GLENS FALLS — A man whom few knew as more than a construction company owner was honored Monday for his role in the creation of the Hudson Headwaters Health Network.
The network dedicated its 100 Broad St. medical office to Francis T. Collins, owner of F.T. Collins Construction Co. Collins died July 3, 2017.
Four decades ago, a newly licensed doctor — John Rugge — met Frank Collins on a job site in Chestertown. Rugge wanted to run a small medical clinic for a few months. He hired F.T. Collins Construction to renovate a house for the purpose.
“There was no vision. I only planned to stay in Chestertown for six months,” Rugge said. “Something happened. What happened was Frank Collins and others like him.”
Rugge was so impressed by the people of the North Country that he stayed here, building Hudson Headwaters Health Network to bring medical services to an underserved area.
Rural health care was something Collins cared about, too. His mother, an Irish immigrant, ran an informal nursing home out of their house, caring for people when there was nowhere else for them to go.
“He grew up there — he was right in the middle of it all,” his wife, Eileen Collins, said.
The elderly patients sat at the table with his family for meals, and family members pitched in to help take care of them. The patients’ families paid for the service.
It opened Collins’ eyes to the frailties of humanity, from Parkinson’s Disease to strokes, and the limits of medical care in the area.
“He often said, ‘If you have your health, you have everything,’” his son Michael Collins said.
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So when Collins met a young doctor who wanted to expand medical service here, he wanted to help.
“He saw something in Dr. Rugge,” said his daughter, Eileen Dunn.
He donated wine every year for the annual gala, was a regular philanthropist and became one of Rugge’s friends.
Decades later, Rugge turned to Collins for help when he had to move out of a building in Glens Falls without much notice. Collins redesigned and renovated a building he owned on Broad Street.
“We had to move in before it was ready,” Rugge recalled. “We didn’t have a lot of money. We had these continuing discussions: We really needed the cellar but we couldn’t afford it.”
Collins’ son Bill recalled his father assuring Rugge that he would get the building done.
“I didn’t know how we’d get it done,” Bill Collins said. “But I knew with confidence that if Dad said it will get done, then it would — and it did.”
Collins owned the building and leased it to Hudson Headwaters for years. When he died, his estate donated it to the company.
“He didn’t want it to go to anyone else,” Bill Collins said.
Now, more than 40,000 patients consider the building their doctor’s office and urgent care facility. Four doctors work there. It has handled nearly 1 million patient visits so far.
“He was willing to take a chance” and lease the building to Hudson Headwaters, Rugge said. “We owe him a million thanks.”