Robert Collier, who once claimed he did not know how to be a father, was formally named one of the best dads in Biloxi on Wednesday.
Collier was honored as the Biloxi Lions Club’s Mark Barhanovich Father of the Year during a special luncheon at the Biloxi Yacht Club.
Collier was lauded by family, friends and associates for being a strong father, not only for his own children, but also for hundreds of young people he has worked with during his hours of volunteer service over the years at various schools and with baseball teams.
“He’s been a father to more than just me, but also to approximately 30 people on my baseball team,” said Robert’s son, Jake, a senior at Biloxi High School. “He’s always out and about helping this city.”
Robert’s wife, Swayze, also had praise for him.
“To this day, if we see these now grown kids, they run up to him with the biggest hug,” she said.
Robert’s early life helps explain why he thought he wasn’t father material. He was left by his parents after being born at a Biloxi hospital. It was prominent doctor Frank Gruich who talked another Biloxi couple into adopting Robert. But having a father would be short lived.
“He got lung cancer when I was very young and died when I was 10,” Robert told the audience at the luncheon. “Because of that, I didn’t know what a father was; I had no clue how to be a father. My daughter came along and I winged it, and I made a lot of mistakes. When Jake came, I said that I’m going to do everything I can to be what I think a father should be, because I really don’t know what a father is.”
Swayze said she knew Robert had the will and found ways to help.
“Robert’s full of love and that’s what you need to be to be a father,” she said. “He often asked me about how I was raised. He has a close relationship with my father and that really helped him along the way as a role model.”
Written testimonies on the luncheon program came from family members, including his daughter Madison Chase, who was open about being a troubled child and aggravating her father.
“For many years, I pushed him to his limit and he never folded,” Madison said. “He never stopped praying for me and loving me. He taught me how to own up to my mistakes and to never turn your back on anyone in need.
“He was hand-created by God to be a father. He’s not just Father of the Year, he is the father of a lifetime.”
Mayor Andrew “FoFo” Gilich presented Robert Collier with a city proclamation.