Charles “Chuck” Collings seemingly was born to be in the grocery business, managing an Oklahoma store when fellow teens were still finding their way.
Collings, who went on to become a key Raley’s executive actively involved with the West Sacramento grocer for nearly 50 years, died Saturday because of prolonged health problems.
He was 87.
Collings’ career in the grocery industry began with him sweeping floors and bagging dry goods in a small grocery store in Ada, Okla., when he was a youngster. When he turned 16, he became a manager of the store.
After serving three years in the Navy duringWorld War II, he returned to work for a wholesale meatpacker. He was also an accounting department manager for a Montgomery Ward store in Oakland.
In 1956, Collings was recruited by company founder Tom Raley to join the Raley’s management team.
Collings held various positions and in 1969 became president of Raley’s Superstores.
Collings retired in 1998, but his presence within the company was so profound that he continued to serve on the Raley’s board for years after retirement. He was first elected to the board in 1957.
He was influential in the purchase of the Eagle Thrifty Drug chain, which became the beginnings of the Raley’s Northern Nevada Division. He also assisted in the creation of Mid-Valley Dairy and Super Store Industries.
Collings was appointed Raley’s CEO in 1992. He stayed on the board of directors until 2006, with an additional title of “CEO Emeritus.”
Michael Teel, current Raley’s president and CEO, and the grandson of founder Tom Raley, said: “Chuck was Raley’s. He was a strong leader who set high expectations for business performance and a moral tone for all to follow.”
Collings was past chairman of the California Grocers Association and of the CGA’s Educational Foundation. He was named Sacramentan of the Year in 1997 by the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.
In 1998, he was inducted into the CGA Educational Foundation Hall of Achievement.
Collings’ widow, Frances, said Monday that she and Collings were to celebrate their 66th year of marriage later this month.
Frances Collings said her husband “already had everything lined up” for his services, including some of his own thoughts to be read aloud by others.
She added: “That’s the way he was. He took care of everything so that other people wouldn’t have to when the time came. That’s how thoughtful he was.”
The Collingses were closely involved in numerous local and national endeavors, including St. HOPE Academy, Pro Athletes Outreach and various Christian groups.
Likewise, the Collings Teen Center in West Sacramento has been a source of family pride.
“We’ve had a really good relationship with (Sacramento Mayor) Kevin Johnson,” Frances Collings said, adding with a chuckle, “Although his political views and ours are very different, we didn’t let that get in the way.”
Collings also said her husband helped with the effort that ultimately made Raley Field home of the Sacramento River Cats baseball team. She recalled that when that effort was successful, her husband requested seats near the home team’s dugout “so Frances can help the manager manage” the team.
Arrangements are being finalized. Frances Collings said a local memorial service will be held near the end of this month.
Reprinted from The Sacramento Bee (6/11/2013)