James Cecil Collier
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James Cecil Collier passed away peacefully at home on Thursday, June 5, 2014. Jim was born July 31, 1923 in Pardee, VA to Millard H. Collier and Martha J. Sturgill.
Seeing the S.F. Golden Gate Bridge when he returned from duty and imprisonment in Japan, he decided he wanted to live in California. Much later he was able to realize that dream.
Jim's father allowed him to join the Army at the age of 16. He was stationed in the Philippine Islands when Imperial Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and eight hours later the Philippines. Jim was a member of the U.S. Army 59th Coast Artillery Battery D "Cheney" on Corregidor Island and was surrendered to the Imperial Japanese Army on May 5, 1942. Jim was held as a prisoner-of-war at the prison camp Cabanatuan and was used as forced labor at Clark Field before being shipped to Japan on the Hellship the Noto Maru in Aug. 1944.
While a prisoner in Japan, Jim was again a slave laborer feeding iron ore into the open hearth furnace at the Nagoya-6B-Nomachi (Takaoka) camp for the Hokkai Denka Company, which was involved in ferroalloy smelting. Today the site remains in the ferroalloy business as Takaoka Works. Jim was liberated after the surrender of Japan on Aug. 15, 1945.
He was awarded the Bronze Star, Commendation Medal, POW Medal, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense, American Defense, American Campaign, Asiatic Pacific, Philippine Defense, Philippine Liberation, World War II Victory Medal, and the Republic Presidential Unit Citation. When Jim enlisted in the Army he weighed 150 pounds. When he was finally liberated, he weighed 110 pounds.
After the war, Jim went on to earn two Master Degrees: a degree in the Teaching of English from San Jose State University and a Master's in School Counseling from the University of Oregon. He was a teacher and a counselor for many years at North Salinas High. His favorite job was a meaningful five-year stint at Hartnell College, counseling the many returning Viet Nam vets who used the G.I. Bill to go to college. He believed strongly in education. He was very proud that he had overcome the privations of his youth in the Appalachian Virginia coal country.
Jim was preceded in death by his loving wife Joan, who left us in 1993.
He is survived by his four children: Lynn Theresa of Monterey, Carrie Lee and James "Scott" both of Salinas, and Julie Anne Collier of Cameron Park. He had two grandchildren: Haley Elise and Olivia Joan Collier of Romeo, MI. Jim was the surviving member of his family of origin. His sisters, Carrie, Pauline, Monet, Stella and a half-sister all preceded him in death. Jim's nieces, Linda Conrad, "Betty" Sue Pelicano, and Amy Bledsoe, all reside in the eastern U.S.
He was an active member of the ADBC (American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor) Memorial Society up until the end of his life, having just enjoyed the fellowship of great friends who met for the annual ADBC reunion last weekend in San Jose. The dialogue he shared with this group went a long way toward healing his past. Jim can be seen as an interview subject in the informative but as yet, unreleased documentary, "Never the Same" by filmmaker Jan Thompson and narrated by Loretta Swit of TV's long running show MASH.
A Memorial Celebration of Jim's life will be held Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014. Location to be determined.
Memorials donations can be contributed to the ADBC Memorial Society. A link for contributions is at http://dg-adbc.org .
Funeral arrangements by Struve and Laporte Funeral Home.
For more information and to share a memory, visit www.struveandlaporte.com.
Struve and Laporte Funeral Chapel
41 West San Luis
Salinas, CA 93901
Published in The Salinas Californian on June 13, 2014