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Eileen (Landerkin) Collins: Matriarch. Community builder. Leader. Nurturer. Born April 22, 1923 in Purves, Man.; died March 27, 2018, in Pilot Mound, Man., of a ruptured aneurysm, aged 94.

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Eileen Collins.The Globe and Mail

Growing up in the village of Purves in southern Manitoba, Eileen Collins dreamed of being a doctor. As the oldest of four girls, she worked alongside her parents, Clifford and Helen Landerkin, who operated a grain elevator, implement dealership and general store. But it was the Dirty Thirties – times were tough and money was scarce. Her father asked her to wait to go to medical school, but then she met Arnold Collins from Pilot Mound, a town about 20 kilometres west. They were married almost 65 years until his passing in 2007.

She and Arnold raised a family of eight children (six boys and two girls), while operating a grocery store and a clothing store in Pilot Mound for more than 40 years. They also had a farm, which their youngest son has carried on and grown.

Later in life, Eileen would remark that she had been born too soon, especially when she saw all of the opportunities that her daughters and granddaughters had. She was a feminist, although some of the more radical elements of feminism would have her cringe at that label. She never let being a woman get in the way of what needed to be done. And while she never did pursue her dream of being a doctor, her life was full and productive.

Eileen was a school trustee for many years and the driving force behind a number of non-profit residential developments as well as an office complex in Pilot Mound. When a new rink was needed (essential for a small prairie town), she held a meeting round her kitchen table of local business people and community volunteers. They decided a multipurpose recreation complex could be built by dismantling an empty Manitoba Hydro building in northern Manitoba and reassembling it in Pilot Mound.

Eileen lived her entire life in a small area of Manitoba, and she had a profound impact on her world. In 2006, she was invested into the Order of Manitoba in recognition of her outstanding contributions and volunteerism.

Notwithstanding all of her talents and accomplishments as a community builder and volunteer, her pride and joy was always her family. As 26 grandchildren came along, her heart expanded to make room for each one. Grandma and Grandpa’s house was the place to be. The love in their home was immense, and it could be eaten in her famous warm cinnamon buns, fluffy waffles with chokecherry syrup, Saskatoon berry pies and full turkey dinners. In later years Eileen continued to enjoy seeing her family grow and loved being around her great-grandchildren (36 so far, with more on the way). Each family member felt her unconditional love, with absolute acceptance and admiration.

The fall harvest is under way on the Collins farm but the suppers in the field just aren’t the same without her cooking and loving presence. Her wise counsel and unconditional love are deeply missed.

Lisa Collins is seventh of Eileen’s eight children.

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