CONROE- The Chapel at Conroe Funeral Directors was standing room only, as family, friends and brothers in law enforcement gathered on Friday to remember and to say ‘goodbye’ to Arthur Eugene “Art” Collins, who served and protected the public for over 36 years.
Collins’ law enforcement career began with the Collin County Sheriff’s Office in 1968, and included the Plano Police Department, Brazoria County Sheriff’s Office, Harris County Sheriff’s Office, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office and finally, the Panorama Police Department, where he was chief from 1988 until 2004.
Pastor Paul Curtis, who officiated, had difficulty speaking at first. Curtis said Collins held a special place in his heart, as he tried to describe the man so many turned out to honor.
“Everything he went out to do, he did it with all he had,” Curtis said. “Art took everything seriously.”
Like others during and after the service, the pastor also described the tender side of a lawman so devoted to his job that no criminal wanted to cross him.
“If you haven’t experienced his laugh, you don’t know what you missed,” Curtis said.
Collins’ oldest daughter, Carrie Barron, bravely delivered his eulogy, describing her father as “a very complex man,” who loved guns and hard work, but was happiest at his mother’s home on Lake Livingston.
She said her Dad enjoyed giving his grandchildren “the most obnoxious” toys,” then he would smirk, knowing his kids had to take them home.
“He loved Christmas,” Barron said. “It was the Art Collins Christmas extravaganza.”
Barron talked about her father’s career and his many accomplishments, including a 1973 investigation of the infamous Banditos biker gang, which led to the arrest of 32 members in Collin County, how in 1976 he apprehended a notorious escaped convict from California, and when Collins was named the 100 Club officer of the Year in 1978.
“His work was not just a job for dad – it was a calling,” Barron said. “All of his kids were so proud to be his children.
Collins’ former partner and closest friend, Steve Grater also spoke during the service.
Grater began his career with Collins in the Collin County Sheriff’s Office, and the pair followed one another from one department to the next until Collins left the MCSO to be the Chief of the Panorama Police Department.
Grater spoke of Collins’ long battle with cancer.
“If you knew Art, everything he got into was going to be a battle,” he said.
Grater described his longtime friend as a “very intelligent individual and a fearless cop with “street smarts.”
“Above all, you did not want to have a shoot out with Art Collins,” Grater said.
Collins was the best robbery detective the Harris County Sheriff’s Office ever saw, Grater said,
He said Collins “brought Panorama up to the modern era of Police Departments.”
“His legacy is two things,” Grater said, “His family and the Panorama Police Department.”
“I will miss him in my heart”
Pct. 2 Constable Gene Deforest, another long-time friend, called Collins a “great officer and a great human being.”
“There was nobody who didn’t like him,” Deforest said.
“He was the kind of person you could joke with, but he also had a serious side,” Deforest said. “He loved law enforcement, police work and guns.”
“He was someone I was glad to call a friend.”
Collins’ son, Jerry Rogers plans to work for the Sheriff’s Office after leaving the US Army.
Rogers said the number of people who turned out for the funeral spoke for itself, but he was also glad to hear their comments.
“It’s obvious from the way everybody talks about him that he made a hell of an impression on everybody he met,” Rogers said.
“There probably aren’t words for what everybody feels,” Rogers. “You can’t sum up in 30 words or less somebody who had an extraordinary life like that.”
Collins’ younger daughter, Beckie Yarbrough, said her Dad had a “’fighting spirit.”
“He was a wonderful father and a wonderful policeman,” Yarbrough said. “I never knew all of the bad things he was going through, because he never brought it home.”
Jason Collins said his father saved his life during Hurricane Alicia, when a tree fell on the car Jason Collins was inside.
“He grabbed me by the shirt and ripped me out of the car before it fell on me,” Jason Collins said. “He loved us all and there wasn’t a thing he wouldn’t do.”
Collins’ family said his youngest grandson, 3-year-old Ashton, tells the family he plans to be policeman when he grows up.
Members of the Panorama Police Department who remain with the agency years after Collins left, acted as pallbearers.
The Patriot Guard honored Collins, standing outside of the church with their American flags, and leading the procession to Conroe Memorial Park, where they surrounded the mourners with their flags and Deputy State Captain Lou Freitas played taps on the bugle.