New Dare County trail honors a family’s legacy of service

By on November 21, 2017

Zack Collins, 96, unveils the plaque. He is the oldest living child of Marshall and Gussie Collins. (Kip Tabb photos)

At one time, the land that is now the Dare County Government Complex was the farm of an extraordinary African-American couple.

With the dedication of the Marshall & Gussie Collins Walkway at the Dare County Government Complex on Monday, they were honored for lives that embodied family and service, according to family members who spoke at the ceremony.

“They weren’t rich. They were poor,” granddaughter Joan Collins said. “They were a poor family that tried to do the best that they could. To raise their family with decency. To instill in them values that they should have.”

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It was a theme that grandson Frank Hester also addressed in his remarks.

“I do know, young or old, anyone who came into contact with my grandparents, they will always tell you how kind they were. How they were willing to take you in. Help feed you clothe you whatever,” he said.

Collins and Hester described lives well-lived, and to Hester that life is represented by the dash, the time between birth and death.

“July 11 1898. October 4 1968. September 10 1896. July17 1959. That was the dates of my grandparents,” he said. And almost in tears he gave another date. “July 28th 1938, April 22nd 2009. That was my mom.”

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“You can’t just focus on when you were born and when you passed,” he went on to say. “It’s the dash. They lived their dash. And its incumbent on us to continue to look backward at the past to glance back there, but it’s more important to move forward.”

The legacy of the Collinses can be seen in the life of service that their children followed. All of their sons served in the military—most in the Coast Guard, although Uncle Claude was a sergeant in a WWII tank battalion, a remarkable feat for an African-American soldier at that time.

“The seeds from my grandparents, I saw it witnessed in my Uncle Zack, Uncle Herbert, Uncle Claude. They had that same attribute to put others before themselves,” Collins said.

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Granddaughter Joan Collins spoke before the unveiling.

Chairman of the Dare County Board of Commissioners Bob Woodard called attention to those qualities in his opening remarks.

“Marshall and Gussie were all about family and service to others. It inspires us to remember that this is a legacy of family that endures forever,” he said.

The trail follows many of the paths Hester recalled from his childhood.

“It wasn’t too far from here I used to launch my skiff and go trapping in these ditches over here. Hunting fishing, bottle hunting . . . this was my whole little domain down here,” he said.

The walkway is approximately two miles long. Passing through forests, over marsh and wetlands, it is an easy but beautiful walk connecting the Coastal Studies Institute and the Dare County Government Complex.

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Joan collins

Thursday, Nov 23 1:21 pm

Was such a privilege to see this honor to my grandparents happen. Thanks to all who made it a reality.

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