Cove resident, Iva Mae Collins, loving wife and best friend of husband Ben Collins, passed away Sunday, April 28, 2019 from a serious heart attack. She died after being life flighted to Sacred Heart hospital in Spokane in a valiant attempt to repair her badly damaged heart. She was 87.
This amazing and talented lady was born in Rainier, Oregon on January 1, 1932. She was the fifth child (out of 10) to be born to Lester Carlyle Sutton and Stella Mae Perkins. After arriving from New Mexico to Rainer, Oregon, Lester settled his family on a small, underdeveloped, sagebrush covered parcel of land near Stanfield, Oregon. After several years of back-breaking work clearing the land, developing an irrigation system, and building a house, he and Stella raised the rest of their children on the farm.
Iva was schooled in the small town of Stanfield and graduated from High School there. Shortly after graduation she married Zane Pierre Phoenix in 1950. To this union, three boys were born: Stephen, Rocky, and Monte. Iva worked waitressing while raising a family and taking classes (along with her husband) at the University of Oregon. Earning enough credits to qualify to teach in Idaho, she took her first teaching job in the small town of Bellevue, Idaho. She took her children with her and taught at the grade school there for 2 years. She then returned to Springfield, Oregon, completed her courses in education and graduated from the University of Oregon with a B.S. in Elementary Education in 1965. She went on to teach for another year in Springfield, taught in Billings, MT and eventually took a third grade teaching job in Winnemucca, NV. She divorced her husband, Zane, in 1970. Being a single mother with a family, she also worked as a waitress at Keith’s Model T restaurant where she met her future husband to be, Ben Collins. In 1972 they “eloped” and were married in Virginia City, Nevada. Before she remarried, she purchased 40 acres just outside of town and began construction of an A-Framed house she planned to construct for her family as a permanent residence. She had the plans and was doing the construction primarily on her own. This “can do” attitude became a trademark which showed itself throughout the rest of her life. Ben was also a divorcee and had three children: Kirk, Craig, and Camille. Ben and Iva purchased a home in Winnemucca and moved in with their now family of six.
Ben worked for BLM and soon was promoted as the Area Manager of the Bishop, CA Resource Area and, through subsequent promotions, ended up being the District Manager for BLM’s La Vegas Office. Iva, along with her “can do” attitude, applied them to each house they lived in as Ben climbed the managerial ladder. She renovated the houses in Winnemucca, Bishop, Harper’s Ferry, WV, Susanville, CA and, finally to their retirement home near Buhl, ID in 1993. Back in Harper’s Ferry she single handedly constructed a scaffold and laid brick for a new fireplace chimney that was 30ft. tall. Oh, I have to mention she bought a small restaurant in Las Vegas. She named it “Grandma’s Little Kitchen”. It prospered but sold it when Ben retired. She also took up waterfowl carving and carved dozens of ducks and other waterfowl. She was also an outstanding quilt maker and hand sewed all of the numerous ones she made. Her real love was gardening and landscaping. As one of her friends said, “she was happier than a gopher in soft dirt.”
They spent the first 20 years of their retirement enjoying their spacious log home overlooking the Snake River and could be found on their porch “spitten’ and whittlin’” and enjoying the view of the Snake River canyon. Iva decided that the house and 17 acres was more than she could handle so they decided to re-retire in Cove, OR. One of her sisters live in La Grande and her youngest son, his wife and daughter and a great grandson live in Union. In Cove, along Lantz Lane she was known as the wheelbarrow lady by passerbyes and produced a beautiful flower garden in front of her fenced yard. She is survived by her husband of 47 years, six of her siblings, and all of her immediate and extended married family as well as 6 grandchildren and 6 great grandchildren.
Her funeral will be held at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church on Friday, May 10, 2019 at 2pm. Viewing will be from 1:00 - 1:45pm. A light luncheon will be served before the funeral at noon in the parish hall. Burial at the Cove Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, donations in her honor can be made to the National Audubon Society at www.Audubon.org or any charity of your choice.