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Tom Collins passed away peacefully on 7th January 2004. A minor knee operation led to an infection being caught at the hospital causing pulmonary fibrosis which then led to this unexpected passing.

“The accordion world has lost a great friend. Tom Collins died this morning at his home in Montana. All who knew Tom will agree that he was one of the most "genuine" of all. A great human.” Peter Soave

I would like to echo the words of Peter Soave. The accordion lost a great friend and a wonderful person who did so much for our instrument. Tom played all over the world, wrote some nice music, and gave people tremendous pleasure from all his activities.

Tom was a wonderful historian too, who personally knew so many greats of the accordion. I am very pleased that Tom wrote some of his memories of those times a few years ago. Tom Collins and Famous Friends

Our accordion history is important and Tom certainly contributed his part to that. He was a superb lecturer, entertainer and ambassador for the accordion. He was loved wherever he went. We will miss him very much.

Our condolences to his wife Bettie and all their lovely family. It is a sad loss.

It was Tom’s wish, that a Wake (party) be held instead of a funeral. The date of "Tom's Party" will be 21 February. Further information will be coming.

Emails of condolence to Carol Collins:

Harley Jones

Accordions Worldwide

I remember Tom Collins with great fondness. In 1979 enroute to compete in theConfederation Internationale des Accordeonistes (CIA) Coupe Mondiale held in Cannes, France, I was fortunate enough to travel via the USA and in particular, Montana to present a concert at the University while guests of Tom at his home in Missoula.

I was travelling with fellow New Zealand contestant Marcel Reithman and teacher Harley Jones. I remember his wonderful hospitality and it was here that I was introduced to his incredible enthusiasm for all things accordion. I always remember him taking us up to his Caboose to enjoy the spectacular Montana countryside.

However, since we were preparing for the World Accordion Championships, Tom also realized the importance of keeping a regimented practice schedule, so I remember him putting me down on the edge of this beautiful river, feet angling in the water while practicing my Coupe Mondiale program. Since this wonderful meeting more than 20 years ago, I have always enjoyed Tom as a very sincere man with a passionate love for the accordion!

Kevin Friedrich
Confederation International des Accordeonistes

We in New Zealand are also mourning the loss of a great Accordion icon. Tom Collins leaves us with many, many fond memories of his visits to New Zealand. Our association with Tom goes back many years now, from the 1980 Coupe Mondiale in Auckland, at which he performed. He also attended and assisted at NZAA Accordion Camps and hosted numerous concerts in Montana for New Zealand accordionists.

As a motivational speaker and lecturer, Tom has inspired and enthused many accordionists here in NZ, as he has throughout the world. Tom's contribution to the Accordion has been enormous and he will be sadly missed.

On behalf of all accordionists in New Zealand, may I express our deep
regret at Tom's passing and extend our sincere condolences to Bettie and all the family.


He was born in Piqua, Ohio on April 14, 1921 the second son of Charles E. and Hazel P. Collins, both deceased. He was preceded in death by an older brother, John R. Collins, a younger brother Charles E. and sister Nancy Jane. He is survived by his wife of 57 years, Bettie B. Collins, and two sons and their wives, Michael T. and wife, Carol and Patrick C. and wife, Claudia. There are four grandchildren, Cari, Matthew, Chad and Scott and five great-grandchildren, Elle, Addilyn, Bailey, Maeve and Gracyn.

After graduating from high school in Piqua, Ohio he attended the University of Pennsylvania and graduated cum laude from Ohio State University in 1947. He served 4 years in the U.S. Navy and finished his military career as an executive officer on the LST-141 in the Mediterranean Theater with the rank of lieutenant.

In 1949 he moved to Missoula with his family and was first employed by the Missoula Mercantile Co. He served on the board of both the Missoula and the Montana Chambers of Commerce. After his appointment to the first Missoula City/County Planning Board he later became Director of the State Dept. of Planning and Economic Development.

