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Standing in front of a stained glass window in the chapel donated by a Sunday School Class in 1899 are, in front, from left Savannah Ferguson and Hooper Smith. Center, from left are Leo Bruce, John McCurry, Bella Estes, Mary Jane Collins, Charlotte Newman, Skylar Parr, Ava Biertz, and Ainsley Watts. In back, from left, are retired Army Lt. Col Ray Collins and Eli Biretz. Not pictured are Braesyn South and Oliver Hamilton.

Hartselle native honored for preserving Dale history

By Michelle Mann

For the Enquirer

OZARK—Preserving the legacy of the Dale County settlers who founded Claybank Church in 1829, Mary Jane Proctor Collins strives to annually re-create a living history of the church now known as First Ozark United Methodist Church.

For more than two decades, Collins and her husband, retired Army Lt. Col. Ray Collins, have worked each year with the next generation to put on a play she wrote, adapted from the late Judge Val McGee’s written history of Ozark “Claybank Memories.” The play has become the unofficial finale of the Annual Claybank Jamboree held in Ozark the day before.

State Rep. Steve Clouse and Ozark Mayor Mark Blankenship called a visibly surprised Mary Jane Collins to the front of the standing-room only chapel as Sunday’s production of “Claybank: The History Served, the Legacy Continued,” came to an end. Clouse presented her with a resolution from the Alabama State House of Representatives commending her community service. Blankenship presented her with a gold key to the city.

Collins is an active member of First Ozark United Methodist Church and is involved in the music ministry, playing piano at worship services.

“Her good deeds are so well known in the community that she was recognized in 2016 by the Fort Rucker Community Spouses’ Club for dedicated volunteer service,” Clouse said.

Blankenship commended Collins for her selfless and dedicated community service, representing the city throughout the area. “One thing I have noticed as I travel between Fort Rucker and Ozark is that mayors may come and go and military members may come and go but the Collinses are ‘constants’ in this community,” he said.

“Mary Jane Collins is heartily commended for her dedication to her community and preservation of the history of Dale County with our utmost gratitude,” Clouse said. “This resolution is offered to her in highest regard for her service to her community and dedication to the preservation of the history of Dale County, Alabama.

From left are State Rep. Steve Clouse, retired Army Lt. Col. Ray Collins, Mary Jane Collins, and Ozark Mayor Mark Blankenship.

“Because of her efforts, the early Dale County history will be known for generations to come,” Clouse said.

Mary Jane Collins is a 1964 graduate of Morgan County High School and Hartselle native. She and her husband were long time members at their home church in Hartselle, Moss Chapel United Methodist.

This story first appeared in The Dothan Eagle. It is republished with permission. 

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