A Life Lived: Omega Collins’s dinner table was always inviting

Published 8:24 am Wednesday, May 8, 2019

To Omega Collins the dinner table was a meeting place, the source of sustenance and nourishment, a place of safety and satisfaction, and a place of festivity.

Omega Collins died April 20 at the age of 92, and no one can begin to count the number of meals she has cooked, the pans of biscuits and cornbread she has baked, nor the jars and jars of vegetables she has canned and preserved over the years.

“My mother had a special love for food. She enjoyed growing it, preserving it, cooking it, serving it, and eating it. Often she would can things she knew her family didn’t especially like, but she would say, ‘It’ll beat a snowball this winter,’” said her daughter, Judy Richardson.

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In addition to being a wife and mother and being chief cook and bottle washer at home, Omega worked 48 years at North American Rayon. She had a large collection of NAR paraphernalia, including old spinnerettes, many of which were on display until recently in a glass-enclosed case at the Carter County Courthouse.

“Even when she worked at the plant, she would cook a big meal each day for her family. If she worked the evening shift, she cooked before she went to work. If she worked the day shift, she cooked after she came home. She not only cooked for her family, but she would take a large grocery bag of food with her to work, which she shared with her working friends,” said Judy.

Among her favorite dishes to prepare were Mexican Cornbread and potato salad. Several years ago, Judy took the recipes her mother had collected over the years and combined them into a cookbook, which she shared with family members and friends.

Omega also cooked for church events, especially the Ladies Auxiliary at Watauga Valley Free Will Baptist Church. When she was no longer able to cook and attend the meetings, Omega would often give money to help with the cooking. “She was a giver, not a taker,” said her pastor, the Rev. Bill Greer.

Omega Collins was also a person who loved her family. She and her late husband, Donald, were married 63 years before his death in 2012. He, too, worked at the local rayon plants and enjoyed gardening with his wife.

“She enjoyed having her grandchildren and great-grandchildren visit. She loved having them come and eat with her,” said Judy.

Omega had a houseful of stuff, treasures to her. “She collected angels, cookbooks, and had a pocketbook of every color and one for every occasion. The same with clothes. She enjoyed pretty clothes and had closets full of clothes, some with the price tags still on them,” said Judy.

Yet, she was an organizer. “She knew where everything in her house was. She didn’t have to hunt for anything. If you mentioned where something was, she could go right to it,” said Judy. “She even had her funeral organized, right down to the dress she wanted to be buried in.”

Omega was the daughter of the late B.A. Sr. and Effie Joines. The family moved from the Fish Springs Community to Gap Creek. Her father at one time owned much of the land on which the Elizabethton Golf Course is located. “They, too, were hard workers,” said Judy.

“My mother didn’t know anything but hard work and taking care of her family. Whatever she did she gave it her best, whether it be working at the rayon plant, gardening, taking care of her family, or being a good neighbor. Her shoes will be hard to fill, but she gave us so many good memories and instilled in us so many good qualities,” said Judy.

To Omega Collins, a person cooking is a person giving. Even the simplest food was a gift.