When community volunteer Marianne Collins walked into a room, the mood brightened.
“She just had a very magnetic energy. … You wanted to know about her,” recalls her niece, Sarah Dahdouh. “You wanted to be around her all the time.”
Ms. Collins was beautiful, family and friends recall, but she had many more attributes.
“She was a woman that you loved because she was just so warm and friendly,” Dahdouh said.
Never miss a local story.
Her large network of family and friends were devastated when Collins died Saturday at the age of 50 from ovarian cancer. She was diagnosed in April.
She was the ‘it’ girl.
Liz Kern, KMJ radio anchor
Ms. Collins, who was also known as Marianne Collins King, was a prominent Fresno volunteer who supported numerous groups – including the Saint Agnes Women’s Club, MadeForThem, Catholic Professional and Business Club of Fresno, Downtown Fresno Partnership, Junior League of Fresno, Fresno Art Museum and Fresno State Book Club – along with her work as a public relations consultant. In 2014 she was named associate director, operations for Fresno State’s Office of Community and Economic Development, a job she held for a year.
She moved to Fresno from Los Gatos around 12 years ago to help one of her brothers care for his children after his first wife died.
Her friend Liz Kern, radio anchor for KMJ, calls Ms. Collins’ Fresno’s “it girl” – “ridiculously stunning, full of grace, a champion for women, children and the arts in Fresno.”
Fresno Mayor Lee Brand, who met Ms. Collins during his mayoral campaign last year, is among the many who will miss her.
“She impressed me as a very exuberant and caring person,” Brand said. “She encouraged me to be myself in the campaign. … Marianne was well-liked and respected in our community.”
A GoFundMe account for Ms. Collins that has raised more than $17,350 since May to help with medical expenses will also be used for funeral expenses. Any remaining funds will be donated to charity, said her friend Gigi Gunz Bealkowski, who created the account.
Kern has fond memories of Ms. Collins dressing up as actress Audrey Hepburn in her famous role in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” to help with the Junior League of Fresno’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s fundraisers. “We called her our Audrey because she not only looked exactly like the film’s star but moved with such grace and poise.”
I think she wanted to empower women in any way to be more successful and happy.
Dorie Collins, sister-in-law of Ms. Collins
Ms. Collins’ brother, Tim Collins, recalls how his sister signed all her emails, “Love and light, Marianne.” Her sister-in-law Dorie Collins said she had “a real sweetness and innocence, like a little girl.” There was also emotional maturity and intelligence that made her adept at helping.
Ms. Collins’ friend Elaine Steitz recalls how that compassion was on full display until the very end. During one hospital visit, Steitz tried unsuccessfully to hold back tears and Ms. Collins asked her friend to help her stand up so she could give her a big hug.
“She said, ‘Don’t ever be afraid to cry because your tears help me know that I was loved,’ ” Steitz recalled. “She was thanking me for having tears. That was just the kind of person she was. She was probably more sad that we were sad than (she was about) her own prognosis.”
She cared deeply about others. She was always positive and full of energy.
Deborah Adishian-Astone, Fresno State’s vice president for administration and interim CFO
Steitz said when Ms. Collins learned her cancer had become terminal, she prayed to God, asking that if she could not be cured, to help her die soon instead of enduring months of suffering. Steitz said her friend died within a day of that prayer, and that she most surely is now in heaven with her parents, who died within the past six months.
“She always knew how to put a positive spin on things,” Dahdouh said. “She carried the light of God inside her.”
Born: Nov. 12, 1966
Died: June 3, 2017
Occupation: Public relations consultant
Survivors: Brothers Tim, Joe and Matthew Collins; sisters Roberta Nelson and Theresa Dahdouh; and many nieces and nephews.
Services: Memorial service and celebration of life, 11 a.m. June 14, Holy Spirit Catholic Church, 355 E. Champlain Drive, Fresno; graveside service, 10 a.m. June 21, Paradise Cemetery, 980 Elliott Road, Paradise.
Remembrances: Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance, ocrfa.org or P.O. Box 32141 New York, NY, 10087-2141.
Condolences: Collins family, 1635 E. Jordan Ave., Fresno CA 93720.