Ralph “Duane” Collings was born on November 11, 1924 in Parke County and would have been 94 this Veterans Day. He graduated from Mecca (IN) High School (Parke County) in 1942. Duane met Pauline Gooding, his bride-to-be, at Turkey Run State Park where both were working before he enlisted in the Armed Services. They would later be married on May 21, 1944 at Sioux Falls, SD in a Justice of the Peace ceremony on a week-end pass. He was preceded in death by his wife of 69 ½ years, Pauline Gooding Collings (12/27/2013), his parents, Boyd and Fannie Hadley Collins, his two brothers, Winston and Rupert, and his sister, Eloise Lientz Thomas and his brother-in-law, Robert Gooding (12/29/2017).
A footnote about Duane and his family’s last name is that his father, Boyd Monroe, was born a Collins but officially added a “g” in his last name during his child bearing years; therefore, all of Boyd’s children were born Collings. In his elder years Boyd changed his name back to Collins and is buried in West Union Cemetery in Parke County.
Duane is survived by his beloved sister, Marilyn Fowler and his two sons, Gary (Kathy) Collings of Westfield, IN and Steve (Susie) Collings of Micanopy, Florida. He is the grandfather of Graig (Krista) Collings of Zionsville, Dayne (Beth) Collings of Indianapolis, Wendi Jerald (Brad) of Ocala, Florida, and Aimee Sutherland of Gainesville, Florida. His five great grandchildren are Camden and Cylar Collings, Maddi Jerald, Noah and Austin Sutherland.
Duane joined the Army Air Corps on February 10, 1943 at Fort Ben Harrison. He served overseas from January 1945 to November 1945 with the 4th Combat Cargo Group of the 13th Combat Cargo Squadron based at Chittagong, India in the China-Burma-India Theater. Dad was a flight crew member aboard C-46 cargo airplanes as the radio operator and flew “the Hump”, also known as the Aluminum Trail, so-named for the planes that never returned from their flights over the Himalayan Mountains. After accumulating the required 600 flying hours, Dad was honorably discharged as Staff Sergeant on November 24, 1945 at Camp Atterbury (Indiana).
Duane was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters along with the Central Burma Battle Star, Good Conduct Medal, and Burma-China Offensive Campaign Battle Star.
According to the award citation (General Orders Number 143) dated 21 June 1945 the recipients were honored “for extraordinary achievement while participating in more than one hundred hours of aerial flight over territory in Burma where exposure to enemy fire was probable and expected. These missions were accomplished in unarmed cargo type aircraft bearing troops, supplies and heavy equipment over hazardous mountain terrain into the forward areas.”
Dad hitchhiked from Camp Atterbury home to Waveland, IN where his bride and a six-month old son were waiting and was present for the birth of a second son in 1949. He began his 39 year career on the B&O railroad as a Morse code telegraph operator at Russellville (IN). Dad was the last station agent at the Roachdale (IN) depot prior to his retirement in August 1985.
Dad took his first jet plane trip and last flight on his 64th Wedding Anniversary (May 21, 2008) as a member of the Boone County Honor Flight group whose members were flown to Washington D.C. to view the WWII Memorial. He was a member of the Morse Telegraph Club (Terre Haute Chapter) and the Roachdale (IN) VFW Post 3284.
His family expresses gratitude to the caring staff of Copper Trace (Westfield, IN) and Dr. John Isch, Sr. (cardiac surgeon), Dr. Charles Orr (cardiologist), Dr. Mary Jean Vorwald (internal medicine),
Dr. John Ramsey (urologist) as well as the nurses, physicians and surgeons affiliated with St. Vincent Hospital (Indianapolis).
Visitation will be held at the Servies & Morgan Funeral Home 102 East Washington Street, Roachdale, IN 46172 on Sunday, October 28, 2018 from 2:00 – 4:00 pm. Graveside service will be 11:00 AM, Saturday, November 3, 2018 at the Roachdale Cemetery, with Pastor Alan Hughes officiating. Contributions in memory of Duane Collings may be made to VFW Post 3284, P.O. Box 68, Roachdale, IN 46172.