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Living memorial honors spirit of service
Collins was director, counselor and friend
Family members of the late Jackie Collins help Kim Cooper with the Daughters of the American Revolution, right, unveil a plaque and tree planted in honor of Collins. - photo by Jim Dean

The memory of Jackie Collins came alive Monday with the planting of a memorial tree at the center she helped guide for many years.

The white crepe myrtle honors the late Collins, who worked as the activities director for Forsyth County Senior Services for 13 years and served as the Regent of the Daughters of the American Revolution Chestatee River Chapter from 2006-08.

Her grandchildren helped plant the tree outside of the Center at Charles Place, where she served from 1995 until 2008, the year she died at age 70.

The tree can be seen through the window of the Sunshine Club Room, which houses a program Collins started for Alzheimer’s respite, said Michael Bohn, senior services director.

Bohn, who is in his first year as director, said he was probably the only one at the gathering who’d never met Collins, but he had learned so much about her in a short time.

“We have one senior here, Dot Cantrell, who probably summed it up for everybody that Jackie’s served, which was that Jackie was a director, counselor and friend,” Bohn said. “Jackie went above and beyond for all the seniors, from the accounts I heard.”

Her involvement and dedication to service must have been contagious, as members of the DAR recalled Collins’ positive impact on their lives.

The group’s regent, Annelle Jones, shared her story about how she became responsible for the chapter’s newsletter even though she was the then newest member.

She’d had an appointment at the hospital and decided afterward to visit Collins, who had been receiving cancer treatments.

“I went to her room. She wasn’t in her bed. She was pacing,” Jones said. “She started talking about DAR. She started talking about me. She started pulling information out about me. Where did I go to school? What did I do for a living? What talents did I have?

“All this time I didn’t know it, but she was setting me up. She was going to put her newest member to work for her Chestatee River chapter. Before we were through talking, we had a newsletter.”

Jones said she knows Collins is “up there” still telling people that there’s work to do.

The myrtle and its plaque will preserve Collins’ spirit, as the plant has been named “Jackie’s Tree.”

“Let this tree help us remember that we have things to be done,” Jones said. “Let’s do them for Jackie.”

Chapter member Susan Youdell had a similar story to Jones, recounting how Collins encouraged her to use her speaking talents to teach flag history and etiquette to children.

She’s since addressed more than 4,000 second-graders.

“As we drive by to go to our home, we will see this tree. I know that it’s the best living memorial we could possibly give her.”