Obituary of Mr. John P. Collins

January 1, 2020

John Patrick Collins was born to John and Dorothy Collins on June 17, 1949, on Staten Island, New York. Both of his parents preceded him in death. While John may have been an only child, he was raised within the supportive community of many dear relatives, including 13 first cousins alone, who lived nearby and to whom he was always known as Jack. He received his early education at Blessed Sacrament School in his local parish, sharing his musical talents by playing the organ for many church services.

In many ways, John felt his worldview was formed when he won a place in the Class of 1967 at Regis High School in Manhattan. Regis enriched his knowledge of the arts and there he began to cultivate his passions for theater and music.

John earned his first degree as an English major at Fordham University in the Bronx in 1971. Although he considered himself "a dabbler, a dilettante" as he struggled to find his true calling, John began working part-time in the classified ads department at the Daily News, a paper he claimed never to have read. But he continued at the News while also pursuing a Master's degree in English at NYU at night. In 1979, he moved to the National Broadcasting Company as a News Analyst in its Program Analysis Department. Even though John thought it was strange to get paid to watch TV, he nevertheless handled those duties with consummate skill and professionalism. He was promoted into management and oversaw the department's analysts.

After 14 years at NBC he was looking ahead and seeking more intellectual challenges. John started Fordham Law School at night and then left NBC in 1993 to work for the NY Corporation Council. He earned his JD degree in 1994 from Fordham and along the way found his true calling.

This excerpt from the essay John submitted to his Regis 50th Reunion says it all:

"I fully intended to stay in the communications industry with a law degree and a real job. Instead, one evening at a seminar on international human rights, I heard the meaning of 'justice' as if Pedro Arrupe were speaking. I was thrown from my 42-year-old self-absorbed horse (like St. Paul, except for the Abercrombie riding gear and Hermés saddle) and directed to something like service — first at the NYC Commission on Human Rights, and then for 17 years at the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights. There was finally a reason to get out of bed in the morning that involved other people." By the time John retired in 2015, he had fulfilled his more noble "purposeful" life, earning the respect and admiration of his legal colleagues and management executives for his intelligence, insightfulness and diligence in handling many complex and difficult cases.

But John wasn't just smart and savvy, he was affable, witty, urbane and fun to be around. Yes, he was diligent, tenacious and persistent but he was also a charming team player who could lighten tense moments with a well-chosen wise crack or pithy comment. John could have a devilish sense of humor and, while that was primarily shared with his friends, his coworkers often became good friends.

Within his large and extended family, John was invited to spend the holidays and significant events with loved ones. He was a devoted son to his parents, especially to his widowed mother. His single aunts also received special attention as they were growing older and required a bit more care. He was fond of his cousins and proud of the new generations. He beamed with pride when he recounted holiday celebrations with family and what they meant to him.

To his wide circle of friends, John was a loving friend: considerate, caring, understanding and loyal. He made each of his friends feel special, as if listening to us and sharing our concerns was his only priority.

So how do we try to capture the essence of John and his life so well-lived? John was elegance personified ­­in his impeccable sense of style, in how he dressed, carried himself through life, even in his general outlook. He was an accomplished pianist who was knowledgeable about all types of music, from classical symphonies and Broadway show tunes, to rarely performed operas, knowing historical references and even the best divas and performers who were in specific roles over the years. As a discriminating theater-goer, John did not feel obligated to stay at a play if it didn't live up to HIS expectations, even if some professional critic might have praised the production. His time was too valuable to waste. Seeing an interesting performance with a friend was satisfying but enjoying a fine meal and good conversation with a dear friend was even more pleasing. John was a real raconteur, a great storyteller who could regale us with colorful tidbits and humorous reminiscences from his past. And on occasion, he could have us in stitches by channeling Carol Channing or Ethel Merman singing something silly. That he lived this engaged life through forty years of sobriety was no small achievement.

John was relishing his retirement years. Having already traveled to several destinations in Europe, South America, and China, a few years ago he did a fabulous multi-week cruise of the South Pacific and last fall he finally visited India and the Taj Mahal. But he also loved being at home in New York. He took full advantage of living in this city. He frequented Broadway, Museums and the Met Opera, often dined at restaurants like Bouley and Milos or enjoyed his neighborhood favorite Le Zie. John also liked spending time on Fire Island in the summer with friends, and he was planning to return there this summer.

But besides being a connoisseur of all things fine, from cashmere sweaters to monogrammed shirt cuffs, from haute cuisine to high end travel adventures, John was a man who cultivated meaningful and long-lasting relationships with so many wonderful people throughout his life. He always remained in contact with many of his friends from Regis and was thrilled to reconnect with others when they celebrated their 50th Reunion in 2017. Over the years, John has established committed friendships with people he met in work situations, cultural interests, traveling adventures and through other friends. John may have been an only child but legions of friends join his many cousins and extended family of birth by claiming John Collins as "our family of choice" through experiencing his insightful understanding, patient caring, generosity of spirit and loving kindnesses.

John often quoted famous writer, critic, and satirist, Dorothy Parker and this was the first line of a favorite:

"Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song, …

John's life WAS a glorious cycle of song.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Regis High School in John's name.

