Most people associate Dr. Bob Collier, Dr. Bob or Bob, depending on how you knew him, with being a renown surgeon, a birdwatcher, and a philanthropist.
As a surgeon, he was the first in Knoxville to do a laparoscopic gallbladder surgery.
As a birdwatcher, he and Louise led nature hikes of birdwatchers at The Swag in North Carolina for 20 years and they watched birds locally with friends.
As a philanthropist, Bob and Louise donated land for the 12-acre Stella Moore Collier Preserve, on Emory Road next to the Powell Library in the name of Bob’s grandmother. The area offers a wonder of walking trails and picturesque relaxation.
This article however is focusing on my recent visit with Louise Collier and discovering the many other sides of Bob, unknown to most.
Many may not know Bob as a mission leader who led 17 mission trips to Mississippi and Louisiana in the aftermath of Katrina and another to West Virginia in his passion to always serve others.
I mentioned above that Bob was a birdwatcher. This was by no accident and Louise is sure it was a direct answer to her personal prayer.
In the late ’60s, Bob and Louise were stationed in the military in Utah. It was during this time that rockhounding became Bob’s hobby, or I should say obsession. Bob bought a fifth wheel and the family, along with seven other families, traveled the country: Montana, S. Dakota, Alabama, Michigan and Arkansas to name a few.
Louise calls this definitely Bob’s love, because she would look for rocks for maybe 15 minutes, and then people would start looking for her as she would be off somewhere else reading a book.
Louise said, “I just didn’t like to do that. Meanwhile Bob was doing it until after dark by lamplight, washing rocks. He was obsessed with it. It was not my favorite.
“As a matter of fact, the good Lord sent us birds. I had had it. I had been sitting in the car reading my book for hours in a big mine area in North Carolina. I just prayed ‘Dear Lord, I just can’t keep doing this.’
“That was summer and the next spring of ’85, we went to Snowbird Lodge with friends who were wonderful birdwatchers and also worked with Bob in surgery. We were taking a morning walk and all of a sudden, they said to be quiet because they had heard a black and white warbler.
“We didn’t know what that was but Bob had a set of binoculars and he was very observant and all of sudden we could see this little biddy bird. Bob was blown away and immediately came back and started birdwatching, becoming an expert in the field.
“It was my gift from God because I love being out in the beautiful country.”
There is a wall with books on birds that takes up an entire room of their home.
There is another wall of rock books and the homestead has an entire building-and-a-half of rocks stored in crates that Bob collected during his rockhounding days, along with all the tools necessary to dig and cut the respective rocks. (see photos below)
Bob was obviously a lover of the outdoors if he did rockhounding and birding, but he also had a cattle farm in Maynardville that is still active today.
If birding and farming were not enough, he found another hobby that occupied any remaining time he could find: turning bowls.
After he retired from the medical field, his friend Jack Rule turned bowls as a hobby, so Bob decided to learn that craft.
Bob took courses, mastering the craft and creating the focus of each course, then taking another, continuing to turn out bowls.
He designed, cut the wood, turned the bowls, drew the final design and even painted the bowls.
Another entire building on their property sits filled with hundreds of bowls in every stage of completion: cut wood, bowls turned in the rough stage, painted and finished.
Their home holds beautiful finished products of his expertise in bowl turning.
Louise said, “Bob would listen for people with chainsaws and see what they were cutting down. I always knew where to find him usually, in the back 40 or turning bowls.”
Bob and Louise were married for 60 years and had three children, three grandsons and one great granddaughter.
Louise has many of the beautiful rocks they collected and bowls Bob turned throughout their home and she carries on with their heart for missions and people as she continues her work with Fountain City Presbyterian Church and many other local ministries.
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