From 1965 until 1979 he was on the staff of the University of Montana administration in various capacities. At the time of retirement he was executive director of the University of Montana Foundation. He served on a number of board and commissions including the Montana Bank system, the Alexander Dawson Foundation of Las Vegas, The Trout & Salmon Foundation, the Montana Historical Society Foundation, the Craighead Wildlife/Wildlands Institute, The Alexander Dawson Schools in both Denver and Las Vegas, and the Water Heritage Trust.

During his lifetime he had a profound interest in all outdoor activities and was active in various environmental organizations. He was a member of Rotary, Elks, Masons, Shrine, the Royal Order of Jesters, and Sigma Alpha Epsilon. In 1975 he was awarded the prestigious Gilmour Memorial Trophy which is given annually in New Zealand to an American who has enhanced international relations through his high standards of sportsmanship. He was recently awarded the Neil Bucklew Presidential Award by the University of Montana.

Formerly a professional accordionist, he had devoted much of his senior years furthering the acceptance of the instrument through compositions, seminars, and performances throughout the world. Almost annually he performed as guest artist with the Air New Zealand Accordion Orchestra, as well as, numerous performances in England and throughout the United States. He will be remembered by many as the Grand Gentleman of the accordian world.

It is requested that memorial donations be made to either the Water Quality Fund in the Dept. of Environment Studies, The Thomas J. Collins Scholarship Fund, the Grizzly Riders Memorial all in the University of Montana Foundation, the Shriners Hospital, Box 2472, Spokane, WA 99210, or any charity of the donor's choice.

A memorial service will be held 11:00a.m., February 21, 2004 at First Presbyterian Church, 201 South 5th Street, Missoula, Montana 59801.

Though I live only 120 miles from Tom, I had not heard of his passing until this morning. A true gentleman --- he will be sorely missed by the accordion world. I was at his home once many years ago and he played my diatonic box for me which surprised me because he was known for his piano keyboard expertise. Then a few years ago he came to my my house with Eddie Chavez from Texas to introduce Eddie to me and see all my accordions. I have known Tom since my college days of the late 50's when Tom was in his prime at playing accordion and he was traveling to accordion events around the world. Tom was one of our local (to Montana) accordion idols, and will be especially missed here!

Reminiscing an old master of the piano accordion!
Ron Smith, Montana squeezer

Oh, what a shame that Tom has passed. I knew him well from the Texas accordion conventions where we met several years ago. We had corresponded often, and he was very encouraging to me in my accordion activities. Tom was a super lecturer. I attended his bellows and left hand lecture which he did in Texas. Very well organized and informative. I will miss him very much.

Jim Wadowick
Executive Director
Alabama Accordionists' Association

Many people in the UK knew Tom. It is with great sadness that we have heard about his passing. We send our condolences to his wife and family.

Robert and Loretta Rolston
George Syrett
Ron & Margaret Hodgson
and Accordion Times and News Team

Some words from our family to your family at this sad, sad time for you, and us.

We have so many memories of you and "Ol Tom" both here in NZ and in the U.S. of A. From the early seventies onwards, Tom and you would bring incredibly interesting people to our family home in Takapuna. Such great dinners, and music of course. I remember dad telling Tom that the New Zealand Accordion Association was hosting the 1980 World Accordion Championships. Tom casually said "would you like me to get you Art Van Damme as guest artist". That set in train Tom's involvement in a fabulous World Championship.

Mum and Arnold visiting in Montana and being shown "Big Sky" country. They loved it. Harley meeting Tom at festivals with the Air New Zealand Accordion Orchestra, Tom performing with them.

Tom's promotion and playing of the accordion in New Zealand. So many memories, such great music, such a true friend of the Jones Family, such a great guy.

We were looking forward to seeing him in Feb, and now, never again.

I know you and your family will be devastated but know that you are in our thoughts.

Good bye Ol fella!
Maurice Jones

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