In Memoriam : Gerald Collier

Gerald W. Collier - age: 95
(July 29, 1919 to April 22, 2015 )
Resident of Ukiah, California

Obituary:
A FINAL TRIBUTE – Gerald W. Collier passes at 95 ¾ - How do you say good bye…
by Carol Collier McClendon

Family and friends were greatly saddened by the passing of Gerald (Jerry) Collier on April 22, 2015. He put up a year long courageous battle against desmoplastic melanoma. He always had a smile and never complained about his fate. Jerry was preceded in death by the love of his life, Evelyn Munro Collier who passed on April 28, 2012. They were married for 70 ½ years. Also preceding him were his parents, Will and Vada Collier Morefield, and sister Lucille Collier Sidener.
He is survived by his children, Carol Collier McClendon of Ukiah and Ron “Doolie” Collier, retired Windsor Fire Chief; granddaughter Lisa McCoy and husband Mike of Ukiah; grandson Sean McClendon and wife Gabi of San Francisco; granddaughter Theresa Warner and husband Dan of Cottonwood; grandson Troy Collier and wife Deon of Windsor; great grandson Will McCoy of Ukiah; great granddaughter Kristi Collier of Windsor; great granddaughter Billie Jean McClendon of Ukiah; great granddaughters Kayla and Brittney Warner of Cottonwood; and nephew Lenny Sidener of Litchfield, Arizona.
The other important thing in his life was the Masonic Lodge. He still attended the meetings as recently as 19 days prior to his passing. The Lodge sustained him throughout his life and beyond. Jerry entered the Lodge in Willits in 1949 at age 30 and was Master at age 34 in 1954. In March of 2009 he was very proud that the first Ukiah Main Street Historical Building Plaque in his honor was placed on the building that the Masonic Lodge resides in at the corner of School and Perkins Street. When he would attend lodge meetings he would always stop and read the plaque and smile. It made him happy to see it. He was a true representative of being a Mason with the highest values and integrity. Those are values which the generations who follow him have as an example of how to live a good life and be a good person to friends; co-workers and family alike. Again, always that smile.
If one has followed the articles about Jerry over the years, they will remember that his family came to the area in the early 1860’s. He had a good example of longevity to follow. His maternal grandmother, Rosa Watson, lived 10 days short of 103. She and her husband, Roy Watson who ran the bar in the Old Boonville Hotel in the early 1890’s, moved with their children over the mountain to Ukiah in 1898. Roy died in 1926 and Rosa never remarried. Her four daughters married into old families in the valley. Vada married Will Collier and lived on the family property at Gobbi and Waugh Lane; Bertha married Lorin York and lived out on the old York ranch north of town; Violet married Percy Graham and lived on the old homestead on River Road; and Wanda married Alex Burger and lived on the family’s 6,000 acre sheep ranch in Yorkville.
On his father’s side, his grandfather David Collier came out from Missouri in the early 1860’s and settled in Bachelor Valley in Lake County. Jerry’s dad, Will Collier, was born in Bachelor Valley. The family moved to Covelo where David was a butcher and eventually they moved to Ukiah.
Family records and documents have shown that David Collier, in June of 1830, was listed as an “Indentured Servant”. Families did things like that during that era to help get money or goods or to pay off a debt. They would farm their children out. He was listed as a “Run-Away”, about 12 years old with red hair and blue eyes. In the legal notice people were warned about helping him because they would get in trouble too. As stated above, he grew up, made the wagon train passage west and ended up in Lake County.
Will’s sister Sue married Mr. Steinhoff. Their family property was where the Barra Winery now sits north of Ukiah. Her home is still in use at the back of the property where it was moved from up front many years ago. Sue’s twin Martha married Mr. Hilliard who worked for the railroad. Jerry’s uncle Frank managed the Ukiah Baseball team in 1909.
Jerry said he was born in a house that was used for medical issues. It was located on the west side of town somewhere in the center. There was no hospital in 1919. They lived near the Gobbi Street Winery located up at the top of Gobbi Street. When it burned down in late 1919, they moved down to the family property on Gobbi with his grandfather. One of Jerry’s early recollections was attending church with Grace Carpenter Hudson’s family in the 1920’s. The family sold the Gobbi Street property and moved to Willits in 1935.
When World War II started, Gerald was the second man drafted out of Willits. (The first was George Serzotti.) In 1941, he married Evelyn Munro Mitchell from Oakland, CA and left for duty. He flew in the big sub spotter planes along the Washington/Oregon coasts and out into international waters as a radio operator/gunner. Jerry later went down to Kingman, AZ and along with 200 other soldiers helped set up the Army Base where 12,000 G.I.s were to go in and out of. He was the Base Projectionist for the movie theater. A skill he learned at the Willits Theater while in high school. After the War, Jerry and Evelyn returned to Willits and had two children, Carol and Ron (Doolie).
PG&E was Jerry’s work home for 40 years as a “Troubleman”. He was a man who did many things in his spare time. During the late 1940’s, 1950’s, and early 1960’s Jerry was a volunteer fireman. Former Willits Fire Chef Jeff Smith was his second cousin. Jeff’s mother, Colleen was his first cousin.
He was a pilot and flew Piper Cubs in and out of Willits and many other airports in the area during the early forties and fifties. Another focus in his life was photography. In 1953 Jerry had a “dark room” in the new Brookside Drive house in the garage – only 3 or 4 feet wide – just enough to squeeze in. He took photos of high school football games; weddings, PG&E work, accidents, insurance work as well as the police department. In recent years, Jerry had donated some of his cameras and equipment to Triple S Camera Shop in Ukiah for their collection.
And then, there is being a great dad, grandpa, and great grandpa. He didn’t say too much but you knew that he loved you. Such an example for children to learn from.
Evelyn and Jerry moved down to Ukiah in 1963. They built their home on Quail Drive in 1978 and he retired 1987. Jerry still lived in their home until his passing on April 22, 2015.
The familys’ loss is immeasurable. It will show up in small ways and we will remember what Grandpa would say or do. But for now, it’s like “Oh Daddy, what do we do now”…..
There will be graveside services for Jerry and Evelyn in a few weeks. A notice will be placed in the Journal and Willits News.