Charles Collinson

Charles Collinson

CHAMPAIGN – Charles W. Collinson of Champaign passed away on Friday morning, Nov. 25, 2011, at the Carle Foundation Hospital emergency room, Urbana.

He is survived by his wife of 33 years, Charlene Anchor; his daughter, Crystal (David) Chen of Amherst, N.H.; his son, Charles W. (Betty) Collinson III of Hudson, N.H.; and his brother, Don Collinson of West Des Moines, Iowa. Also surviving are seven grandsons, Paul (Joanne Pons) Chen of San Francisco, Brian (Jennifer) Chen of Washington, D.C., and Ian Smith, Collin Collinson, Dylan Collinson, Harlan Collinson and Gavin Collinson, all of Hudson, N.H.

Charles was preceded in death by his first wife, Mary Collinson, the mother of his two children.

Charles was born on Dec. 15, 1923, in Wichita, Kan. He later moved to Moline, where he attended Moline High School. At 17, he volunteered for the Army Air Force in World War II. There he attended technical schools and trained as a bombsight and autopilot technician. After his training, he participated in more than 120 test flights of B-24 and B-29 heavy bombers.

After leaving the Army and with the support of the G.I. Bill, Charles continued his education at Augustana College and earned a Ph.D. at the University of Iowa.

As a member of the Illinois State Geological Survey since 1952, his life included several careers. Internationally known as a paleontologist for much of his scientific life, his popular "Guide for Beginning Fossil Hunters" went through 10 printings.

As a Guggenheim Fellow, he conducted paleontology field studies in Europe. He also spent most of a year as a visiting faculty member at Stanford University.

During the 1980s high-water stage of Lake Michigan, he was Illinois' principal scientist dealing with shore erosion, supporting the many shore-based municipalities and properties. As such, he was leader of the Chicago Lakeshore Erosion Commission. A certified scuba diver, he examined many underwater structures and was ever present on the shore during major storms.

Charles was active in a number of professional societies. He was editor of the Journal of Paleontology for several years and served as president of SEPM, an international society of paleontologists and sedimentologists. He also served the Geological Society of America, the American Geological Institute, the U.S. Great Lakes Commission and the Paleontological Society.

As an active researcher, he was the author of more than a hundred publications. After retirement, he devoted his time to the reconstruction and illustration of Illinois fossils with emphasis on Ice Age mammals.

Charles, or better known as "Charlie," was a generous and kind man. As section head of the Stratigraphy and Areal Geology Section of the survey, he encouraged, supported and provided opportunities for many students and staff.

Charlie felt lucky to have experienced the life he had. Daily he was grateful for his family, friends and the opportunity to continue doing the things he loved. He will be deeply missed by those who knew and loved him. Charlie will be laid to rest at Mount Hope Cemetery.

An informal opportunity to share thoughts and stories in remembrance of Charles Collinson will take place with his family in the Chapel of the Mount Hope Mausoleum, 611 E. Pennsylvania Ave, Champaign, at 3 p.m. on Dec. 17. The family looks forward to meeting Charlie's friends and associates.

Donations in his memory may be made to the Eastern Illinois Foodbank or The Nature Conservancy.

Condolences may be offered at

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