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Nancy Elizabeth Collier

June 24, 1943 - June 29, 2021

Nancy Elizabeth Collier of Plano, Texas passed away on June 29, 2021 after a courageous battle with cancer.  She was born on June 24, 1943 to William Johnston Watson & Sara Elizabeth Higby Watson in Dallas, Texas. She is survived by her husband of 55 years, James M. Collier Jr.; son, James Johnson Collier and wife, Kathleen; son, Jeffrey Alan Collier and wife, Angie; grandchildren, Sam and Lucy Collier; and sister, Genie Litton and husband, Richard Litton.

She graduated from Highland Park High School in 1961 and then enrolled at Texas Tech in the fall.  Nancy loved her lifelong dorm friends, Chi Omega sorority, English classes (in which she attended with John Denver - who at the time seemed to be destined to be a poet), but her favorite classes were in Latin in which she enjoyed tremendously.

Her four years at Texas Tech flew by quickly and soon it was January 1965 and she was graduating in May with major in English, a minor in Latin, and a teaching job in Denver.  But God had a better plan when she had a blind date with a student from Lubbock who seemed friendly, easy to talk to, and enjoyed dating during the spring.  Suddenly it was May & time to graduate and move on with your life.

At the last-minute Nancy decided to stay in Lubbock and give this new relationship time to develop.  She began looking for a teaching job there and declined the teaching job in Denver.  Fortunately, Lubbock ISD was opening a new high school in the fall and still needed an English teacher who could also teach a 1st year Latin class.  And the rest is history as the new guy was Jim Collier.

Jim & Nancy were married in August of 1966 and moved to Dallas in June of 1967.  The family lived in Dallas for 9 years and during that time they joined First Baptist Dallas while W A Criswell was still pastor. They enjoyed the fellowship there and taught in Sunday school and Vacation Bible school.  One day in Vacation Bible school Dr. Criswell was visiting with the children and asked what Bible verses they remembered.  One little boy quickly raised his hand and stated, “Keep Your Hands to Yourself” Dr Criswell laughed and agreed with him. The family moved to the Richland Park area in Richardson in1976, and joined First Baptist Richardson. Richland Park was a great young neighborhood in which to raise a family. Many nice families and a very good Elementary school were in walking/ bicycling distance. The family made many long-lasting friendships which are still being enjoyed today. Nancy and Jim worked in Vacation Bible School and Jim taught 6th grade Sunday School as the church moved from an earlier location to their present location at the corner of Arapaho and Central.

(Nancy & Jim moved to Plano in1994 and joined Prestonwood Baptist Church.  After retiring Nancy returned to First Baptist Richardson where there was a senior adult choir led by a very dedicated and talented Rev Gerald Ware. The Goldenaires practiced on Monday nights which became Nancy’s favorite day of the week.  She loved singing in the choir and participated in multiple choir trips. Even recently with the COVID limitations and her battling cancer she continued to sing hymns while watching church services online.) 

Nancy & Jim had their first child Jay in August 1969 and then Jeff in August 1974. Nancy became a full-time mother and thoroughly enjoyed raising her sons while the kids were young. As the sons grew older, she found a part time job teaching first year Latin in Richardson ISD.  After a few years she was asked to consider a full time Latin teaching position at JJ Pearce HS.  At JJ Pearce she found her ideal job teaching all levels of Latin. In a few years she became Head of the Foreign Language Dept. at JJ Pearce High School where she was known as “Magistra Collier”.  As her classes grew in popularity, she would plan class trips in the summer to Italy so her students could walk were the Romans walked. She also took her students to Area, State, and National Junior Classical League competitions in which her students always excelled even winning the State competition once. Nancy was frequently invited to attend a Top Ten Luncheon hosted by RISD officials & members of the Richardson School Board which recognized the top ten graduating seniors and their “most influential teacher”. Nancy taught for over 20 years before retiring from Richardson ISD in 2004. But she still had her love for teaching and students and occasionally substitute taught at Hockaday and tutored girls in Latin when their class schedules were full.

