Headstones at Arlington National Cemetery
Archive photo

William Lee “Bill” Collins

William Lee “Bill” Collins was born March 15, 1947, in Winfield, Kansas, to Joe and Marjorie (Lewis) Collins. He passed away June 26, 2018 at Saint Francis Hospital in Wichita.

Memorial services were held Monday, July 2 at the Kansas Veterans’ Cemetery in Winfield. In lieu of flowers, Bill had requested donations be made to the Cowley County Humane Society, Winfield Veteran’s Home or the charity of your choice. Contributions may be left with the Shelley Family Funeral Home – 803 Loomis St. Winfield, KS 67156.

He attended elementary school in Winfield and Udall and graduated from Udall High School in 1965. Bill joined the Kansas National Guard in 1966. He graduated from Kansas officers candidate school and was commissioned second lieutenant in 1968. He was assigned to Company A, 1st Battalion, 137th Infantry consisting of Arkansas City and Winfield units. His unit was activated and assigned to Fort Carson, Colorado. Bill volunteered for Airborne Training and graduated as a paratrooper from Fort Benning, Georgia. He was assigned to the 5th Infantry Division I-Corp in Vietnam and then promoted to first lieutenant. He served as infantry platoon leader on the DMZ. For personal actions of valor in combat, Bill was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star with oak leaf cluster and Bronze Star with V device, Army Accommodation Medal with V Device, Combat Infantry Badge, Purple Heart and several other service awards.

After release from active duty, Bill returned to Winfield and joined his father in the car business. In 1970, Bill and his father bought a Toyota dealership in Fort Myers, Florida, which became Collins Toyota Inc. Bill sold the business in 1990 and moved back to Winfield in 1993. On August 1, 1996, he married Carol (Kittelson) and they made their home on Bill’s family’s land north of the Winfield Lake.

While in Florida, Bill continued a strong family tradition of motorsports and became involved in NASCAR, both as a driver and eventually a 9 car team owner. His race team was known as Collins Engineering. Two nationally known drivers who drove for Bill were Davey and Donnie Allison. Bill and the Allison family became good friends and continued that friendship throughout his life. Bill’s interest in racing, motorsports and hot rods continued throughout his entire life as his favorite pastime and passion. He had many close friends that he enjoyed spending time with, as well as his family.

He was preceded in death by his father, Joe Collins. He is survived by his wife, Carol, of the home; his daughter Erika (Jeremy) Sterling of Norman, Oklahoma; his mother, Marjorie (Lewis) Abel of Winfield; his step children: Sande Carpenter of Lincoln, Nebraska; Barbie (Neal) Meints, of Beatrice, Nebraska; Patrick (Heidi) Johnson of Denver, Colorado; grandchildren: Zac Meints, Ben Meints, Spencer Carpenter, Anna Johnson, and Caroline Johnson.