DURHAM, N.C. – Geri Collins, wife of Duke assistant defensive coordinator Jim Collins, passed away on Tuesday morning at the Hock Family Pavilion in Durham following a two-year battle with cancer. She was 60.
A memorial service will be held Saturday, December 22, 9:00 a.m. at the Duke University Chapel. The family requests casual attire at the service -- Duke blue, jeans and sneakers are appropriate. The family would also like to express special appreciation to the Duke Cancer Center, doctors and nurses on the 9th floor at Duke Medical Center and Hock Family Pavilion.
Following the service, the family will greet friends at the Yoh Football Center.
Geri Collins is survived by her husband, Jim; their daughter, Jennifer Collins; and sisters, Patti Tarrant Duke and Mary Tarrant Amiano.
Born the daughter of the late Victor Joseph Tarrant and Coryce Isabel Lowe Tarrant in Manhattan, N.Y., Geri Collins will be remembered as the official Duke Football family photographer.
A mainstay along the Blue Devil sideline for both practices and games, Geri Collins combined two of her passions – football and photography – to preserve the memory of the teams her husband coached. Home or away, sun or rain, hot or cold, Geri Collins with her camera embraced the Latin motto of the U.S. Coast Guard – Semper Paratus – which carries the meaning of “always prepared”.
“I do not think there is a player who has played at Duke since we have been here that hasn’t had their picture made by Geri,” said Duke head football coach David Cutcliffe. “It is certainly a loss that hurts us all, but it is a celebration of a life that we are going to focus on.”
Jim and Geri Collins shared the unique relationship of football coach and wife, as coaching stints took the couple to such locations as Greensboro, N.C. (Page High School), Banner Elk, N.C. (Lees-McRae Junior College), Boone, N.C. (Appalachian State University), Jacksonville, Ala., (Jacksonville State University), Gainesville, Fla. (University of Florida), Washington, D.C. (Washington Redskins), Huntington, W.Va. (Marshall University) and Durham. Jim Collins is on his third stretch with the Blue Devils, having served as a graduate assistant coach with head coach Steve Sloan in 1983 and later five campaigns from 1985-89 under both Sloan and Steve Spurrier. He has been a member of Cutcliffe’s staff for the past five seasons.
In August of 1980, Geri and Jim celebrated the birth of their only child, Jennifer, who went on to graduate from the University of Florida.
During Jim’s second of three tenures at Duke, Geri witnessed the team’s magical run to the 1989 ACC championship with seven consecutive wins following a 1-3 start to the season. On the final weekend of the regular season, she captured one of the year’s most memorable moments by photographing the Blue Devils under the scoreboard at Kenan Memorial Stadium in Chapel Hill after a 41-0 victory over the Tar Heels clinched the league crown.
Together, the Collins tandem enjoyed 12 years in Gainesville where Jim helped the Gators to 122 wins, 11 bowl game appearances, six SEC championships and the 1996 national title. In January of 2008, Cutcliffe hired Jim Collins to the Duke staff, citing the respect he earned for the veteran defensive coach after years of competition when the two were coaching against one another at Tennessee and Florida, respectively.
Ending an 18-year postseason drought, Duke’s 2012 team became bowl eligible on October 20 with a thrilling, 33-30 come-from-behind win over rival North Carolina when Sean Renfree completed a five-yard touchdown pass to Jamison Crowder with just 13 seconds left in the fourth period. Following the game in the Blue Devils lockerroom, Cutcliffe had one game ball to distribute – and it went to Geri Collins.
“She was a fighter,” Cutcliffe said on Tuesday.
Duke’s upcoming Belk Bowl game against Cincinnati in Charlotte next Thursday will mark Jim’s 13th bowl game, but first without his wife. In fact, Geri and Jim were to celebrate their 38th wedding anniversary on December 28th, one day after Duke plays the Bearcats in just the program’s third bowl game in the past 50 seasons.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Duke Cancer Institute for either Dr. Jeffrey Crawford’s Research or Lung Cancer Research at Duke Cancer Institute, Office of Development, DUMC 3828, Durham, N.C. 27710 or to The Hock Family Pavilion, Duke HomeCare & Hospice Office of Development, 4321 Medical Park Drive, Suite 101, Durham, N.C. 27704.