Date Created: 11/23/2017
Last Updated: 12/07/2017

In loving memory of Dell Coller
6/13/1948 - 11/22/2017

Location: Newark, Delaware

Visits: 5,073

We would like to remember and honor Delbert "Dell" Coller, affectionately known as Papa Bear. We share our sorrow and celebrate the best husband, Dad, grandfather, brother, brother-in-law, father-in-law and also good friend and fellow aviator.  Dell was loved by many and will be dearly missed by all his family and friends. We are all thankful for having him in our lives, and for his sharing of his heart and soul with all of us.

Dell was born in 1948  in Bermuda, on the army base there. Consequently in his later years, when asked about ethnicity and minority status, he claimed to be a white West Indian. He loved stirring the pot. As a child, the family moved around – Oregon, Chicago and settled in Morristown NJ. His dad left when he was 10 years old. And life went on.

Dell started hanging around the airport, washing airplanes, getting rides, rubbing elbows with the elite. He learned to work hard and keep his mouth shut… almost. One day his mom was called into the school and told “your son is telling these wild stories about flying to all these strange places." She responded, yes that’s true. So the aviation bug was there to stay. Dell always claimed that flying kept him from becoming a juvenile delinquent. Between bumming rides and earning lessons, Dell soloed on this 16th birthday in Morristown NJ and made the local newspapers. Then he and his buddy flew to Florida, taking off on skis. He was never afraid of an adventure and that has not stopped.
Attending 3 different high schools proved to him that he and academics were not a good match, but he did make a couple of good buddies – Todd and Rick. They played on motorcycles and enjoyed each others company. Rather than being drafted Dell joined the Army and served in Vietnam as an Army Air Traffic Controller. 

So the lightning bolt struck in 1974, Dell met Joanne and life’s journey was sweet. 
Subsequently he was hired by the FAA as a controller and worked at NY Center and Wilmington Tower. Dell retired in 2004 and pursued his love of aviation on his own terms, participating in many events and activities and organizations. He got his advanced ratings and then instructed, flew corporate, acted as NIFA judge, etc. He was a member of the Quiet Birdmen. Always a champion of the little guy and general aviation, if he saw injustice (or stupidity), he acted. Sharing his passion for aviation, he inaugurated picnics at the West T hangars at ILG giving the opportunity for pilots and their families and newcomers to share fun, food and flying.
Dell shared his love of aviation history by supporting the French Connection Tribute which he planned on continuing. Another highlight of his post retirement years was participating in the John Klatt Airshows – thank you John and guys!

Dell was an avid aviator since soloing on his 16th birthday and he received the Master Pilot Award in October 2017 for 53 years of contributing to the aviation community, logging over 11,000 hours and flying over 300 makes and models. The 7AC, N83217 was his favorite airplane for its simplicity and ability to putt along on an early Sunday morning, with minimum altitude, no audio system and only the breeze and sound of the Continental 65. Flying was truly a passion for him – he loved to travel and just be in the air.

Dell was the patriarch of the family and always proud of his children. The Collers raised three great sons and two wonderful daughters and a few extras along the way. As the kids were growing up, Dell enjoyed many years of soccer games and scout outings, hauling kids in the 15-passenger van and chaperoning on trips to Holland, Sweden, the Boundary Waters, etc. His generosity always extended to all his family, everything from building houses, to mentoring nieces and nephews. He helped out the family whenever he could – Olek, Betsy, Margaret, Ciocia, Aunt Betty, his mom, his mother-in-law, Harriett, and numerous others.

Dell loved building projects and getting everyone involved, kids helped roof the Vermont house and paint the deck. When he was injured while building the 151 house, seated in a lawn chair he directed his sisters-in-law and wife in applying siding insulation. When family friend Polly was going through a rough divorce, he handed her a sledge hammer and had her knock down walls in preparation for new construction, as a way of venting. Always adventuresome, he helped build the Bahamas house. This included cargoing all the building materials - always a challenge fitting a refrigerator in a Bonanza.
Dell was not afraid to think outside the box. For example, when grandma died and all the males were at a total loss, he organized the building of a pine casket for her and enlisted all the boys. The funeral people were a little peeved at him, but it worked and fulfilled one of her wishes.

Dell loved reading history, especially World War II, and of course aviation history; he was a creative cook always ready to experiment with flavors and ingredients; a carpenter building toys and furniture, and mechanic who thought bringing the car to the shop was grounds for divorce. On the other hand his anti-talent was working with electricity.

Dell is predeceased by his mom, Patricia McGrath and his father Delbert F Coller. He is survived by his wife of 43 years Joanne and children: Dell Coller III of Boise ID, Eva Coller of Newark DE, Patrick Coller of Golden CO, Jake Coller of Newark DE and Talitha Genco Coller of Lincoln University, PA and two grandchildren, Addy and Jackson. Dell is also survived by his sisters Harriett Hansen Zak of Newark DE, Betsy McGrath Herd of Austin TX, Judy Marlow of Acworth GA and brother Mike McGrath of NC; along with numerous nephews and nieces. 

In lieu of flowers, donations in Dell’s honor to promote his love of introducing young people to aviation, may be sent to New Garden Flying Field, memo Future Aviators, memory of Dell.

Confirmed -
Memorial Service to held at Doughtery Hall in Trabant University Center, University of Delaware, Sunday December 3, 2017 at 2:00 pm. Toast to Dell and light refreshments to follow at . All are welcome and encouraged to bring a “Dell" story.

Private Interment, at Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Monday December 4, 2017 at 10:00 am. Pilots who would like to join in a fly over, please coordinate with Tony Tomassacci.

Directions: Doughtery Hall - located in Trabant University Center
17 W Main St, Newark DE 19716
Parking is available in Trabant Parking garage

Toast (1 mile):
Clayton Hall
100 David Hollowell Dr
Newark DE 19716




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