After two decades of living with Parkinson’s and only two weeks after her 86th birthday, Suzanne Marie Collins (nee Reider) died on September 30, 2019 in Toronto. Her family mourned her and planned a (COVID-deferred) Celebration of Life to bring together people from the communities she drew into her circle of friendship. That circle was such a mix: York University students she taught, fellow professors and academics at Vanier College, the writers from her cherished Phoebe-Walmer Writing Group, folks from the acrylic and Chinese brush painting she attended, neighbours from Belvedere Blvd and Roncy Village in Toronto.
These groups reflected her identity: teacher, writer, artist, and also parent, daughter, spouse and friend. Unlike a lot of professors, she loved teaching first-year students - she found them original, open-minded, funny and earnest. She worked hard on updating and improving the lectures she taught and on using a big red pen to circle every incorrect instance of “fewer vs. less” or “its vs. it’s”. Her memories of being a student were always close to her practices as a teacher; she would spend almost as much time reading and grading essays as her students spent writing them. She threw herself into the culture of York and specifically Vanier College: going to student plays, poetry readings by budding student writers, and Faculty meetings. Though her Doctorate focused on pageant wagons and early English plays, she reveled in teaching Greek and Biblical Traditions, different from other courses like Medieval History. Her instinct to teach went beyond the formal: she’d walk her kids around the family garden and give them a quarter for every wildflower and herb they could name.
As a writer, she published two books of poetry, and got such a thrill being in the spot-light at public Readings, with her proud but somewhat bemused husband in the audience. She wrote about growing up in small-town Iowa, intellectual riffs on the Lives of Saints, Opera, about ice-cubes clinking in a glass, the emotional pull of each of her three kids, what famous Philosophers might actually have been thinking. And her increasingly more wild and colourful acrylic paintings now adorn the walls of several of her friends and kids.
She was a fierce Mom, intense and loving. She would exhort her kids to “soldier on” in difficult times on long-distance calls but also be the first to gather her stuff, hop in the Volvo and head off to help. And she was an “accommodating” spouse - a phrase that made her husband and family laugh - even if it was mostly true.
When she died, she left behind her (now deceased) husband, Desmond Harold Collins, her three kids, Kate, Matthew and Peter, her daughter-in-law, Leslie Reid, as well as many of her Australian husband’s relatives who made the trek up to Toronto to see Des and were delighted to encounter Sue’s warmth and intelligence. These include Des’s nieces and nephews Neil Macpherson, Kim, Mark, Allison and Diane Collins. Her parents, both from Iowa, Dorothy Reider (nee Kulas) and John Reider both died many years ago.
This Obituary is late but not from lack of love. Her Celebration of Life will be held jointly with that of her husband’s at some point in the next year or so. People wishing to know more about it can leave a message in the Memorial Book link on this page.