general and the Detroit Tigers. He loved to listen to A Prairie Home Companion, novels and short stories on cassette tapes, and the news and programs of Detroit radio station WJR. In his dental lab he had a small black and white television. On that tiny TV screen, in the afternoons while he worked, he watched sitcom reruns, especially M*A*S*H, and the breaking news of the day. 

Russell A. Collins passed away, with Dorothy by his side, in the home of his son Douglas in Rochester, Minnesota. He is survived by his wife Dorothy Lee Collins, sons Russell B. Collins (Deb Polich) and Douglas A. Collins, M.D., six grandchildren, Sarah Clymer (Ben Clymer), Ben Collins, Jacob Collins (Jessica), Alan Collins (Cassie Walls), Melissa Goodson and Lindzie Swain (Anna Calderon); and 12 great-grandchildren. 

He will be missed by his family, church friends, and the medical colleagues who worked at the former Ann Arbor Professional Building. A memorial will be held in Selmore, Missouri (near Ozark), where his ashes will be interred at a future date.