Donald R. Billings, who served his town of Oak Bluffs and his nation in war and peace, died Nov. 4, 2015, in Martha’s Vineyard Hospital with his loving family by his bedside following a severe stroke. He was 84.
Donald graduated from Oak Bluffs High School. Following a tour of duty in Korea, Donald spent some time in Maine, where Nancy was in school. He contemplated taking over his father-in-law’s business in Skowhegan, selling and installing barn cleaners and milking machines. However, after spending several days repairing them on piles of frozen manure at minus -10° and -20°, he announced that he would rather scallop the rest of his life!
They came home that June to find the Steamship Authority strike in progress. But a friendly fisherman gave them a ride home on his boat, along with belongings, baby, dog, and canary. Everyone enjoyed a few weeks of unusually light summer traffic till the strike ended.
Donald went to work for White Brother’s Construction Co. and later Bergeron’s Garage. Intent on improving his skills, he attended Volkswagen school in Butler, Pa.
He later purchased the Western Auto business, which he ran for many years in Oak Bluffs with his dad, his son David, and Brion McGroarty. Later Amy joined David in what is now Cottage City Outdoor Power and Home Appliance Store on Circuit Avenue.
Donald was always active in his children’s lives and town affairs. He spent 40 years as a highly respected member of the Oak Bluffs volunteer fire department, the last 20 as captain.
One of his proudest accomplishments came when he and his longtime friend, Billy Norton, acquired his fire company’s original 1929 Maxim fire engine and, with much help from many friends and caring people, created the fire museum that sits adjacent to the new fire station now under construction. He was very proud of that accomplishment.
Donald also served on the new fire station building committee, where he kept a close watch on the museum.
He was also a former president of the Oak Bluffs Business Association, served on the shellfish committee, and was a member of the St. Vincent DePaul Society. He was a eucharistic minister at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church, and received the Marian Medal for his service.
Donald is survived by his son David and daughter-in-law Anita; daughter Amy and her husband Chris Welch; grandchildren Jaime Lynn Schwab and her husband Jason, Samantha White Billings, Joshua Donald Billings, and Andrew Welch; also by his special granddaughters Keri Lynn Thomas and her husband Delmar and daughter Corinna, Kara Best, and son Christian, nephew Michael Billings of Millis and Vineyard Haven, and Shirley and John Cooledge, sister- and brother-in-law of Naples, Fla. He leaves cousins in Connecticut, Maine, and Florida. He was predeceased by two beloved sons, Donald Jr. and Jonathan, and by his brother Raymond Billings Jr. and wife Doris.
Donald’s funeral was held at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church, officiated by Fr. Michael Nagel, with a grand parade to the cemetery in the back of his beloved antique fire truck, accompanied by representatives from all the Island fire departments and veterans.
Donations in his memory may be made to the (Town of Oak Bluffs) Fire Museum, P.O. Box 143, Oak Bluffs, MA 02557, or as Mike Joyce recalled at the funeral, he would have liked you to “just do the right thing” always. Arrangements were under the care of the Chapman, Cole and Gleason Funeral Home, Oak Bluffs.