Sandra Joan Collins

BRIDGTON – Sandra Joan Collins, 86, of Bridgton, died Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021, of complications of metastatic lung cancer.

She was born Sept. 7, 1935, in Rising Sun, Pa., the oldest of three daughters of Frederick Yost and Agnes (DeSordi) Yost Earley. She grew up in Allentown, Pa., graduating from Fountain Hill High School and Moravian College (now Moravian University), both in Bethlehem, Pa.

After earning a bachelor of science in nursing and becoming a registered nurse, she taught medical-surgical nursing at St. Luke’s School of Nursing in Bethlehem, Pa.

On forays into the local beatnik scene, she’d go out with a friend or two to jazz clubs and took in a reading by Allen Ginsberg of his poem “Howl.” She also bought an Austin-Healey Sprite and joined a sports car club that eventually drew someone new to town: a mechanical engineer who drove an MG with Louisiana plates and provoked her by immediately suggesting how the group could do things differently. She and D. Stephen “Steve” Collins were married May 2, 1964, at St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Allentown, Pa.

She kept teaching at St. Luke’s until a student reported being offended by an obviously pregnant instructor. So for the next 10 years, Sandra was a stay-at-home mother to her two daughters, first in suburban Emmaus, Pa., and then in Bridgton, where the young family moved in 1969 for Steve’s job with Howell Laboratories (now Howell Laboratories/Shively Labs).

She sewed many of the clothes she and her daughters wore, and helped plant, tend and harvest the organic garden she and her husband would have for several decades. Community-minded, Sandra also represented Bridgton for several terms on the School Administrative District 61 Board of Directors.

In the mid-1970s, she took steps to further her own education, receiving a fellowship to attend the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center in Massachusetts and earning a certificate in early childhood development there. This prepared Sandra for what she considered the highlight of her nursing career: running well-child clinics for families in Oxford County and parts of Cumberland and York counties. Regardless of their income, parents could bring their children for routine physicals, milestone assessments and vaccinations and ask questions about their children’s health, all at no charge.

Between 1978 and 1986, the Community Health Services, Inc. clinics took place in church basements, town halls and any other appropriate space the nurses could find. Sandra, according to her husband, used the distance from the CHS hierarchy to make decisions the nonprofit would not have endorsed. She carefully washed and folded baby clothes at home, for example, and gave them away at the clinics, “which was highly ‘not done,’ ” Steve recalled.

She stayed with CHS to work as a visiting nurse, traveling around southern and western Maine to care for older patients in their homes. They appreciated not only her nursing skills but also her color-coordinated outfits from the Bridgton Renys. “Look at her, all dressed up for us!” said a patient who lived with her two sisters. Another longtime patient would ask Sandra for advice on when to switch from a felt hat to a straw Panama in the spring.

Her employment at CHS was followed by several years at Northern Cumberland Memorial Hospital (now Bridgton Hospital) as assistant director of nursing and, briefly, director of nursing. Before retiring in 2000, she worked in Medicare eligibility for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

Sandra found plenty to do after she retired, becoming involved in Friends of the Bridgton Library and the Literary Club and helping organize regattas on nearby Highland Lake when Steve was active in Maine Rowing. She and Steve also traveled, most notably to Puerto Rico and to Breda di Piave, the village in northern Italy where Sandra’s mother was born. An observant Lutheran, she was active in the St. Peter’s Episcopal Church community.

She was overjoyed at becoming a grandmother, in 2004 with the birth of India Sarah Siecke and again in 2006, with the birth of Celeste Cecile Siecke. She loved reading to them; taking them to the movies and Renys, and having marathon conversations with them during the girls’ weeklong visits to Nonni’s and Poppi’s house. Several days before she died, she said how proud she was that Celeste was charting her own course in high school; on her last day, she was happy to learn that India had turned in her early decision college application. Her granddaughters meant the world to her.

Sandra Joan Collins was predeceased by her parents; and by a sister and brother-in-law, Frederica R. and Steven D. Mull of Ruscombmanor Township, Pa.

She is survived by a sister and brother-in-law, Carol A. and Kenneth L. Weir of Blue Bell, Pa.; her husband, D. Stephen of Bridgton; daughter, Sarah E. of Portland; and daughter and son-in-law Caroline R. and Warren W. Siecke and granddaughters India S. and Celeste C. Siecke, all of Exeter, N.H.

A memorial service will take place at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, 42 Sweden Rd., Bridgton, on Saturday, Nov. 20, at 11 a.m. Arrangements are under the care of Hall Funeral Home, Casco. http://www.hallfuneralhome.net.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in her memory to

Lakes Environmental Association

230 Main St.

Bridgton, ME 04009

or mainelakes.org.

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