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Paul Collins, longtime leader with St. Vincent de Paul Society, dies at 97

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Paul J. Collins, a longtime volunteer with the St. Vincent de Paul Society in the Diocese of Wilmington, died Nov. 10 at his home in New Castle. He would have celebrated his 98th birthday on Dec. 1.

He spent 47 years with the society and served in several positions, including conference president, council president, regional chairperson, and as a member of the national executive board. He helped establish a prison ministry at the Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, and was honored by the state and the NAACP for his efforts for that and for his work with released prisoners. Collins established and managed two houses that served as temporary homes for released prisoners.

He had been honored by the St. Vincent de Paul Society, and he had earned a Jefferson Award and the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Medal, which is presented to people for distinguished service to the Catholic church by laypeople and clergy.

He once told The Dialog that the Vincentians seek “to become more Christ-like by working with the poor.”

On another occasion, he discussed the society’s activity with local government officials.

“We try to address social injustices by calling our representatives to advise them how we feel on certain matters,” he told The Dialog in1983. “We try to be active in areas where we think we can have an impact.”

Working with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, he said, “is very gratifying work. The true value of the society is in making its members better Christians.”

A native of Wilmington, Collins worked for the Dupont Co. before enlisting in the Army Air Corps in 1942. A second lieutenant, he completed 35 combat missions with the Eighth Air Force over Europe during World War II, receiving several awards and commendations. He retired from the Air Force Reserve as a major.

Back in Delaware, he went to work for and later purchased a business machine company that became Lanier Business Products Center.

He was preceded in death by his wife of 59 years, Carmella; sister June Love; brother James T. Collins; and son-in-law Randy Carter.

Collins is survived by his son John P. and his wife Jeanette of Landenberg, Pa.; daughters Kathleen Love of Rehoboth Beach and Teresa Wilde of Wilmington; five grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be Nov. 18 from 9-10:30 a.m. at Holy Spirit Church, 12 Winder Road, New Castle, followed by a Mass of Christian Burial. Burial will follow at All Saints Cemetery. The family suggests contributions in his memory to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, P.O. Box 7266, Wilmington, DE 19803.