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Thu, Mar 23, 2017 03:32 AM
Wednesday, March 8, 2017 issue
Services held for two well-known Floyd Countians
by Susan Allen

FLOYD COUNTY — Floyd Countians lost two of their most colorful characters with the deaths of Prestonsburg City Councilman and restaurant owner Billy Ray Collins and former sports announcer Joe Back.

Collins, 68, died Saturday at Highlands Regional Medical Center, where he reportedly had been hospitalized since Easter.

Back died at Central Baptist Hospital in Lexington on Friday. The nature of his illness has not been disclosed.

Collins, although called Billy Ray was also known as Bill Ray, and was well-known throughout the county as owner of Billy Ray’s Restaurant in downtown Prestonsburg. The business featured a breaded mixed hamburger patty with condiments of mustard and onions, which was known as a “pool room hamburger” and quickly became a favorite of customers throughout the area. The breaded hamburger was created prior to Collins’ ownership of the restaurant and he continued that tradition for decades.

The restaurant was also known for its daily home-cooked dinner specials, which included pork chops, fried chicken and soup beans and cornbread.

Billy Ray’s Restaurant was at one time a popular place to play pool and it featured a large arcade for teens and adults to play old-time favorite video games such as Pac Man and Centipede.

Last fall, a fire at the restaurant heavily damaged the eatery, and the building it was in at the end of Court Street in Prestonsburg had to be razed. Collins vowed he would rebuild his restaurant and was in the beginning stages of that effort when he was diagnosed with lung cancer. Collins had said at a city council meeting earlier this year that he had had a lung removed and that his condition was stable.

Collins also served as a city councilman for more than a decade and was an outspoken critic of the city’s cable television service because, at times, the company did not offer University of Kentucky basketball games and, at times, lacked local news and weather coverage.

Survivors include his mother, Margaret Dingus Collins. Funeral services were Monday at Carter Funeral Home in Prestonsburg with burial in Porter Cemetery in Prestonsburg. Complete obituary information was not available, but he was born Sept. 4, 1934.

Offices at city hall were closed in Collins’ memory on Monday and just recently council voted to name the softball fields on the mountaintop recreational project after Collins.

Back, 37, who was living in Paintsville, was well-known throughout the area as a sports announcer for WDOC and WQHY radio, and WSGS in Hazard.

Back hosted a weekly radio program for Prestonsburg High School sports at Sam an Tonio’s Restaurant and called games each year from the Boy’s High School Basketball Sweet Sixteen Tournament.

Back, who was a licensed funeral director, was also at one time employed at Hall Funeral Home in Martin and he was currently working as a sales representative for Clark Grave Vaults in the Eastern Kentucky District.

Back was the son of the late John K. and Joan Kegley Back and was a graduate of Rowan County High School.

Graveside services will be today, Wednesday, at 11 a.m. in Brown Cemetery at Morehead.

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