Gene Ward Meekins Sr., a retired salesman and collector of military memorabilia, died of cancer Thursday at his Catonsville home. He was 81.
Mr. Meekins was born in Baltimore and raised on Elm Ridge Road in Arbutus. After graduating from City College in 1944, he enlisted in the Navy.
He served as a boatswain aboard the destroyer USS Duffy and participated in the Leyte Gulf, Mille and Maloelap Atoll campaigns.
After the war, Mr. Meekins became a furniture salesman for Shaivitz. In 1970, he joined the old Hutzler's department store, where he worked in the rug department at Westview Shopping Center and later in Towson. He was working at Thomasville Galleries in Arbutus at the time of his retirement in 1996.
Mr. Meekins had an extensive collection of wartime materials that dated to the Civil War, and included items from the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
"He had helmets, uniforms, swords, guns, buttons, hats and postcards that he displayed in a big room of his Montrose Avenue home," said a daughter, Carol A. Jackson of Catonsville. "He also collected material from the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts."
Mr. Meekins was a member of St. Mark Roman Catholic Church in Catonsville, where a memorial Mass was offered Saturday.
Also surviving are his wife, Angeline A. Alagna; three sons, Gene W. Meekins Jr. of Ellicott City, Charles M. Meekins of Westminster and Frank M. Meekins of Catonsville; two other daughters, Jacqueline A. Meekins and Louise A. Meekins, both of Catonsville; 14 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.