Where there is sadness, love plants a garden of memories. Our beautiful Mother and Grandmother, LaRena Collingwood, passed away on April 3, 2013, at Bonnie Bluejacket Memorial Nursing Home surrounded by her loving children.
Her parents, David and Edna Marcus Miller, welcomed the second of their four children on April 24, 1935, in a small farmhouse on Orchard Bench Road where her father delivered her into this world. She loved the life of a farm girl and loved horses. After her family bought a farm in Emblem, she often told us a story of how she worked at the Emblem store, and when she got off work at night she would fall asleep atop her horse and he would always deliver her home safe.
She attended Big Horn Basin schools and graduated from Greybull High School in 1953.
She married the love of her life, Paul Collingwood, on Oct. 16, 1954, and they shared 54 wonderful years together, until she lost Paul in July 2009. All their married years together, he always referred to her as “His Girlfriend.”
They were partners in all life would bring them. As parents they would raise five children, Lela, David, Valorie, Carla and Marla. And together at such a young age experienced the heartbreak of losing their first set of twins, Edna and Erna. They also would help bring up Rena’s younger brother, Bill, who was more like a son than a brother to them.
Rena worked to help support her family. While nurturing her children to school age, she took in ironing, and cleaned offices and homes for a living. After her children were in school she worked for U-Smile Grocery, Coast to Coast and Blackburn Implement. She then helped Paul start their own business, Collingwood Service Center, in 1974, and did bookkeeping for her husband. She also began a long career as a bookkeeper for Sparks Auto/Hines Motor Supply, and stayed through many owner changes until she retired in 1998.
In her spare time the large garden and many flowers she planted each year gave her such joy. Many times she shared her bounty with neighbors and family. It was a labor of love for her to harvest her garden and preserve it through canning. Now her children carry on that tradition.
The family spent many summers camping on the mountain. Rena and Paul also hunted together all their married lives. The couple started traveling in their camper, and later motor home, to Alaska and Canada, as well as other locations in the west. She shared her husband’s love of Jeeps, and they owned and restored many over the years. Together they enjoyed Jeeping trips and Jeep Jamborees. In their retirement years they became snowbirds and resided in Quartzsite, Ariz., where they were hosts at an RV park. They made many friends who became like family.
Rena lived her life to the fullest. But after losing Paul, her health took a turn. A rare illness, Primary Progressive Aphasia, began to rob her of her speech and then her motor skills. For a woman who always knew the right thing to say and who loved to ride her bike, this disorder was a true test. She showed us how to be humble and face the unwanted and unexpected in the best way we can. That example has left an indelible mark on our hearts.
LaRena is survived by her children: Lela of Sheridan, David (Vickie) of Greybull, Valorie (John) of Billings, Mont., Carla (Mark) of Greybull and Marla (Tony) of Craig, Colo.
Carla was also her special friend and caregiver until the end. She is also survived by nine grandchildren and six great-grandchildren; her sister, Donna (Norman) Collingwood of Greybull, and her brother, Bill (MaryAnne) Miller of Billings, Mont., and many nieces and nephews and Paul’s family.
She was preceded in death by her husband, Paul; her infant twin daughters; her parents, and her brother, Robert Miller.
In honoring her wishes no formal memorial service will be held. Her family will gather at a later date for a celebration of her spirit and her life. In lieu of flowers please consider a donation in LaRena’s name to go toward the purchase of a “patient lift” at Bonnie Bluejacket Memorial Nursing Home. Donations can be sent to Big Horn Federal Savings Bank, Box 471, Greybull, WY 82426. Cremation has taken place.
We thank you, Mama, for the gift of yourself and staying with us for as long as you could. We know you are in a better place now.
In the Garden of Special Memories, times shared with our Mother are some of the most beautiful flowers of all. We love you and will miss you, Mama. We know you are with Daddy now, and together can dance the “Tennessee Waltz” forever.
Atwood Family Funeral Directors, Inc. is in charge of arrangements.