Funeral Services


January 10, 2020

4:00 PM to 8:00 PM

Crestwood Funeral Home

445 West 43rd Street

New York, NY 10036

Get Directions

Funeral Mass

January 11, 2020

10:00 AM

Blessed Sacrament R.C. Church

Forest Avenue

Staten Island, NY 10301

Get Directions


January 11, 2020

11:00 PM

St. Peters Cemetery

52 Tyler Ave

Staten Island, NY 10310

Get Directions

Share a Memory

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John, we will never stop remembering your wit, your wisdom and - most of all - your warmth. Richard, Pamela, Kat and Michael Ouzounian

Posted by: Richard Ouzounian - Toronto, - January 7, 2020

I will so miss John's extravagant and hilarious stories; spending hours sharing gossip over dinner; and, John's caring and fun spirit. I hope you get to see all of the Operas you want to in heaven John! Miss you. Tim

Posted by: Tim Blanchard - New York, NY - January 7, 2020

Mr. Collins:

You were one of my favorite patients ever. I always looked forward to seeing you every three months coming In to get your teeth cleaned like clockwork. In my mind you were really just coming in to spend time with me. Never mind your teeth. LOL. I loved to hear all about your theater experiences. What show you liked and which you didn't really care for. I really took your critique seriously. If you didn't like it, then it couldn't be good. No matter what anyone else had to say about it. I will so miss seeing that smile on your face with the dark grey rimmed glasses, white goatee, pullover sweater and loafers with no socks. That was you! And let's not forget that sweet disposition of yours. You're so awesome!!

Much love,
Your Favorite Dental Hygienist
Karen Maisonet

Posted by: Karen Maisonet - Highland Mills, NY - January 9, 2020

Over the many years since his time at Regis, John's impish wit and genial good humor made our lunch reunions as well as Met Opera performances happy and welcome occasions.

Posted by: Jerry Kappes - Bronx, New York, NY - January 9, 2020

Goodbye and God bless to a great son of Regis and supporter of Reach, a noble effort to diversify the talent pool entering Jesuit and other top Catholic high schools.

Posted by: Christopher Connell - Alexandria, VA - January 9, 2020

You were our smartest cousin and our nicest of the Birmingham clan. We will miss you dearly!

Posted by: Frank DeSantis - Morristown, NJ - January 10, 2020

John - I know you'll be reading these so I'll be brief and try not to have too many grammatical errors. I want to thank you for sharing your friendship with me. I appreciate all the laughter you brought to my life, all the stories, dramatizations and affection. I will fondly remember all the wonderful meals we shared and watching you take your insulin before having dessert. Mostly I will remember and cherish how you held my hand in the hospital. You escorted me in the ambulance when I got ill and stayed with me at the hospital for hours as I rambled about my life. Thank you Thank you Thank you. Love you my friend and will miss you dearly.

Posted by: Robert Rodriguez - Saugerties, NY - January 10, 2020

In our yearbook, John wrote to me, "Good luck at Fordham, it's dry there". Little did he know! It's always sad to lose a classmate, especially from freshman home room. My condolences to all.

Posted by: Sal DeLuca - N. Merrick, NY - January 16, 2020

This poem was inspired by one of my favorite John anecdotes-

Two umbrellas from Bergdorf/Goodbye John Collins

Clouds purple as blows hovered
Unleashing rain
That snapped ducklings' vertebrae

So, once in Bergdorf
Twirling the turquoise umbrella
You chose to buy it.

Leaning on the handle of the burgundy umbrella
You hesitated
In that space where angels fear to tread..

But we are dice
waiting to be rolled
once, twice, thrice
So, you bought the burgundy one.

Two umbrellas from Bergdorf.
Of course, you needed them.

Some storms reveal opals
In detritus
Only to swiftly bury them.

Laura in a tunic, hair upswept
Cheekbones, higher than the twin towers.
The two of you at the Met
Synching O Patria Mia.

Laura on bed sheets,
Cheekbones jutting out of a flesh mask,
Don't you know, every beat of my heart cries out

Two umbrellas from Bergdorf. Of course. You needed them.

That afternoon in the Pines
Watching the fiery pilgrimage of monarchs
Towards Teotihuacan
Our petrified dreams
Rising from buried cities.

We sat gobbling Italian heros.
A buck stopped at our table
Antlers stiff, at how we gorged
On the monarchs
On meatballs.
You shrugged.

Two umbrellas from Bergdorf.
Of course. We all need them.

Genara C. Necos January 2020

Posted by: Genara Necos - New York, - January 29, 2020

What can I say, I can't believe it's almost two years since your passing. I was so glad that you reached out to me, when you found out I was trying to get in touch with Jim Nelson, and we hadn't known that he passed. We had some wonderful conversations after reconnecting, sharing great memories you had of my Mom, brother, and Jim from your Daily News days, and even visiting upstate after we moved North. Bob and I, thoroughly enjoyed when we arranged a visit to the city, and had a wonderful lunch with you, but admit am saddened that we weren't ever able to arrange getting to Florida together, and share some of the places that you had wanted to share with us, that you would regularly visit with Jim Nelson. We're still planning to take a ride over to the East Coast, have lunch near Jim's building, and toast to you both. I believe it was meant for us to reconnect after many years, just wish it could have been for longer. Thank you for sharing all of the wonderful memories, and laughs, I know both my Mom, and Jim, considered you a very dear friend, and have no doubt were there to greet you at heavens door. God Bless John, and know you are still in our thoughts, and memories.

Posted by: Jeanne Mastin - East Greenbush, NY - November 28, 2021