Virgil Collins Chew passed away on December 19, 2020. He was born in Atlanta, Georgia to Virgil and Addie Chew. He earned a degree in Chemical Engineering from Georgia Tech and an MBA from UT. After serving two years as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, he worked at Eastman Chemical Company until his retirement.
Collins married Charlotte Parker in 1953 and together shared their faith, love of nature and travel, and importance of service with their children until her death in 2016.
Collins was very active with youth, teaching Sunday School at Colonial Heights Christian Church, where Collins and Charlotte were charter members. He also served as an Assistant Scoutmaster and Explorer Post Advisor with Troop 48 and led a Philmont Scout Ranch Expedition. He enjoyed six years as a substitute teacher at Dobyns Bennett and through the Eastman Education Initiatives and independently, he gave science demonstrations and travel programs in area schools, judged science fairs, was a Science Olympiad coach, led nature walks and led tours at the Gray Fossil Site.
Collins was passionate about hiking and geology and hiked, in sections, the entire Appalachian Trail including the section from Mt. Oglethorpe to Springer Mountain in Georgia that was abandoned in 1958. He hiked at least once on the AT every year from 1945 to 2020 and was active in the Tennessee Eastman Hiking Club. He led a maintenance team on the Appalachian Trail from 1961 to 2011 and served on the Board of Managers for the Appalachian Trail Conference (ATC) from 1982-1989. His guide to geology of the trail, Underfoot, was published in 2010. He was a Life and Honorary Member of the ATC. He completed hikes all over the United States and internationally, reaching the summits of the Grand Teton, Mt. Rainier, and Mt. Whitney. Loving travel, he visited all fifty states, all Canadian provinces and most continents, including Antarctica. Collins was active in trail maintenance at Bays Mountain Park and served terms on the Bays Mountain Park Commission and as President of the Bays Mountain Park Association.
Collins took a summer job in a gold mine north of Fairbanks, Alaska in 1949 which led to a lifelong interest in geology. He was very active at the Gray Fossil Site and became a volunteer soon after the discovery was made public. He gave programs about the site at schools and civic clubs, dug, cleaned fossil bones, and spent hours picking tiny fossils from screened grit.
He met his wife, Janice at the fossil site where they discovered a shared interest in geology and travel. He and Janice were married on July 21, 2018. They enjoyed a too-brief, sweet time together that Collins called his “bonus life.” He will be sorely missed by many.
He was preceded in death by his parents and by his wife of 62 years, Charlotte.
Collins is survived by his wife, Janice Hornburg; son David Parker Chew (Diann) of Augusta, GA; daughter Keron Chew Privon (Chris) of Boise, Idaho, daughter Carolyn Chew Barry (Jud) of Kingsport, TN; grandchildren Matthew Chew (Marianne); John Chew; Ted Chew; George Privon; Peter Privon (Katy); Chris Privon II (MaryJane), Sam Barry (Maria), Emily Hutchins (Jon); Alice Barry; and seven great grandchildren.
The family wishes to thank Dr. Chakraborty and Dr. Das who gave Collins such excellent care throughout his fight with melanoma.
Due to COVID-19, a celebration of his life will be planned at a later date.
Memorial gifts may be made to Colonial Heights Christian Church, the Gray Fossil Site, or the Appalachian Trail Conference.