While she was a very dedicated teacher, she also was building a long-lasting marriage with Jim, raising Jay and Jeff, and encouraging her countless students that went on to colleges and universities who frequently would come by when they returned to the area.  But she was just as great of a friend as she was a teacher, wife, and mother.  She made friends everywhere she went. College, church, neighborhood, teachers, she always welcomed the opportunity to make a new friend.  In a world where friends come and go, she loved keeping up with friends, old and new, and made sure everyone knew how important they were to her.  She would never let too much time pass before reaching out to a friend for a phone call, or to schedule a lunch.

And Nancy’s life became even more meaningful when Jeff and Angie announced their engagement to be married in the summer of 2011 in Tulsa, OK. While that summer in Tulsa was incredibly hot (113 degrees), her friends from college, church, teaching all made the trip to Tulsa to celebrate with her, and the next day everyone wanted to stay and visit. A few months’ later wedding bells were ringing again in the family when Jay married Kathleen Graw in February 2012. Nancy considered it a real blessing to have two wonderful daughters-in-laws now in the family.

Then a dream came true in Nancy’s life when she received a phone call from Jeff telling her that Angie was pregnant, and she was going to be a grandmother.  The room was filled with excitement and screams of joy; she would no longer be Nancy, but would become “Nonnie” for the rest of her life when Sam was born in September 2012 in Fort Collins, CO.  A few years later the excitement came again to Nonnie when Jeff & Angie announced that a little granddaughter (Lucy) would be born in August 2015 in Houston.  Jim & Nancy made many trips to Houston to see their grandkids activities from Lucy’s ballet at 3 years old and her doll collection, to Sam’s soccer games, his Hot Wheels collection, and his latest Lego construction project. She loved playing games and reading books to them.  It was fitting that the last time Nonnie saw Sam & Lucy was this past Memorial Day when she took Sam shopping for new Lego projects and went with Lucy shopping for a new doll and clothes at American Girl. 

Looking back, the family has many happy memories of times spent together. Early ski trips with Richland Park families, putting out flags with Sam & Lucy for Memorial Day, decorating the house for Christmas and spending Christmas 2015 with Jay & Kathleen touring the Denver Botanical Gardens at night in 20-degree weather.  (As Jim was not dressed expecting to be out on such a night, Nancy wrapped a scarf around his head making him look like a street person and catching the eye of security). As Nancy ventured into the digital age she tried her first Uber ride, but cancelled because she did not know how to pronounce his name. She loved word games pointing out derivatives from Latin, and spent hours working the Sunday NYTimes Crossword Puzzle. She relaxed in the afternoons watching TV shows of Judge Judy, Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune, and Who Wants to be a Millionaire.

The family is very grateful to Nancy’s many friends – to families who raised kids together, to her fellow teachers who shared a special bond, to all who lunched together and encouraged her in her final days. We rejoice in knowing Nancy is now singing in Heaven’s choir with our Savior Jesus Christ.

The funeral service was Saturday July 3rd at Turrentine Jackson Morrow Funeral Home in Allen, followed with the burial at Ridgeview Memorial Park. 

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Magistra was one of two teachers from high school I regularly went back to visit, and one I still tell stories about to this day. I was part of the Certamen crowd that won our first State NJCL competition and went on to Nationals twice; I remember her being utterly bemused by us, to the point of saying that maybe we shouldn't study so much! (We were equally bemused by seeing her in rollers in the dormitory hallways during our trips to Nationals: my god, our teachers are human beings that don't just exist at school). For years she had the (deliberately) terrible translation of Catullus 3 that my best friend/partner in crime and I wrote tacked up on her classroom wall, with my friend's life-sized statue of Medusa looming nearby. You only get that kind of engagement with students who love the material, and who feel safe *showing* that love, without fear of mockery. The strength of the Latin program at Pearce is a testament to her skill as a teacher, not only in imparting facts, but in getting students to engage with them. Ave atque vale, Magistra.
Bryn Neuenschwander, July 22, 2021 Miss you dearly magistra! Liyan cao, July 20, 2021 My Latin teacher at Pearce. Loved Her to pieces. Went to Europe with our class and have very fond memories of her and that trip. She organized the whole trip and even a family friend came along. What a blast. Oh what fun I had learning from her. My condolences to the family. Carol Kennedy , July 18, 2021 So sorry to read of Nancy's death. Remembering the good times we had. With our love and sympathy.
Harriett and Bob Abel, July 18, 2021 Sincere sympathies. May all the good memories be a source of comfort now and in the future.
Eileen, July 16, 2021