By Sue Moore
A visit to the Strong Schoolhouse in the Vicksburg Historic Village evoked some wonderful memories for Garrett (Gary) Collins, lately of San Francisco, but visiting here for a Collins family reunion in Vicksburg’s Clark Park.
He attended the one room schoolhouse when it was located south of the village on Y Avenue in 1959. His teacher, Mrs. Ray had a profound influence on the young boy, as did many others he reeled off on his list of people who set him on the path to studying piano and organ.
Through the efforts of teachers like June Morley and Jim Shaw, he was able to travel to Paris after high school graduation in 1973 to study organ and voice. This led him to make music his chosen career as an entertainer, primarily in San Francisco. Esther Rasmussen was also one of his teachers and mentors, although she wasn’t connected with the school system.
He now plays for nursing homes and works at a nonprofit that locates housing for the homeless in an effort to launch the individuals on a path to success, he said. He teaches several gifted students who he believes have a bright future. At one point he worked as an organist and minister for a church where 5,000 weddings were performed in seven years. He has performed in opera, and sung and played in night clubs on the west coast during his varied career.
His parents are Jack and Carol Collins, whose family has lived in the Vicksburg area since the 1890s. He has two brothers, Mickey, who has an antique barn in Fennville, and Bobby Collins, who just retired as head of maintenance for Vicksburg Schools.