Family, borough feel loss of Patrick Collins

Staff Writer


Patrick Collins Patrick Collins

RED BANK — There are few things as difficult for a family to handle as an unexpected death.

The family of Patrick Collins is still coming to grips with his passing earlier this month.

Collins was a 17-year employee of the borough’s Department of Public Works who had spent a grueling two days removing snow during the New Year’s weekend.

When Collins failed to report to work on Tuesday, Jan. 2, Joseph Buonacquista, director of public works, called Collins’ home.

Collins’ mother, Bessie, saw Collins’ truck parked in the driveway and went to his bedroom to wake him up. It was there she discovered her son was dead.

Collins was 40 years old.

"I’m lost without him," said his sister, Kathy Huston of Eatontown.

Huston said she, her sister Brenda Collins and their mother relied on Collins for his strength.

"He was like the man of the house," she said.

Especially hard hit was Kathy’s 14-year-old daughter, Robyn, who had developed a strong bond with Collins and saw him as a father figure.

Kathy, Robyn and Collins would often go camping together for the weekend, and last summer he and Robyn tried hang gliding.

"He was all my daughter ever had," Kathy said.

Also devastated were Collins’ mother, who, Kathy said, is shock.

"She keeps blaming herself for not checking on him sooner," Kathy said.

Bessie Collins was unavailable to talk about her son.

Though he was a smoker and a social drinker, Kathy said her brother had no health concerns other than a persistent bad back.

But she said she thinks the physical nature of his job and the long hours he had been working may have contributed to his death.

She noted her mother had just received Collins’ last paycheck, which contained 90 hours of overtime for the last two weeks he worked.

Results from the medical examiner’s report are not expected for approximately six weeks, she said.

The Collinses moved to Red Bank from Middletown in 1979. Since being hired by the Department of Public Works, Collins advanced to the position of supervisor of buildings and grounds, and earned the friendship and respect of his co-workers and superiors, according to Buonacquista.

"I’ve known Pat for 20 years and he was my right arm," he said. "It was more of a friendship than a boss-employee relationship."

Buonacquista said Collins was the type of employee who could be relied on in all situations and always took the initiative.

"He could handle every position, with maybe the exception of mechanic, and he could operate any piece of equipment we have," Buonacquista remembered. "He was the type of guy to always be there."

As a supervisor with buildings and grounds, Collins was often found in the municipal complex, 90 Monmouth St. At 6 foot 7 inches, it was difficult to miss him, Mayor Edward J. McKenna Jr. recalled.

"Pat was a wonderful guy and an extremely hard worker. He was what I would call a ‘go-to guy,’ " the mayor said. "He was a real good guy and we’re all saddened over the loss."

At a recent Borough Council meeting, Borough Administrator Stanley J. Sickels acknowledged the town’s appreciation for Collins’ long service.

"He was a devoted employee and the guy to go to to get something done right," Sickels said.

Buonacquista said the borough has plans to plant a tree in Collins’ memory at Veterans Triangle Park on Riverside Avenue.

Collins’ ashes were interred at Mount Olivet Cemetery, Middletown, and family members are starting to save money to purchase a gravestone.

The other evening, Kathy said she was at her mother’s house on Branch Avenue when she noticed the barbecue grill in the back yard. She became overwhelmed by emotion as she recalled it was her brother who did the cooking on the grill in the summers.

"I saw it and thought, ‘Might as well throw it out,’ " she said. "We were so close."